Prof Zühlke Appointed as Vice President-Extramural Research & Internal Portfolio at the SAMRC

30 Nov 2021
30 Nov 2021

The Children's Heart Disease Research Unit (CHDRU) is proud to announce that our unit Director, Prof Liesl Zühlke, has been appointed as the Vice-President-Extramural Research and Internal Portfolio (VP-ERIP) of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). Prof Zühlke will take up this role from 1 February 2022 whilst retaining her affiliation to the University of Cape Town and continuing as Director of the CHDRU in the Division of Paediatric Cardiology and the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Read the official announcement from the SAMRC below:

Dear Colleagues 

Professor Liesl Zühlke, a Paediatric Cardiologist and leader in

cardiovascular medicine on the Continent has been appointed the SAMRC Vice President-Extramural Research & Internal Portfolio (VP-ERIP).

There are currently 26 extramural and 11 intramural research SAMRC units prioritising research into the 10 most common causes of morbidity and mortality and associated risk factors in South Africa. The VP-ERIP will be responsible for enhancing the quality of science and health impact of research that is funded by the SAMRC with an emphasis on cutting edge, basic and solution driven research.  The VP-ERIP will work with President and CEO, Professor Glenda Gray, and the Executive Management Committee (EMC), to formulate and implement research strategy and ensure integration of the research conducted and funded by the SAMRC in both its intramural and extramural research units.

Prof Zühlke joins the SAMRC from the University of Cape Town (UCT) where she was the Acting Deputy Dean of Research in the Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT, a Paediatric Cardiologist in the Department of Paediatric Cardiology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital and the Director of the Children’s Heart Disease Research Unit.  She will retain her UCT affiliation and her research endeavours as a member of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCT.

Her research spans congenital and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), HIV in adolescents, Grown-up Congenital Heart Disease and Cardiac Disease in women of childbearing age. She is an NRF (C1-2016)-rated, with an H-Index of 42 with well over 26 000 citations, eight published book chapters, she has edited two books and published 147 articles, including in New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Circulation, JACC and European Heart Journal.

Prof Zühlke believes in excellence, engaged scholarship and research rooted in communities. “I envisage this Portfolio leading the way on our continent in ensuring health and wellbeing for all, with a research agenda rooted in the needs of our country, region and continent. The SAMRC research units are renowned for their contribution to the research landscape, the opportunity to shaping their direction as well as contributing to the mandate of the SAMRC is a unique one, and one I feel honoured to be a part of,” says Zühlke.

She has managed several large-scale RHD projects in South Africa and on the African continent. She was instrumental in the development, coordination, and management of the largest prospective RHD registry the Rheumatic Heart Disease Registry (the REMEDY study) involving 25 sites, in 12 African countries, Yemen and India.

Professor Glenda Gray, SAMRC President and CEO said: “I look forward to working with Prof Zühlke who will provide strategic leadership and make sure that the SAMRC fulfils its strategic goals and programmes in the Extramural Research and Internal Portfolio domain, this strategic appointment strengthens our focus on health impact and maintaining world class standards and a competitive position.”

“On behalf of the SAMRC Board, I welcome Prof Zühlke who joins at a critical point with the SAMRC now implementing a new Strategic Plan 2020/21 – 2024/25 and strengthening its role in supporting the Department of Health on Outcome 2 of the NSDA – A Long and Healthy Life for All South Africans,” said Professor Johnny Mahlangu SAMRC Board Chairperson.

Prof Zühlke has achieved the highest leadership positions within cardiology in South Africa; as President of the Paediatric Cardiac Society of South Africa (2012-2016), President of the South African Heart Association (2016-2018) and currently chair of both the Paediatric and Rheumatic Heart Disease Taskforces in the Pan-African Society of Cardiology. Internationally she is the President of Reach (Rheumatic Heart Disease, Evidence, Advocacy, Communication and Hope) since 2018. She is a board member of the World Heart Federation and NCDA- Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, a member of the International scientific advisory board of Children's Heart Link and Global ARCH and an executive member of SAVAC (Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium).

She obtained a Master of Public Health degree in 2011 and PhD in 2016. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the outcomes of asymptomatic and symptomatic rheumatic heart disease. Her other degrees are related to her sub-specialist qualification in Paediatric Cardiology: DCH, FC Paeds, Cert Card (Paediatrics) FESC, and FACC. She also holds an MSc in Health Economics, Outcomes and Management of Cardiovascular Sciences (with merit) from the London School of Economics, obtained in 2018.

Kind regards

President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council & Board Chairperson