The 48th Annual Department of Medicine Research Symposium brought together clinicians and scientists on the 11th and 12th October 2023 for an impressive showcase of research work conducted within the department. This year’s event was hosted for the first time in the newly opened wing of the UCT Neuroscience Institute, with the wide, open space of the canteen area proving very conducive for engagement among all stakeholders across the two days. “Science for Health” was the chosen theme for the 2023 meeting, and the Head of Department, Professor Ntobeko Ntusi, gave the opening address to a fully packed auditorium, praising the diverse representation across all divisions for the event. Professor Glenda Gray delivered the Bongani Mayosi Lecture, titled "The quest to find an HIV vaccine’’, highlighting the challenges faced and successes achieved in this pursuit, 40 years on, after the discovery of HIV as the etiological agent of AIDS.

Research presentations from over 50 submitted abstracts across 15 divisions and research groups from the department were delivered over the two days, in either poster or oral format. A mini-symposium centered on ‘science for health in the community’ saw Dr Anastasia Koch provide a narrative of the progress achieved by Eh!Woza, a scientific activism group raising awareness about TB and SA biomedical research, underlining the importance of public engagement as essential science. The professional, administrative and support staff (PASS) representatives, led by Dr Amy Ward also provided a narrative of the work done at their level in the dissemination of valuable information within the broader community. One of the highlights of the symposium, the Dragon’s Den, pitted three very determined woman scientists, passionately pleading their case to win the R50 000 on offer to further their research. Carmelitha Abrahams from the Cape Heart Institute scooped the top prize with her talk focused on a multi-omics approach in cardioprotection research.

Professor Wendy Spearman and Professor Mashiko Setshedi respectively delivered highlights from the Divisions of Hepatology and Gastroenterology. The Jack Brock Lecture drew the curtain on the first day of the symposium. In her talk for the occasion, Professor Lebo Gafane-Matemane gave a comprehensive account of hypertension in Africa, taking those in attendance on a tour of factors influencing the condition, from race to social determinants, and making it clear that we need to do more to break the status quo to prevent a worsening of non-communicable diseases epidemics in the country.

The sustained high level of enthusiasm on the second day of the symposium was clear to see. A mini-symposium on Transplant Medicine was on the agenda, with Professor Greg Calligaro providing an account on breakthrough advances and future horizons in lung transplantation. Associate Professor Estelle Verburgh highlighted priorities to be set for bone marrow transplantation in the era of cell and gene therapy. Dr Zunaid Barday talked about ABO incompatible kidney transplantation. This year’s debate opposed Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, who provided the argument for AI being the future of medicine, against Professor Jonny Peters who made his case warning against the broad use of the technology. They both kept the audience thoroughly entertained, and it looked like a majority in attendance maintained their stance for AI in medical translation at the end of this battle of minds.

Professor Charles Shey Wiysonge, Regional Adviser, Immunisation, WHO Regional Office for Africa, provided a snapshot of state-of-affairs regarding immunisation in Africa following the COVID‐19 pandemic. Professor Richard Chaisson, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and International Health and Director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Tuberculosis Research was the special guest for the 2023 symposium, and invited to give the Bernard Pimstone Lecture. During his talk, titled:  ‘TB Elimination: Tilting at Windmills?’, Professor Chaisson highlighted progress made over the decades and the challenges that remain on the different strategies for the prevention and treatment of TB

The two-day symposium ended with a word of thanks by Professor Ntobeko Ntusi and announcement of various prizes. Research awardees were: Michelle Mukonyora (Science Graphical abstract), Alex Scott (Clinical Graphical abstract), Candice Bonaconsa (Science Oral abstract), Richard van Zyl-Smit & Rephaim Mpofu (Clinical Oral abstract), Ying Zhao (best abstract from a full time clinician, a prize named in honour of Professor Bongani Mayosi) and the inaugural best represented division shield went to the Division of Dermatology.

"Leading with Excellence"

Department of Medicine