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The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) held its 9th SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards recently to recognise excellence in health research. The Awards, which are among the most prestigious in the country are conferred upon individual researchers who have published work that has made groundbreaking contributions, providing impactful world-class science and health research that is aimed at advancing the lives of South Africans.


The Presidential award recipients

At this esteemed annual event, the much sought-after President’s Award was awarded to Professors Valerie Corfield and Johan Louw, respectively. Prof Corfield is a retiree who continues to serve in advancing research outputs and the research careers of academics in molecular and cell biology, health sciences and other disciplines. During the last three decades of her research career, she worked in the field of molecular genetics, specifically investigating the genes and mutations that cause particular inherited heart diseases found in South Africa. 

Prof Louw is a biomedical scientist who serves as the Senior Platform Director at the Centre and Platforms Office. His expertise and focal research areas are in the Pathophysiology of metabolic disease, diabetes prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.  He has been involved in diabetes research for 35 years. In 2006 his research translated into a joint development agreement with ZADEC for innovation funding of R 120 million, this funding yielded 5 International patents. Prof Louw is receiving the Presidential Award for his work with the capacity development programme, a programme that started 20 years ago, training and graduating MSc and PhD students.

The Gold, Silver and Bronze medal award recipients

In the Gold Medal category, which is for researchers who have made substantial and influential contributions to health, especially in the developing world, the awardees are Professors Bavesh Kana, Elmi Muller, Sharon Prince and Ameena Goga.

The SAMRC remains an organisation that is deeply committed to the contribution of the country’s medical research development by investing in the next generation of scientists – as a result, Silver Medals are conferred to emerging and upcoming scientists and those committed to capacity development. This year, the medal recipients are Professors Theresa Rossouw and Samantha Sampson and Drs Tarylee Reddy and Muki Shey.

The Bronze medals are awarded to scientists who have recently entered research, with not less than 5 years post PhD experience. While this award is not tied to chronological age, the condition for this award is that researchers should preferably be under the age of 50 years. This year’s recipients are Professors Lebo Gafane-Matemane, Tivani Mashamba-Thompson, Lusilda Schutte and Drs Terusha Chetty, Wynand Goosen and Wanga Zembe-Mkabile.

The SAMRC Board Chairperson, Professor Johnny Mahlangu, expressed pride and admiration for the winners.

“On behalf of the Board, we are truly honoured to have such talented and dedicated individuals among us, who have not only demonstrated exceptional knowledge and skills in their field but have also shown unwavering commitment to advancing scientific research and innovation. Their contributions to the scientific community are invaluable. Their accomplishments not only reflect their own brilliance and ingenuity but also serve as a testament to the values and contributions of the SAMRC as a whole,” says Prof Mahlangu.

SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray says medical research remains fundamental for reducing the nation’s burden of disease and preventing mortality. 

“One of our values as the SAMRC is the value of Excellence. We believe in excellence and encourage everyone who works with us to pursue excellence in whatever they do. Excellence should be acknowledged and celebrated. These awards give us an opportunity to pay respect to some of the exceptional medical researchers that we have in this country. Congratulations to all the winners and may they continue to excel,” says Prof Gray. DM



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