The Discovery Foundation has awarded the first MGH Award to a South African doctor, enabling her to advance her specialist skills in liver transplants and disease.
The award is worth R1.2 million and was awarded to Dr Neliswa Gogela, 35. She would study at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in the United States, conducting cutting-edge clinical research in liver transplants and disease.
Gogela was ecstatic upon receiving the award.
"It is a great opportunity. It won't benefit me alone. It will benefit my peers, colleagues, undergraduate students, and most importantly, it will benefit our community," she said.
Gogela works in the liver transplant unit at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. The centre performed two or three transplants a year, because of a small donor pool, she said. Gogela is also the first formally trained sub-specialist in hepatology at the University of Cape Town.
"Liver disease is increasing, especially in the era of HIV and Aids. We see a lot of people dying of liver disease," she said.
More medical specialists needed in SA
The Discovery Foundation was formed seven years ago and identified increasing medical specialist skills as its main goal. It planned to invest R300m over 20 years to train 600 medical specialists in South Africa. A total of R84m in grants had been given to 169 recipients.
Discovery Health CEO Jonathan Broomberg said the country was in desperate need of medical specialists.
"We have over 50 million people and are only producing 1 200 doctors a year. This figure needs to be doubled for us to meet the demands of the country," he said.
"Since 1990, the number of qualified academic leaders at South African medical schools has been on a decline."
Specialist doctors were scarce and ageing. The average age of a specialist in the private sector was 55, he said.