The importance of innovation was stressed by the President of AfricaBio and Executive Director of the UKZN Health Consortium, Dr Nhlanhla Msomi, during his keynote address at the annual Research Day of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (SLMMS).
Msomi encouraged students to apply ‘innovative thinking’ in their research, highlighting the importance of ‘adding value’ and how an innovator should have a firm view of value, while acknowledging that it may evolve.
This year’s annual symposium showcased an array of interdisciplinary and inclusive topics with more than 36 scientific talks on a variety of laboratory medicine and medical sciences related topics. The outstanding and innovation-fueled talks meant judges had a hard time selecting winners and each category was highly contested.
Ms Vensuya Bisetty won first prize in the Oral Presentations category for the study on Cranial Fossae Indices in Scaphocephaly: An Analysis and Correlation with Severity. The runner-up was Ms Nomcebo Mtshali while third prize went to Mr Theolin Adimulum.
Mr Anmol Gokul’s talk on Investigating the Role of 2’, 5’-Oligoadenylates-1 in HIV Infection was judged the winner in the oral presentation category, with the second and third prize going to Ms Nosipho Ndlovu and Dr Ishani Dayaram respectively.
An additional printed poster category was included in this year’s symposium to showcase the breadth and scope of novel research conducted in the three research themes. Ms Asiphaphola Ludidi scooped the top award here for her study titled: High-Fat-, High-Carb-Diet-Induced Prediabetes Preconception in Sprague-Dawley Rats as a Risk Factor for the Development of Preeclampsia: Assessing Changes in Placental Metabolic Insults. Mr Aviwe Ntsethe was placed second, and the third prize went to Ms Nomthandazo Magcaba.
Affiliated companies, Labotech, Lasec, Anatech, The Scientific Group, Beckman Coulter, Inqaba Biotec and Biocom, exhibited at the event.
The take-home message was clear, according to the School’s Academic Leader for Research, Professor Bongani Nkambule: ‘Our role as scientists is more than merely producing papers that get published and end up in a database somewhere in cyberspace. It’s important that our research not only focuses on reporting new ideas but we should also ensure we move towards generating products, which, if brought to market, would benefit even the remotest of communities.’
Nkambule echoed the sentiments of SLMMS Dean, Professor Musa Mabandla, who challenged the students to take a proactive stance in creating a local and global footprint for themselves, despite research funding limitations that followed the outbreak of COVID-19. Nkambule and Mabandla said the students should go out and actively seek travel grants, bursaries, scholarships and any other sources of funding over and above what UKZN’s College of Health Sciences already had to offer them.
SLMMS combines disciplines associated with Pathology and Laboratory Medicine with the basic Medical Sciences of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, which underpin the clinical curricula.
In the context of patient care and clinical decision making, the involvement of the Disciplines of Laboratory Medicine are required in more than 80% of clinical decision making at all levels. SLMMS graduates venture into industry, take on research positions locally or abroad, or immerse themselves in academia.
The opportunities available require postgraduate students to reach out and seize them, according to Mabandla and Nkambule.
Words: Lunga Memela