Seasoned Nuclear Physician Appointed Head of Nuclear Medicine at UKZN

Professor Mariza Vorster has been appointed Head of the Discipline of Nuclear Medicine at UKZN. Vorster is also an associate professor at the University and is based at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital’s Department of Nuclear Medicine. She is the President of the Colleges of Nuclear Physicians and serves on the management committee of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa’s (CMSA) Examinations and Credentials Committee.

She qualified as a nuclear medicine physician in 2010 at the University of Pretoria. She obtained her PhD from that university in 2014 for her research on the use of 68Ga-citrate PET in indeterminate lung lesions, making her the first female nuclear physician with a PhD in South Africa. She is an NRF-rated scientist who has authored and co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, including several chapters in textbooks.

Vorster is passionate about training well-rounded nuclear medicine physicians who are sought after globally and about improving access to nuclear medicine facilities locally. Internationally, she has collaborated with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) on several projects and has been involved in the co-ordination of and teaching of various workshops to train radiographers and nuclear physicians from across the African continent.

Her research interests include the use of novel Ga-68 based tracer applications and theranostics that aim to solve important clinical problems.

Vorster aspires to make a meaningful difference by addressing diagnostic challenges that are unique to the South African setting in a cost-effective way. She aims to train fit-for-purpose nuclear medicine physicians, expand nuclear medicine services in KwaZulu-Natal, and develop research on locally relevant health issues.

She believes that these ideals can only be achieved with the support of a strong team and also looks forward to partnering and collaborating with sister departments in other provinces, and strengthening bonds with industry leaders and private practitioners.

‘I am passionate about teaching and research, especially where such research may significantly change management to impact patients’ lives in a meaningful and positive way. I look forward to meeting all my new colleagues at UKZN and hope that we can collaborate on many projects that will ultimately serve our patients better. The opportunity to head a department would have not been possible without the love, support, inspiration and encouragement of so many wonderful people in my life. In particular, I am extremely grateful to my husband and family and to my teacher and mentor, Professor Mike Sathekge,’ said Vorster.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied