From Humble Beginnings to a Leadership Role
Dr Pamela Pillay has risen from humble beginnings to being appointed Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences (LMMS). She also heads up the UKZN Body Donor programme and is a Fellow of the prestigious United States National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL) programme.
Pillay grew up in the township of Phoenix, north west of Durban and completed her matric at Solvista Secondary school. Growing up in a small, tightly-knit community, she was inspired to persevere by family members as well as her colleagues and students. She completed her undergraduate and doctoral studies at UKZN and supervises several honours, masters and doctoral candidates. Her research areas of interest are human anatomical variation, medical law, bioethics and research ethics. In the DRILL programme, she is a Fellow in the Health Research ethics field.
Pillay is passionate about the body donor programme. She commented, ‘The body donor programme falls under the ambit of teaching and learning; therefore, I have taken up the baton as academic representative. This is a mammoth task and we have a team in place that includes the Senior Technician, the Academic Leader of Research and other academics from the Department. Since my PhD related to cadaver procurement practices at Higher Education Institutions in South Africa, I have become interested in creating a link with the community by creating awareness regarding body donation.’
Taking up the role of academic leader is a daunting task but Pillay has done so with a great deal of enthusiasm. ‘My new leadership role is just the next step in my personal growth and the next part of my academic journey. I am enthusiastic about this fractional appointment as it enables me to be an academic, a leader in teaching and learning and a researcher. My vision … is to provide support by collaborating with academic and professional services staff in order to implement teaching and learning strategies within the School of LMMS that would be beneficial for students and increase throughput. In addition, the School will be undergoing curriculum changes of the Medical Science degree and I would be actively involved with team members from within the School to ensure this project is completed by the end of my three-year term. I will strive for excellence in Teaching and Learning in LMMS.’
Pillay serves as a council member of the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA), chair of the ASSA Anatomy Research Ethics Committee and co-chair of the ASSA Clinical Anatomy Research Group. She has published more than 20 papers in ISI accredited journals and serves as an external reviewer and external examiner at other universities. She is married and has a seven-year-old son, Keolan.
‘At home, I value my family time. I like to think I am a fun mum, always playful (and stress free). I also treasure the fact that I have a husband that is supportive of my academic journey,’ said Pillay.
Words: MaryAnn Francis
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal