“Tireless Champion of Health in Africa” Honoured by UKZN
The College of Health Sciences has renamed its L7 lecture venue on the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine campus in Durban in honour of Professor Bongani Mawethu Mayosi.
Mayosi was Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town at the time of his death in 2018. A UKZN Medical alumnus, he trained in internal medicine and cardiology in Cape Town and worked as a Nuffield Oxford Medical Fellow in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Oxford in England from 1998 to 2001.
In her welcome remarks at the renaming function, Professor Ncoza Dlova, Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine and a close friend of Mayosi, mentioned to the audience of family, friends, former classmates of Mayosi as well as UKZN staff and students that the renaming was in honour of the memory of a man of outstanding intellect who was an exceptional cardiologist, scholar and a tireless champion for health in Africa.
His research interests included genetics of cardiovascular traits, treatment of tuberculous pericarditis, and prevention of rheumatic fever. He had an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) which considered him to be among the ranks of leading international researchers.
In 2017, a research team he led made international headlines for identifying a new gene that is a major cause of sudden death due to heart failure among young people and athletes. Mayosi’s involvement in the research included spending 20 years monitoring a South African Durban-based African family affected by this disorder. ‘This is a testimony to his tenacious pursuit of pioneering research that helps save lives,’ said Vice-Chancellor of UCT, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
Professor Mike Sathekge, head of the Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Pretoria and Steve Biko Academic Hospital and close personal friend and mentee of Mayosi, unveiled the new name of the lecture venue. In his presentation, Sathekge said: ‘Bongs was a selfless mentor with a sense of responsibility for others. He always aimed to transform the lives of others, planting in our students these principles and values to ensure they succeeded. His motto in life was: Lift as You Rise.’
Said Mayosi’s brother Mr Sipho Mayosi: ‘Though he has passed on, his legacy remains with us and we still hear his words of encouragement all around us.’
In 2017, Mayosi was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honours in the fields of health and medicine, awarded to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. His numerous accolades include election to the Fellowship of the World Academy of Arts and Science (2013); South African Medical Association/Bonitas Medical Fund Merit Award for Health Research (2013); National Science and Technology Foundation - BHP Billiton Award (2012), and the National Research Foundation Award for Transforming the Science Cohort in South Africa (2011).
In November 2009, former President Jacob Zuma awarded him with South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver, for excellent achievements in medical science.
He was the President of the College of Physicians of South Africa; Chairman of the National Health Research Committee; Vice-President of the Pan African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR), and Chairman of the Rheumatic Fever Council of the World Heart Federation.
In closing, Sathekge said: ‘Mayosi left a remarkable legacy through his contributions to medical research, academic medicine and the development of others. He will always be remembered for these words: “It is not enough to take the consultant post and continue where your predecessor left off. Each one of us was created to make a special contribution to the world. The next hill to climb is how this can be realised in your own life so that you can transform the lives of others”.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis