Medical Alumnus off to Oxford
Dr Kapil Narain, who graduated from UKZN with his MBChB in 2020, has been awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University in 2023.
He intends to read for a DPhil in Clinical Medicine, focusing on HIV Immunology.
The Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards that provide transformative educational opportunities. Established in 1903, they are the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious international graduate scholarship programme in the world.
Narain joins the ranks of former recipients such as famous astronomer Edwin Hubble; Nobel laureate and Australian pharmacologist Lord Howard Florey; founder of the Fulbright Scholarship James William Fulbright; Olympic gold medallist William Warren Bradley; Former US President Bill Clinton; Justice Edwin Cameron, retired judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court, Bram Fischer, anti-apartheid struggle icon; Trudi Makhaya, current Economic Advisor to President Ramaphosa; and Kumi Naidoo, human and climate rights activist, to name but a few. All recipients are people of outstanding intellect, character and leadership with a commitment to service.
Narain is a multi-award-winning youth leader, One Young World ambassador, medical doctor, one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans where he was the youngest in the Health Category and a recipient of the prestigious Abe Bailey Travel Bursary in 2019. He is passionate about academia and has 15 publications in peer-reviewed journals. More recently, Narain was selected to publish an editorial in the official journal of the World Health Organization (WHO), The Bulletin. The journal is amongst the top 2.4 % of journals internationally. His article, Strategies for Malaria Vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic in African Countries focused on mechanisms governments and stakeholders can adopt to ensure a successful rollout of the malaria vaccine amidst COVID-19 in Africa. Narain has presented at many conferences in Africa and Europe.
Narain was also the inaugural recipient of the Rising Star award from the South African Clinician Scientists Society (2021), and received a leadership award from Operation Smile South Africa as part of their taskforce (2021) which raised funds for 10 children to undergo cleft lip and palate surgery and a recipient of Discovery’s Best Emerging Leader Award in 2018. On receiving the news, the Deputy Chair of the Active Citizens Movement - a human rights civil society organisation and member of Amnesty International’s Durban group, commented, ‘There are 38 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) and sub-Saharan Africa is disproportionately burdened. Furthermore, interacting with the public health system I’ve witnessed how HIV, if untreated, can impact an individual and community. My hope is to unravel some key mechanisms of HIV that will contribute to vaccine development.’
Narain, who also served as a Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) trainee during his medical studies, intends to return to South Africa and become involved in vaccine development and trials. ‘Essentially, I endeavour to be a high impact African scientist, who is not only contributing to the scientific body of literature but designing and leading work that will be clinically significant and change practice. As a Medical student and junior doctor I mentored many students throughout Africa. I hope to expand on this and train students from Africa in research to ultimately reverse the brain drain.
‘I am absolutely honoured and ecstatic to be selected as a Rhodes Scholar. This is testament to my academic, leadership and activist endeavours to combat injustices. I aim to utilise this opportunity to its fullest and will continue to strive to contribute to a better South Africa, Africa and world.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis