UKZN Academic has Three Papers Published in Prestigious Medical Journal
School of Clinical Medicine senior academic, Dr Colleen Aldous, has co-authored three papers published by the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ) this year.
In one of the papers titled “MMed cohort supervision: A path out of the swamp?”, Aldous in association with Professor Ted Sommerville and Professor Chris Rout, presented the case for Collaborative Cohort Supervision (CCS), including both masters students and novice supervisors, as a possible way to rapidly increase the number of supervisors needed to address the recent implementation of a compulsory research component for specialist registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
The paper discussed different models of CCS and highlighted possible pitfalls as the most pressing issue on the topic was the inadequate number of potential supervisors available and time allocated for research activities.
The authors felt the traditional apprentice-master model of one supervisor to one student would not meet the throughput demands of the HPCSA, the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa and clinical departments. Their opinion was the one-supervisor-multiple students model meant time constraints for the supervisor, plus they may have not yet developed the skills and experience to supervise students in the research process as well as the clinical discipline.
The lack of literature specific to supervision of compulsory research meant that supervisors were heading into uncharted territory, said the authors, advising that any method of potential value needed to be approached with an open mind and embedded quality assurance programmes.
In March, the SAMJ published another co-authored paper by Aldous with the Southern African Inherited Disorders Association Chair, UKZN’s Dr Helen Malherbe, and Professor Arnold Christianson of the Division of Human Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The paper highlighted the need for services for the care and prevention of Congenital Disorders (CDs) in South Africa as the country’s epidemiological transition evolves.
‘The lack of prioritisation of CDs in healthcare, and the limited resources allocated to prevention and to the care of those affected, is an issue of global concern,’ said the authors. ‘This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries where over the vast majority of CDs currently occurred, accounted for 95 percent of CD deaths worldwide.’
The authors highlighted that with the country’s epidemiological transition from TB and HIV deaths, CDs began to emerge as a public health issue as they result in proportionately significant overall neonatal, infant and child mortality.
They said: ‘In South Africa, the constitutional, legal and regulatory framework exists to promote the development of services for the care and prevention of CDs. Legislation entitles those affected and living with CDs, including those disabled as a result, to the “best possible patient care” in the prevailing circumstances, and provides for access to prevention by appropriate interventions.
‘With the global focus, including that of SA, shifting to non-communicable diseases, CDs must be contextualised as the first non-communicable disease experienced by people,’ they argued.
Aldous said: ‘Medical genetics services have been neglected since HIV and TB took all the attention over the last two decades. As a result people born with congenital defects and their families have not had the treatment that they deserve, or the rights our National Constitution affords them.’
The third study was by Aldous, Rout and UKZN’s esteemed paediatrician Professor Miriam Adhikari, entitled: “The research component of specialist registration – a question of alligators and swamps? A personal view.”
It posited that while the research component of specialist training can only improve the quality of both patient care and academic endeavour, this required an enormous investment of time on the part of both the specialist trainees and their supervisors.
Aldous said she was passionate about medical genetics and medical education because both these areas made a real difference to people she could see quickly. She felt that all research should be virtuous because such research ‘is driven by asking the right research question to benefit humanity’.