UKZN Research Poster in Top Five at Belgian Conference
UKZN PhD candidate, Dr Felix Onyangunga, impressed adjudicators at the recent International Federation of Placenta Associations Conference in Australia, winning a Charlie LOKE Travel Award valued at R7 000.
A specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Onyangunga delivered three poster presentations from his doctoral research aimed at halting deaths caused by HIV and hypertension – known as pre-eclampsia – in pregnant women.
‘I felt great and encouraged by what I am doing,’ said Onyangunga, who represented UKZN and South Africa. His poster titled: “Placental Lymphatic Vascular Endothelial Hyaluronic Receptor-1 in HIV Associated Pre-eclampsia”, was among 72 that were presented at the conference, and was placed in the top five within the Category of New Researchers.
‘As a clinician I am confronted with those tragic experiences daily,’ said Onyangunga, who is part of UKZN’s Placental Research Team led by Professor Prem Gathirum, Professor Jack Moodley and Professor Anita Naicker, the team working on how to understand the mechanisms by which HIV and pre-eclampsia affect the mother and her baby in utero.
‘The placenta is that precious organ interposed between the mother and the baby and so important for the future of the baby and maybe for the whole nation,’ Onyangunga said. ‘I hope my modest contribution will improve the management of these diseases and ipso facto the maternal and child well-being that our province is looking for.’
Onyangunga said he was grateful to Moodley, his mentor and co-supervisor, who funded his travel expenses and conference registration through the HIV and Women’s Health Research Institute.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but resident in South Africa for many years, Onyangunga intends to pursue further research in the same field and become an inspiration to young doctors and scientists.