Young Woman Scientist Lands National Award
Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning in UKZN’s School of Health Sciences (SHS), Professor Verusia Chetty, was selected as first runner-up in the Distinguished Young Woman Researchers: Human and Social Science category for the prestigious SA Women in Science Awards (SAWiSA).
The award was made to Chetty at a glittering event hosted in Port Elizabeth by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology; Dr Blade Nzimande.
Chetty - a physiotherapist by profession and passionate about research - is an NRF Y-rated researcher who has published 28 peer-reviewed articles in leading international journals such as The Lancet and AIDS Care.
She is a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science as well as a fellow of the Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL). Her goal at DRILL is to inform, design, and determine the feasibility of an integrated rehabilitation and paediatric HIV model while developing her research capacity and mentorship skills.
Chetty is the recipient of many awards, including the 2015 Emerging Public Health Practitioner prize from the Health Systems Trust. In 2013, she was one of the first 13 recipients in South Africa on the National Health Scholars Programme presented at the South African parliament by the Medical Research Council and the National Minister of Health.
In 2012, she was one of only 11 College of Health Science’s academics to be classified as an Emerging Researcher at UKZN, while in 2011, she was awarded a Golden Key International Membership Award, presented annually to the top 15 percent of academic achievers at the University.
The mother of three young children, Chetty is determined to make a difference in the lives of impoverished communities. According to Chetty, inadequate access to care is a major barrier to rehabilitation health services and this contravenes the fundamental right of people living in South Africa to such access. In 2015, she developed a model of care for the rehabilitation of people living with HIV in a semi-rural South African setting, which places emphasis on the “home” as a care setting. Chetty proposed that rehabilitation should be offered within the home using a task-shifting strategy for community health workers capacitated through appropriate training and supervision by a multidisciplinary team to manage people living with disabilities in their homes.
Earlier this year, Chetty and a colleague were selected by the National Research Foundation as the only two South Africans to attend the prestigious 11th HOPE meeting in Okinawa, Japan, for high-achiever emerging and young scientists to engage with Nobel Laureates and other distinguished scientists pioneering frontiers of knowledge in science and technology. As a Fogarty Scholar, Chetty is a force to be reckoned with.
Speaking to Career Mag earlier this year, she said: ‘My next step is to set up a hub for African scientists in order for them to collaborate on common research areas focused on disability, rehabilitation and sport. It will offer a forum to strengthen current research initiatives through accessing mentors as well as global leaders in the research area. I want to also roll out a project on stigma and children living with HIV. I have authored a series of three books in the field and am keen to see their influence on the education system in reducing HIV stigma among our youth.’
Dean and Head of the SHS Professor Mahmoud Soliman congratulated Chetty saying: ‘I am delighted to receive this news. Professor Chetty is a remarkable woman who is making huge strides in our School. I am particularly proud that over the last three years, SAWiS awards have been awarded to staff members from my School, including Professor Pragashnie Naidoo and Professor Tricia Naicker. This speaks volumes about the potential of women leadership in the SHS.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis
Photograph: Courtesy of photographysilverlining