Wits looks at the benefits of genomic medicine in Africa 

Academics are looking at adding a new medical discipline that could help transform Africa’s healthcare sector. 

The Wits Health sciences faculty facilitated a research lecture on genomic precision medicine to help advance the treatment of diseases on August 1, at the Wits School of public health, Parktown.  

Genomic precision medicine, an emerging field in Africa, looks at an individual’s variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle before administering treatment.  

Director of the Wits Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Professor Michele Ramsay and Dr June Fabian, research director at the Wits Donald Gordan Medical Centre presented a lecture on the matter titled, “Unlocking Opportunities” for genomic precision medicine in the African continent. 

Dr Fabian said that precision medicine has been pioneered in the West; and it is now a matter of Africa catching up and tailoring treatments meant for the African continent. 

Meanwhile, echoing her colleague, Ramsay added that it is important that the continent gather more data, do more research, so that the treatment can be better tailored to the African population. 

“It is necessary for us to develop our own tools; we can’t use tools that were developed for European populations because we have different variations [genomic sequencing]”, explained Ramsay.   

She added that this will help healthcare professionals in the diagnostic setting to prescribe suitable treatments for patients. 

Ramsay explained the use of genomic precision medicine will develop “African solutions for African problems”. This will be a game changer because infectious and noncommunicable diseases account for 50 to 88 percent of deaths in Africa, according to a 2022 report from the WHO.  

Dr Fabian said that more than 80 percent of clinicians recognise the value of precision medicine and how this can improve care – especially in the public healthcare sector. However, he said that its full potential has not been realised yet due to the high cost, training gap and limited access to genetic services.  

The lecture made it clear that genetic medicine is the future; and if the African continent is to benefit from it, it would require collaboration efforts from pharmaceutical companies.  

Fourth-year medical student, Amin Borda told Wits Vuvuzela that the presentation was interesting and he cannot wait for the discipline to be brought into their working environment.

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr June Fabian making her presentation during the research lecture. Photo: Sbongile Molambo


Q&A with Thokozane Dyosi

Thokozane Dyosi, a PhD student and associate lecturer in the Foundation Phase Studies Department of the Wits Education Campus, is the youngest in her department. Having struggled to graduate, she started a motivation campaign called #SeeYouAtGraduation to encourage higher education students of all ages in all disciplines to push through to the end and graduate.


SRC Elections: Ain’t no drama in this life

The first day of the Wits SRC elections kicked off yesterday without any incident following a week characterised by disruptions, suspensions and cancellations.

The first leg of the Wits SRC (Student Representative Council) elections kicked off at the med school and education campuses without incident yesterday. This despite threats ealier in the week from from EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) chairperson, Advocate Dali Mpofu. Mpofu, speaking at Wits on August 24, promised to establish a team that would disrupt the elections if the suspensions of the Wits EFF members were not lifted.

Wits Campus Control officers at the polling booths (who refused to be named), told Wits Vuvuzela before voting started that they were not expecting any disruptions.

Representatives of the various student parties were present at both voting stations and actively encouraged voters to vote for their parties.

The initial voter turnout was slow but picked up over the course of the day.

Phumlile Motloung, first year BEd, said she voted because the current SRC helped her with things such as accommodation, food and she feels that by voting, she will be doing her bit.

Alexander Loukakis, BEd, said he’s voting because it’s his right and he believes that by voting he will  know who to turn to if he ever needs help.

Some students were not keen to vote however as they felt their campuses are generally overlooked.

Chris Dube, 5th year MBBCh, said, “I’m not actually voting because I’m sure the SRC does do stuff for other students but they are not visible here on medical campus”.

Sne Mkhwanazi, 2nd year MBBCh said, “I don’t think it’s going to do anything for me. They are all making similar promises to us … and I don’t think they are going to fulfil them”.

The elections continue at the education and medical school campuses today, and comes to the main campuses on the 1st and 2nd August 2015.


Medics show their lumo colours

Students from across faculties came out in support of the Wits Medics Charity Ball Lumo Run this week. 

FACE PAINT: Sarah Best, Davida Kruger, Tashmira Kara and Yerma Wynguard prepare for the run by painting each other with lumo paint. Photo: Dana Da Silva

FACE PAINT: Sarah Best, Davida Kruger, Tashmira Kara and Yerma Wynguard prepare for the run by painting each other with lumo paint. Photo: Dana Da Silva

Bright neon paint and stickers set the stage for the theme of this year’s Wits Medics Charity Ball Run which took place Wednesday evening on Education Campus.

Runners in this year’s event were asked to dress in white clothing that was decorated in lumo paint and stickers in keeping with the theme.

“It’s a fun way to get everyone involved to do something exciting and different. To get out there, get active,” said Tracy Sanders 4th year medicine, and committee member of the Wits Medics Charity Ball.

“We’re trying to emphasise that it’s not like a run, or competitive, it more just about getting involved and doing something different. It’s just a nice idea and it works really well, quick and easy,” said Sanders.

Exercise and Paint

Berzelius Klein, 4th year MMBCh, and another of the committee members, believed that it was the theme that brought people to the run more than the running.

“I think people are just happy to put stickers and paint everywhere, so that’s what I’ll be doing, I won’t be running,” Klein said.

Davida Kruger, 2nd year BHSc, said she came mostly for the lumo paint. “It’s for charity, its good exercise and I’m here with friends. It will just be a great night.”

Leonard Muhango, 4th year MBBCH, was there for the exercise. “Running is fun and I think exercise benefits, it’s good for the body.”

Showing support

The Lumo run was one of the events hosted by the Charity Ball committee in order to raise money for the ball and for charity.

The event was held to raise funds for the Wits PV Tobias Bursary Fund and a non-profit organisation called the Link Literacy project, which develops numeracy and literacy in second -language English-speaking learners in low income schools.

SRC secretary general: Education campus ‘segregated’

The Wits Students Representatives Council (SRC) organised an “E-week” at the Education campus aimed at addressing apparent issues of racial segregation. But students on the campus 

White, indian part

A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION: Students are racially segregated at Wits Education Campus, according to SRC secretary general Senzekahle Mbokazi but many students disagree with her claim. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

SRC secretary general Senzekahle Mbokazi said segregation has created a “negative vibe” on Wits Education Campus. She added that combating segregation was one of the reasons for the Education Week (E-Week) initiative, which happened earlier this week.

“White and Indian people are always together at the expensive cafeteria and black people always hang out at the bus stop cafeteria,” said Mbokazi.

As an education student herself, Mbokazi said she is bothered by the separation of the groups on Education Campus on the basis of race.

“We need more interactive space where we can watch performances and sit together,” she said.

Students interviewed by Wits Vuvuzela though disagreed with Mbokazi’s assertions.

“There is no segregation, not in terms of race. It’s not a bad thing if people are more comfortable sitting next to people speaking the same language,” said fourth-year student Precious Mofokeng.

First-year student, Kalvin van Wyk, said as a white person from a former Model C school it is very difficult to integrate with racial groups he didn’t know or understand “but I am trying”.

Education campus boycott SRC elections

Rofhiwa Madzena and Bongiwe Tutu

Witsies on Education Campus have rallied together to boycott the SRC elections, complaining that they have been marginalised.

The Wits Education Student Council (ESC) Facebook page has been abuzz with complaints and comments by students on Education Campus, with demands that they would like met by the SRC.

The students have threatened to boycott on the day of the elections as a collective and not cast their votes.

The campaign is under the identifiable hashtag: #whyshouldwevote where students place their comments on the ESC Facebook page.

Philip Hlatshwayo wrote: “I think the community of students at Wits Education Campus is taken for granted, we are continually promised services that remain ink on paper, #whyshouldwevote?”

“We are not voting at education campus, we are calling for a boycott of SRC elections at education campus.  We are going to revive and help the ESC deliver because we know it’s not easy – But no votes for SRC,” said Bedney Morole on the ESC Facebook page.

Dzimani James wrote: “#whyshouldwevote? Second and third of September we will still be here asking the same question to the SRC, why vote?”

James was supported by Nqobile McGaga Nqosh, amongst others, who wrote: “I am for the #whyshouldwevote campaign.”

Bedney Morole wrote: “we need a campus that does not just accept things as they come.  This campaign aims to give the ESC teeth to bite”.

Some of the things they want on Education campus include two Kudu Bucks machines, an ATM machine as well as another food outlet.

Former Vice-chairperson of the Education Student Council, Njabulo Mkize honours BA Applied Drama student said that the current food outlet, Olives and Plates is becoming less affordable for students. “It’s a monopoly, they get to determine their own costs because they don’t have competition.”

He also said: “Last year the VC [Prof. Adam Habib] came to Education Campus and he said that they would look into it but still nothing has been done.” “I’m doing my honours on main campus [Braamfontein campus] and you can feel the difference, everything is available here.”

Pkay Mjekevu wrote: “Our aim is to stop the culture of being blinded by unrealistic promises again and again.”

The leaders whom we are going to elect must know that we don’t believe what they say but we recognise what they have done,” he said.

SRC’s liaison officer, Jabulile Mabuza said: “It’s not a secret that Olives and Plates food is expensive for the average student and it’s very frustrating knowing that’s the only food option you have.”

Mjekevu wrote: “Wits extended medical school towards our campus and put hospital on our campus and they did nothing for us.

Don’t tell me about that incomplete lecture theatre at Liseding,” he said.

“Where was SRC when that happened? The SRC has done nothing to make us feel welcomed at Wits.”

Mabuza said: “The University needs to start taking students serious on these issues and if a boycott is what it takes for the University to address these concerns then it must be.”