One doctor's vision to expand research tailored to Africa


It took a year abroad for Dr Salome Maswime to grasp the value of global health advocacy: participating is key to representing African interests at an international policy level. And, making us all proud this #WomensMonth, that’s just what she intends to do.

"Most of the time," observes Dr Salome Maswime about healthcare practitioners in South Africa, "we focus on what we're doing as clinicians, and not on the decisions behind the policies that affect our working behaviour. Ultimately, decisions are made about Africa and we're just on the receiving end."

This is one scenario of many that she’s come to understand the complexity of since returning from her year of Discovery-funded study at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. She says that one of the biggest benefits of her MGH stint was creating a global research network and increasing her advocacy profile.

'I now have a fresh perspective on global health'

“I was invited to several World Health Organisation meetings as a SA representative, which were opportunities I wouldn’t normally get,” she says, grateful for the experience. “I also got to attend the Woman Leaders in Global Health Meeting in London at the School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.”

“I now have a fresh perspective on the concept of global health and realise far more strongly that where you live dictates whether you survive from certain conditions or not. An estimated five billion people don’t have access to the surgical care they need,” she adds.

Her passion for advocacy work was spurred on by seeing how few Africans are part of advocacy groups at international policy level – and it’s a passion that’s perfectly suited to her new job, having recently taken up a specially-created post as Associate Professor of Global Surgery at the University of Cape Town. In this role, she’ll be exploring and lecturing on the inequities of active surgical care across different settings globally.

The need to improve quality of care in local public healthcare

Dr Maswime believes that MGH was a good example of the geographical disparity in outcomes, with their stillbirth rate dramatically lower than top South Africa public sector hospitals.

The comparisons between what is considered one of the best teaching hospitals in the world (MGH) and her hospital-of-origin, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Johannesburg (the world’s third largest hospital) render some stark contextual differences.

The Gauteng hospital registers over 600 000 in and out-patients and delivers 20 000 babies annually. MGH manages up to 3 700 deliveries a year, many referred with complications needing obstetric intervention.

Persisting in her goal to ‘contribute more’

Born in KwaZulu Natal to a theology professor father and teacher mother, Dr Maswime is a married mom of two who is active in her local church and an accomplished French horn and trumpet player. Initially frustrated with studying medicine, she was persuaded to persist, realising that she could perhaps contribute more to humanity – and so she could.

In 2017, Dr Maswime (then aged 34) was awarded the President’s South African Trailblazer and Young Achiever Award, based on her PhD on maternal health. This eased the way for her successful application to the Discovery Foundation for her MGH Fellowship.

“Now I see myself becoming a research leader and a global expert in the field of women’s health,” she reflects with an incredulous chuckle. Read more about how this inspiring woman is doing precisely that here.

International second opinion service with Cleveland Clinic MyConsult®

Discovery Health Medical Scheme offers members on all plans the opportunity to get an online second opinion from a physician specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, a medical centre in the United States which is recognised worldwide as a leader in healthcare.

The Cleveland Clinic MyConsult® service offers online medical second opinions for more than 1 200 diagnoses, including conditions that impact a person’s quality of life, or more serious life-threatening conditions. It aims to provide confirmation of the diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Learn more about this valuable service here.

Funding education at Harvard Medical School's teaching hospital

The Discovery Foundation MGH Fellowship Award was introduced in 2013 in partnership with the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Based in Boston in the United States, MGH is a clinical service and biomedical research facility, as well as the Harvard Medical School’s largest teaching hospital.

The award aims to develop the next generation of leaders in academic and clinical medicine in South Africa. It does so by enabling a talented specialist clinician and aspiring leader to experience the specialist clinical service and research environment at MGH, and to conduct cutting-edge clinical research in collaboration with colleagues at the hospital, over a one-year period. The award is valued at R2.1 million.

Learn more or apply here.

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