A dynamic, cross-disciplinary funding opportunity aimed at nurturing future leaders in non-communicable disease research within the African continent. These aspiring leaders will tackle the big questions related to chronic diseases affecting the African continent.
Economic and cultural transition in developing nations is causing a shift to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases. It is due to this phenomenon that The Wits Non-communicable Diseases Research Leadership Program was born. A need to understanding the nature, extent and pace of the transition to the emerging diseases of lifestyle in developing country exists and therefore a thorough understanding of the epidemiology and the social, genetic and environmental causes will lead to innovative and affordable interventions and treatments in developing countries.
This program concentrates on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The specific aim of the Training Program is to develop a group of well-trained researchers at the Masters, PhD and post-doctoral levels that will facilitate the crosscutting need to examine genetic, epigenetic and physiological factors and provide capacity to tackle the big questions. What is the prevalence of these diseases in southern Africa? How can we monitor and understand the underlying causes? What effective intervention programs could we develop?
This training is enabled through the integration and collaboration across several established research programs at the University of the Witwatersrand, including the Soweto Heart Study, the Agincourt Rural Facility and the Birth to Twenty Study, with the aim of understanding the epidemiology, the genetic risk factors, the mechanisms and opportunities for community intervention. The program is embedded within local, regional, national and international research programs.
Two other initiatives at Wits further enrich the environment to enhance capacity in the broad field of non-communicable diseases. These are the Molecular Biosciences Research Thrust aimed at addressing molecular aspects of disease that impact on the health of Africans and the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience which has chosen as its main focus non-communicable diseases exacerbated by lifestyle choices.
This program commenced in January 2011 and is anticipated to end in December 2015. Trainees are recruited in a staggered manner such that all traineeships are completed before the anticipated end date of the program.
Each year, supervisors from different fields of expertise offer projects related to non-communicable diseases in African populations. Interested post-graduate students and post-docs from all over Africa are invited to apply for these projects. Successful applicants are chosen based on a range of criteria including academic merit, future aspirations and likelihood to remain in the field they will be trained in.
MSc and PhD trainees are registered through Wits University as full time students and are expected to fulfil all requirements for their degrees according to the university rules and processes. All trainees are expected to complete their degrees and traineeship in the stipulated time-frame (2 years for an MSc, 4 years for a PhD and 2 years for a Postdoc). In addition to requirements of a research degree, all trainees are required to attend cross disciplinary short courses specific to this training program. Full tuition fees are covered and trainees also receive a stipend.
This map shows some of the sites where students conduct research into non-communicable diseases as part of their projects and the training program