MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Unit (Agincourt)

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Armstrong Dzomba

Post-doctoral fellow 
Wits University, School of Public Health 
Area of research: Potential risks and protective factors associated with communicable and non-communicable diseases among high-risk sub-groups to inform targeted responses to reduce burden in South Africa 

My fellowship at Agincourt, one of Africa’s largest and longest-running health and demographic surveillance systems, enabled me to closely investigate the phenomena of ‘colliding epidemics’ i.e., multimorbidity. Uniquely in South Africa, co-occurring HIV, TB, and cardio-metabolic syndromes are an artifact of urbanisation, with risk heightened by circulatory migration between rural and urban areas. This provided a rare opportunity to collaborate with eminent researchers in population health and expand my network of mentors. I was involved in a cogenerated research agenda, contributing research grant ideas and co-teaching a public health course, critical exposure for my next career step as a researcher. 

Jennifer Hove

PhD Graduate, 2023
Wits University, School of Public Health 
Thesis title: Community participation in health system strengthening: coproduction of local evidence to influence Action for health improvement in Rural South Africa  

As a PhD student at Agincourt, my experience has been transformative, both academically and professionally. Engaging in diverse research projects has allowed me to explore a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, and gain valuable insights into public health and social dynamics. The hands-on experience gained through fieldwork and data analysis has been invaluable for honing my research skills and deepening my understanding of complex issues in rural contexts. Interacting with experts and experienced researchers in the field has broadened my perspectives and encouraged innovative thinking. Their guidance and mentorship have been instrumental in shaping the direction of my research and fostering a collaborative approach to problem-solving. This enriching experience has had a profound impact on my career trajectory, the skills and knowledge gained empowered me to make meaningful contributions to society. 

Chantel F. Pheiffer 

PhD Graduate, 2022 
Brown University, USA 
Thesis title: Internal migration, urban living, and the health penalty among women in South Africa  

Working as a student researcher in the Unit provided me with valuable fieldwork experience, opportunities to network and collaborate, and the chance to engage with the communities that constitute the study site. Working alongside the Agincourt researchers, fieldworkers, data team, and staff provided me with unique skills in research design and implementation and grounded my approach to social demography and global health in local communities. These skills and experiences have been instrumental in achieving a tenure-track position academic position. In July 2023 I joined the faculty in Urban Public Health at the University of Massachusetts Boston as an Assistant Professor.  

Michael T. Mapundu

PhD student
Wits University, School of Public Health 
Thesis title: Computational approaches to characterizing morbidity and mortality patterns in rural South Africa 

As a student doing secondary data analysis using Agincourt HDSS, my experience was both eye-opening and transformative. Immersed in a dynamic environment, I witnessed the intersection of public health and data-driven research. Analysing various vast datasets provided invaluable insights into the real-world impact of health interventions and population dynamics. Moreover, engaging with diverse communities fostered cultural sensitivity and deepened my understanding of health disparities. Collaborating with seasoned researchers honed my analytical skills and reinforced the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork. This experience ignited a passion for data science, and its application to improve population health. 

Denny Mabetha

MSc Field Epidemiology Graduate, 2021
Wits University, School of Public Health
Research report title: The effect of maternal HIV infection on perinatal and infant survival outcomes in Agincourt, rural northeast South Africa, 2015-2019 

The unit had positive impact in my academic performance. Being in the unit exposed me to various studies which helped with comprehension of concepts that were taught in class. I completed my studies in record time because of the financial, academic and emotional support I received from Agincourt. In addition, the unit has contributed so much towards my career growth. Over the 5 years of working in the unit, I have grown to be a scientist with experience in study conceptualization and implementation. The unit has awarded me opportunities to contribute to the scientific space through journal publications.