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The inaugural lecture, held in 1962 at the inception of the Adler Museum of Medicine, was delivered by Major General Orenstein under the auspices of the Adler Museum and the Medical Graduates Association. Since then over 40 lectures have been held. In 1974 the name was changed to the AJ Orenstein Memorial lecture to perpetuate the memory of the late Major General Orenstein who died on 7 July 1972 and to commemorate the part he played in the establishment of the medical services in the mining industry.

A.J. Orenstein biography

Major General Alexander Jeremiah Orenstein was an American physician who was invited to South Africa by General William C Gorgas who he worked with for seven years. Dr Orenstein had done pioneering work in the combating of pneumonia during the construction of the Panama Canal. He attempted, without success, to introduce into this country the same means of containing the disease, namely separated, low-density quarters for workers as opposed to high density 'compounds'.

By 1915 he had begun the remodeling of the sleeping accommodation in the 'compound' rooms. He helped curb the devastating Spanish influenza epidemic that hit Kimberley just after the end of World War I and saved the lives of many citizens.

Once the epidemic passed he turned his energies to 'Health Services' in the mining industry. He soon established a 'department of sanitation' and set about revolutionising the appalling medical care and sanitation conditions prevalent in the mining industry at the time. He contributed to the redesign and layout of mine hospitals, the appointment of full-time medical officers on the mines, and the introduction of first-aid courses. He was so influential in the field of nursing that he has been accorded the well-deserved title: 'The father of black nursing' in South Africa.

He acted as an unpaid consultant to the Chamber of Mines and was socially recognised as the supreme authority on the health of mineworkers.

As the age of 77 he accepted the post of director of the newly established Pneumoconiosis Research Unit while continuing to serve as medical consultant to Rand Mines. Three years later, Dr Orenstein, now in his 80s, acted as general secretary to the Pneumoconiosis Conference held at Wits and was praised by his peers for his 'organisational genius'. At the age of 92, he was still translating reports from Russian into English and maintaining an active interest in the latest medical research.

He was a founder member and first vice-president of the Mine Medical Officers' Association and sat on the Prevention of Accidents Committee, now the Mine Safety Division, of the Chamber of Mines for a period of 42 years.
He received many military awards for his services in the medical corps. He was also presented with numerous civilian awards such as the Panama Canal Service Medal and the Order of the Crown for his services in the Belgian Congo. Perhaps his greatest accolade was receiving the gilt emblem to the Voluntary Medical Service Medal from the Red Cross Society. He was awarded the gold medal of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, London, the highest honour to be bestowed on men who had served the mining industry.

It would seem he was not the easiest of men to get along with because he had a 'commanding and strong personality, aided by drive and determination.' He could not tolerate inefficiency and yet it was said that he had the kindness and readiness to give of himself and his sound judgment to those in need or in trouble. He was modest without being humble, just as he was strong without being overbearing.

He sought relaxation in music and reading and was deeply interested in the theatre. He was one of the founder members of the Johannesburg Repertory Players and the Alexander Theatre. Other interests included motoring and flying, and he was one of the founders of the Light Plane Club.

Previous Orenstein lectures - topic details

AJ Orenstein Memorial Lecture (1962 – 2015)

1962   Inaugural lecture by Major General AJ Orenstein held at the inception of the Museum of the History of Medicine
Mine eyes have seen

AJ Orenstein Lecture (1967- 1971)

1967   Dr M Weinbren (Radiologist, Chamber of Mines Hospital)
The centenary of the birth of Marie Curie
1968   Lecture not held
1969   Emeritus Professor PR Kirby (School of Music and History of Music, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg [Wits])
Dr James Barry
1970   Professor JF Murray (Deputy Director, SAIMR)
Napoleon Bonaparte – of what did he die?
1971    Professor PV Tobias (Department of Anatomy, Wits)
Darwin, disease and descent – an essay on the centenary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ (1871)

AJ Orenstein Memorial Lecture (1972 – 2015)

1972   Emeritus Professor JM Watt (School of Pharmacology and Therapeutics 1921-1957); Dean, Faculty of Medicine (1922-1924 and 1945-1948, Wits)
African medicine from primeval to twentieth century
1973   Professor M Gelfand (Head, Department of Medicine, University of Rhodesia)
‘Livingstone - as I see him now’

Two lectures were held:
Dr R D Aitken
Medicine and missions in South Africa during the nineteenth century

Dr EH Cluver (Former Secretary of Health, RSA and Dean, Faculty of Medicine (1960-1962, Wits)
Development of health services on the gold mines

1975    Professor JHS Gear (Director of Research, Poliomyelitis Research Foundation and Honorary Professor of Tropical Diseases, Wits)
Highlights in the history of Tropical Medicine in South Africa
1976   Emeritus Professor RSF Schilling (Occupational Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
Uses of Epidemiology in the Control of Respiratory Diseases
1977    Professor L Schamroth (Professor of Medicine and Chief Physician, Baragwanath Hospital, Wits)
The Trial of William Craib
1978   Dr C Adler (Honorary Director and co-founder of the Adler Museum of the History of Medicine)
The life and times of William Harvey, founder of the blood circulation (1578-1657), in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his birth
1979   Professor AM Coetzee (Division of Occupational Health, Department of Preventive and Promotive Medicine, University of Pretoria)
Saga of pneumonia in the gold mines
1980   Dr EM Sandler (Leipoldt Memorial Lecturer, Medical Association of South Africa. Editor of the book ‘Dear Dr Bogus’ by C Louis Leipoldt)
C Louis Leipoldt: Medical Student Extraordinary
1981   Professor CH Wyndham (Institute for Biostatistics, South African Medical Research Council)
Acclimatization to heat in the mining Industry
1982     Dr WH Helfand (Senior Vice-President, Merck Sharpe & Dohme International, New York)
Art and medicine in professional communications
1983   Dr CC Freed (former Medical Superintendent of the Chamber of Mines Hospital, Cottesloe)
Orenstein onwards   
1984   Professor J Metz (Director, SAIMR, Honorary Professor, Clinical Pathology and Chairman of the School of Pathology, Wits)                                         
Blood, food & the researcher
1985   Professor Margaret R Becklake (Department of Epidiology and Biostatics and Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada)
Setting the limits: how do we protect the environment
1986    Emeritus Professor F Daubenton (Wits 1946-1977; Professor of Medical Education and Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Wits, 1964-1977)
A man for all seasons: Alexander Jeremiah Orenstein
1987   Dr RL Cowie (Head of the Department of Medicine, Ernest Oppenheimer Hospital, Welkom)
The Five Ages: pulmonary tuberculosis and the gold miner
1988    Professor JR Kriel (Department of Medical Education, Wits)
Is medicine facing a philosophical crisis?
1989   Dr JW van der Spuy (Medical Research Council’s National Trauma Research Programme, Cape Town)
Trauma in South Africa
1990   Professor SR Benatar (Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town)
Academic medicine in South Africa
1991   Professor D Mitchell (Head, Department of Physiology, Wits)
Heat stroke from Western Deep to Mecca
1992   Dr Y van Schirnding (Director of Environmental Health, City Council of Johannesburg)
Environment and Health in the 1990’s: Towards a New Public Health
1993   Professor SR Benatar (Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town)
Academic medicine in South Africa
1994    Professor P Piot (Director of Research and Intervention Development, Global Programme on AIDS, World Health Organization)
The AIDS Epidemic: Past, Present and Future
1995    Professor W Makgoba (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Wits)
The Molecules of Life
1996   Dr DJ Ncayiyana (Editor, SAMJ, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Cape Town)
Health care in South Africa: Where are we headed?
1997   Professor KP Klugman (Director, SAIMR)
Pneumococcal Disease in Miners and Children
1998   Lecture not held
1999   Professor CJ Mieny (Department of Surgery, University of Pretoria)
Theodore Bilroth and Johannes Brahms: A musical friendship
2000   Lecture not held
2001   Emeritus Professor JCA Davies (Honorary Professional Research Fellow and former Professor of Occupational Health, Wits)
Early South African insights into the risks of asbestos dust exposure: Simpson, Strachan & Slade
2002    Professor R Thornton (Professor of Anthropology, Wits)
Traditional healers and biomedical practice: prospects and barriers to co-operation
2003   Mr Stephan Welz (Director, Stephan Welz & Co)
Museums, dealers and collectors: friend or foe?
2004    Emeritus Professor PV Tobias (School of Anatomy and Human Biology, Wits 1945-1993, Dean, Faculty of Medicine 1980-1982, Head of School of Anatomy 1959-1991)
At my Wit’s end? After sixty years at Medical School
2005   Dr Sydney Brenner (The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego)
Nobel Prize winner 2002 (Physiology or Medicine)
Human biology: health and disease
2006   Professor Michael Kew (Dora Dart Professor of Medicine, Wits)
Cancer of the liver can be prevented: the first anti-cancer vaccine
2007   Professor Errol Friedberg (Professor and holder of the Senator Betty and Dr Andy Andujar Distinguised Chair of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas)
The writing life of James D Watson: Writing ‘The Double Helix’
2008    Dr Hendrik Scholtz (Group General Manager: Professional Development, International SOS and former Professor and Chief Specialist of Forensic Pathology Services in the Gauteng Department of Health and Head of the Division of Forensic Medicine in the School of Pathology, Wits)
Digging for the truth: Lessons from my casebook
2009   Dr Lucille Hellen Blumberg (Deputy Director, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, National Health Laboratory Service and Wits)
Outbreaks: New threats and old culprits. The work of disease detectives
2010   Professor Jiri Dvorak (Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, Spine Unite, Schulthess Clinic, Switzerland, FIFA Chief Medical Officer and Chairman, F-MARC (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre)
Is football healthy and can health be improved by playing football? FIFA medical legacy for Africa
2011    Professor Francoise Venter (Deputy Executive Director, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI), School of Clinical Medicine, Wits)                                        
HIV prevention and sex in southern Africa: Why can’t we get it right?
2012    Professor Karl von Holdt (Director of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP), Wits)
Towards the clinician-led management team: a strategy for fixing hospitals?
2013   Professor Jock McCulloch (Urban Development Program, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)                                                      
Dust, Disease and Politics on South Africa’s Gold Mines
2014   Professor David Salant (Professor of Medicine and Chief of Nephrology at Boston University Medical Centre)
Serendipity and the journey to a human autoantigen 
2015   Professor Barry Mendelow
Drones in Health Care
2017   Professor Glenda Gray (CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), HIV/AIDS: Battling to win the Battle.
2018   Professor Tshilidzi Mawala (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg) Intelligent machines, ethics and health in the 21st century
2019   Professor Johnny Mahlangu (Head of School of Pathology, University of the Witwatersrand and NHLS) - Haemophilia: A crippling lifelong inherited royal disease – leaping from prevention to cure
2020   Professor Lynn Morris (Interim Executive Director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Principal Medical Scientist in the HIV Virology Section) - How HIV research is helping us tackle SARS-CoV-2