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- Wits University

Wits' Professor Peter Cooper urges graduates to make a difference in the health sector.

Professor Peter Cooper, Assistant Head of the Department of Paediatrics addressed graduates at the Faculty of Health Sciences graduation ceremony on 13 December 2016.

Cooper was appointed as Professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in April 1995.

He served as the Academic Head of the Department of Paediatrics from 2003 until October 2016 and as the Assistant Head of School since 2013. 

Professor Cooper graduated with an MBBCh from the University of Cape Town in 1974 and joined the Wits Department of Paediatrics in October 1978 as a Registrar.He then joined the Neonatology Division at the then Johannesburg Hospital becoming the Head of Unit in 1985. 

Professor Peter Cooper

He moved to the then Baragwanath Hospital and took over as Head of the Neonatal Division in 1988 where he remained until 1995.

During this time, a number of paediatricians who are prominent today started their careers under him, including Sithembiso Velaphi and Haroon Saloojee, both now professors in the Department, and Glenda Gray, the current president of the South African Medical Research Council. 

Professor Cooper has served on numerous University and Hospital committees and was appointed as Chairperson of the Medical Advisory Committee at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital from 1998 to 2009. 

He was actively involved with the National Medical and Dental Association in the 1980s, an organisation which broke away from the mainstream medical association over the handling of doctors involved in the care of Steve Biko at the time of his death.

He served as its branch chairperson from 1986 to 1988.

Professor Cooper has held a number of executive positions in South African paediatric and neonatal organisations and served as the president of the Union of National African Paediatric Societies and Associations for a three year term. 

He was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Paediatric Association and served as its representative on the Board of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health under the auspices of the World Health Organization from 2013, a post that he still holds today.

Professor Cooper was awarded the Convocation Distinguished Teacher’s Award and the Philip V. Tobias Medal for Distinguished Teaching.

He is the author or co-author of over 70 publications in national and international peer reviewed journals and the author of several chapters in books, mainly related to neonatal and nutrition.

He is soon to retire as the Head of the Department but will remain involved with both the Paediatric Department and the Faculty of Health Sciences.