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Wits Cardiovascular Pathophysiology Research Unit a first in the private sector

- Wits University

Wits physiologists and cardiologists have established the Cardiovascular Pathophysiology Research Unit at the Mayo Clinic in Gauteng.

The Cardiovascular Pathophysiology Research Unit (CPRU), launched on 12 October 2018, is the first of its kind to be geographically located within a private hospital setting. This is essential for access to patients and accurate data.

Next generation research

The CPRU is an affiliation with the Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomics Research Unit (CPGRU) in the School of Physiology at Wits. The CPGRU studies heart failure, hypertension, and the effects of exercise on the heart.

“The new unit is a unique facility that opens doors for clinicians from Wits to conduct cross-disciplinary research, and it presents training opportunities in higher education,” says Dr Vernice Peterson, co-founder of the CPRU and a lecturer in Physiology at Wits.

Clinician-focused, the CPRU will enable research in cardiology and physiology through its geographic location alongside the Mayo Clinic in Roodepoort. Such access to patients and accurate data is essential for research but unusual in South Africa, where health sciences research is seldom located in private hospitals.

A first for academia and industry

CPRU co-founder Dr Ferande Peters  is honorary Associate Professor in the Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomics Unit at Wits. A veteran of the public health sector, Peters previously ran the echocardiography laboratory (echo lab) at Chris-Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (Bara), which he established in 2009.

“It’s a year to the day since I left Bara not knowing then what lay ahead. Now we have established a unit for clinicians to bring their science and answer some locally relevant questions, ethically. Merging our skills will stimulate us all to learn more,” says Peters.

The shoulders of giants

Doyens of physiology at Wits include alumni Professor Gavin Norton and Professor Angela Woodiwiss. They are co-directors of the CPGRU who have published almost 200 academic papers over 25 years. Both Norton and Woodiwiss mentored the generation of alumni who have brought the CPRU to fruition.

“I am excited about the development of this new branch of our research unit. It provides an excellent opportunity to further our research into cardiovascular disease as well as a platform for the development of a new generation of cardiovascular researchers,” says Woodiwiss, who earlier this year received an award from Wits in recognition of her outstanding contribution to postgraduate supervision.    

Norton, who in 2016 received the Gold Scientific Achievement Award from the South African Medical Research Council for raising the profile of science in South Africa, says: “Good clinical research must be based on evidence and reliable patient data is only available from the private sector. This is where academic medicine needs to be – in the private sector.”