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The MRC/Wits Agincourt Research Unit celebrated three decades at the 18th Prestigious Research Le


In celebration of the MRC/Wits Agincourt Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit’s (MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit) 30th anniversary - researcher and founding director of the unit, Professor Stephen Tollman and Professor Kathleen Kahn, a personal professor at the Wits School of Public Health and principal scientist at the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit presented a prestigious research lecture titled “From Transition to Transformation – restoring the dream of ‘health for all’ using community-oriented evidence” on the 29th of August 2022.

Their lecture kicked off with a rewind to the 1990s when Tollman and Kahn had returned from their studies abroad and made a move to Bushbuckridge in what is today, Mpumalanga. Their intention was to better understand the public health needs of largely marginal rural communities.

Professors Tollman and Kahn are the dynamic force behind building the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System – a longitudinal rural health research platform - into a renowned pillar for rural public health response and research.

Hundreds of PhD students, researchers and collaborators have passed through the Unit’s door over the past three decades sterling the MRC/Wits Agincourt Unit as an ecosystem of local, regional and international research partners and collaborators.

Underpinning all their cohorts, programmes and trials has been working at being better partners with their host communities. It’s involved for instance, not overlooking the role of traditional healers in public health, or responding to the transience of labour migration, and acknowledging the socio-economic neglect of rural communities.

Professor Mosa Moshabela, one of many exceptional researchers to pass through the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Unit’s door and now Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, acted as a commentator at the lecture.

In his comments, he homed in on Tollman and Kahn’s personal determination, the applications of their long experience, and their ability to adapt and deliver in the face of all kinds of unexpected circumstances.

Photograph (left to right): Professors Shabir Madhi, Stephen Tollman, Kathleen Kahn, Mosa Moshabela, and Maria Papathanasopoulos.