Discovery Foundation: Leadership, innovation and transformation of healthcare



Discovery Foundation recipients, alumni and leaders in clinical medicine and education came together for the annual Discovery Foundation conference and awards. This year, the Discovery Foundation awarded grants to 42 medical specialists and institutions to the value of R27-million.

Dr Maurice Goodman said, “The Discovery Foundation currently funds up to 10% of the subspecialist posts in South Africa. The Foundation has also made strides to reach its target of awarding at least 75% of its annual grants to black recipients as part of its transformation strategy. This year, 67% of individual awards went to black recipients.”

A positive sentiment of collaboration, innovation and a continued focus on solutions, filled the air as Dr Jonathan Broomberg, chief executive of Discovery Health, gave an overview of the South African health sector. He encouraged everyone to raise awareness of the Discovery Foundation and its support for future healthcare leaders. Dr Broomberg also explained the importance of adopting an optimistic view about challenges and to turn them into opportunities. This is exactly what Dr Rolene Wagner, Medical Director in the Eastern Cape, did as the CEO of Frere Hospital. Dr Wagner spoke about the role every person plays in the patient experience and about the possibilities of transformational leadership — using her turnaround strategies at Frere Hospital as testament of how working together can lead to building on a great healthcare legacy for future generations.

Presentations from Foundation alumni and interactive panel discussions

Dr Gloria Mfeka, a lecturer at University of KwaZulu-Natal and a Family Medicine specialist, presented her research on understanding the social environment in responding to a healthcare crisis. Joined on the panel by Dr Ben Gaunt, Dr Andrew Ross and Dr Anne Robertson, she used her study on teenage pregnancy and the effects on young males in society as a basis for their discussion on how to shift the focus from a “hospital problem” to one of finding solutions by understanding the environment.

Innovation through research to enable quality healthcare was the focus of the next discussion. Talking about the role of research, Dr Salome Maswime, Head of Global Surgery at University of Cape Town and a recipient of a Discovery Foundation MGH Fellowship Award, Professor Marian Jacobs, Professor Mosa Moshabela and Professor Chris Scott, agreed that there is a virtuous cycle that develops. Innovation leads to research which in turn leads to improvements in the quality of healthcare. Panel members emphasised the focus on research and innovation that are specific to the African context and on finding solutions specific to our healthcare system.

The final panel discussion was led by an overview of research by Professor Nasreen Mahomed, Head of Diagnostic Radiology Unit at University of the Witwatersrand. Using her study to test software in chest radiography on children younger than five, she illustrated the accuracy of diagnoses of paediatric pneumonia. This software is currently available as an open source to all healthcare providers and is an example of how technology enables better quality care. Healthcare facilities without a radiologist can use this software to identify children who need care for pneumonia. The panel concurred that collaboration is essential in AI and predictive studies and that technology is an important enabler of better quality care — not a replacement.

The day came to a close with the awards evening. Recipients of 2019 Awards were celebrated for their game-changing research, their dedication to finding solutions that improve patient care, and their vision to build leadership skills and knowledge.

Read more about the 2019 Discovery Foundation Award recipients here.

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