Ramesar dedicates award to team

23 April 2009 | Story by Helen Théron

Professor Raj RamesarCollective care: Prof Raj Ramesar paid tribute to his team of surgeons and nurses when he accepted the Alan Pifer Award.

Finding the genetic defect that causes colon cancer in two large South African families was enough to prompt Professor Raj Ramesar to consider terminating his sabbatical in Chicago in 1994.

"I knew how much the simple blood test that I subsequently designed would mean to those at risk."

Ramesar, of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, recently received the prestigious Alan Pifer Award, which recognises his breakthrough research on the disease and particularly how this work contributes to the welfare of South Africa's most disadvantaged communities in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces.

The award is named after the former president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Accepting the award, Ramesar said the honour belonged to the team of surgeons, now led by Professor Paul Goldberg of the Division of Gastroenterology, and nurses who had painstakingly furthered this pioneering work.

Singling out Sister Ursula Algar as an example, Ramesar said: "She seamlessly steps between surgical nursing and field operations in genetics, tracing families and ensuring that those identified, through our laboratory, to be at high risk, have access to clinical surveillance."

He also dedicated the award to the families and communities affected by colon cancer, particularly those the team has worked with in rural areas.

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