Dr Ntobeko Ntusi, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine
Research Excellence Award for Early Career/Emerging Researchers for his work in better understanding cardiovascular disease, particularly in an African setting
Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality around the world. Ntusi's research focuses on, among other things, cardiomyopathy (a condition where the heart muscle is abnormal, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body) and inflammatory heart disease, in particular myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle induced by viral infections or distinct immune diseases). He is currently working to establish an independent research programme on cardiomyopathies and myocarditis with the ultimate goal to promote clinical and research excellence locally through the training of postgraduate students and education of health professionals.
"My main interests as an academic are three-fold," says Ntusi. "Firstly, the research: a focus on the generation of new knowledge and finding creative new ways to apply existing knowledge." Secondly, clinical engagement plays an important role. He says many of his research questions have been informed by his clinical experiences at the bedside. His third passion is the teaching and training of students and colleagues. "I am involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate training and supervision, as well as training colleagues on methods for advanced cardiovascular imaging."
Ntusi says his life goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the heart diseases common among Africans and to contribute to the national agenda of building a healthy nation through research. "The spectrum of cardiovascular disease in Africa is quite different from that in Western countries," explains Ntusi. "Heart disease in Africa still affects the young and is often related to infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis."
Today we are undergoing an "epidemiological transition", where we see the rise of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and coronary artery disease, alongside the infectious diseases. "We are going to have to find strategies to contend with these twin challenges," he says, noting this is a particularly relevant issue in cardiology, as Africa and other low-income countries are witnessing the fastest rate of increase in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease.
"I am interested in contributing to our evolving understanding of the disease that afflict fellow Africans and to help in alleviation of suffering from these," says Ntusi.
Professor Danie Visser, deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation, describes Ntusi as the kind of researcher UCT strives to produce. "UCT is fortunate to be home to so many researchers whose work demonstrates the value of engaged scholarship and research that impacts positivelyon the lives of those within and beyond their community. Ntobeko's work, even at this early stage in his career, encapsulates that value. His important contribution to the understanding and treatment cardiovascular disease, specifically in the African context, can and will help reduce the high disease burden on the continent."
Ntusi says he is greatly honoured by the award but notes that none of his achievements and outputs would have been possible without the collective effort of his colleagues, patients and research volunteers.
"I am tremendously grateful and indebted to both my colleagues and patients to make our work not only interesting and fulfilling but also possible."
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