Passing of Professor Mayosi

28 July 2018

Dear colleagues and students

Last night in a state of shock and devastation I informed the University of Cape Town community of the sudden passing of Professor Bongani Mayosi. I am still reeling. Since then we have visited the family to express our grief and offer condolences on behalf of the university and Council. Professor Mayosi was the best of us. On behalf of UCT I extend heartfelt condolences to his wife, Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo, daughters S’vuyile and Camagu and the rest of the family. The executive is in contact with the family and has offered to assist in any way we can.

I also extend condolences to the students and colleagues in the Faculty of Health Sciences and across UCT, and in the wider health sector, who knew and worked with Professor Mayosi. I share with you in the profound sense of loss his sudden death brings.

Professor Mayosi was born on 28 January 1967 in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. He will be remembered for his scientific rigour and his dedication to improving public health. Last year a research team led by him made international headlines for identifying a new gene that is a major cause of sudden death by heart failure among young people and athletes. Professor Mayosi’s involvement in this research included spending 20 years monitoring a South African family that was affected by this disorder. This is a testimony to his tenacious pursuit of pioneering research that can help save lives.

Professor Mayosi took up the position of Dean in September 2016. His A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) counted him among the ranks of leading international researchers in the view of the NRF. In 2017 he was elected to the US National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honours in the fields of health and medicine, awarded to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

His numerous honours include: election to the Fellowship of the World Academy of Arts and Science (2013); South African Medical Association/Bonitas Medical Fund Merit Award for Health Research (2013); National Science and Technology Foundation – BHP Billiton Award (2012); National Research Foundation Award for Transforming the Science Cohort in South Africa (2011); and the Order of Mapungubwe, Silver (2009) to name just a few.

In pursuit of his research he developed valuable collaborations with academics in other countries (and especially across Africa) in researching the management of TB pericarditis, prevention of rheumatic heart disease, and genetics of heart disease. He also held numerous editorial responsibilities over his distinguished career and published more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

He earned two medical degrees with distinction at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and worked as an intern at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth before joining UCT in 1992. He was admitted to the Fellowship of the College of Physicians of South Africa in 1995 and earned a doctoral degree at the University of Oxford in the UK in 2003. He was appointed head of the Department of Medicine at UCT in 2006.

Professor Mayosi’s passing has shocked us as a campus community. I know many colleagues and students will feel the effects of this loss over the time ahead. This is a very sad time for us at UCT and difficult as it is, we will mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Professor Bongani Mayosi with the dignity and integrity that he embodied.

Yours sincerely

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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