Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture: A tribute to the past and a celebration of the future of medicine in SA

31 January 2024 | Story Lyndon Julius. Photos Je’nine May. Voice Cwenga Koyana. Read time 10 min.
Dr Vuyane Mhlomi delivered an insightful lecture at the fifth annual Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture.
Dr Vuyane Mhlomi delivered an insightful lecture at the fifth annual Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture.

In partnership with the University of Cape Town (UCT), the Bongani Mayosi Foundation hosted the fifth annual Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture on Friday, 26 January.

Dr Vuyane Mhlomi delivered this year’s lecture, titled “Innovating on solid ground – bridging science, entrepreneurship, and community for healthcare advancement”. This ties in neatly with one of Professor Bongani Mayosi’s biggest passions: to provide affordable healthcare to every African citizen by finding African solutions for African problems.

The lecture was attended by more than 400 people, and commemorated the life, contributions, and impact of the late Professor Mayosi – the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and an A-rated National Research Foundation researcher, who tragically passed away in 2018.

Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Reddy Daya officially welcomed everyone in attendance – online and in-person – while Associate Professor Lionel Green-Thompson, the dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, was the programme director.

“As we reflect and celebrate the life of Professor Mayosi, UCT is honoured to be a co-presenter of the annual Bongani Mayosi Lecture,” Emeritus Professor Reddy said. “Offering this platform to Dr Vuyane Mhlomi, who shares Prof Mayosi’s passion to make healthcare accessible for all Africans, is fitting.”

The legacy of ‘Bonganisms’

The hybrid event highlighted the importance of Mayosi’s academic and clinical leadership.

“Professor Mayosi’s mantra [which is] referred to as ‘Bonganisms’ are those sayings by which he lived,” said Dr Mhlomi as he got his lecture under way.

“You see, I have a deep understanding of what Professor Mayosi meant when he said, ‘Poverty breaks hearts’ – in the case of my mom it was literal. Professor Mayosi’s work regarding eradicating neglected diseases because of poverty is not lost on me or my family. His work on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, including his work on heart failure, are very close to our hearts.”

Attendees at the annual Bongani Mayosi Memorial Lecture

He continued: “In preparing for this lecture, I was encouraged by the incredible work that the [Bongani Mayosi] Foundation was doing in celebrating the life and legacy of Professor Mayosi. Moreover, I am encouraged by the projects that he started that continue to thrive many years later.

“It is crucial to understand that while talent can emerge from anywhere, opportunities are often unequally distributed due to systematic barriers. To address these inequalities, we need policies that dismantle barriers and widen access. I am acutely aware that there are numerous talented individuals in places like Khayelitsha, who due to their circumstances of birth have not had the chance to reach where I am today.

“Despite facing a world designed to keep him down, he achieved remarkable feats. He was an academic par excellence, an outstanding clinician scientist, and a teacher.”

Healthcare is changing

Mhlomi, a UCT alumnus and the chief executive of Quro Medical, relayed how his mentor inspired him when he told him about his idea for the company.

“When I told him the vision that I had for Quro Medical, Prof [asked], ‘What do you need?’ You see, he was one of the few mentors that did not impose his vision and dream on you.

“Healthcare is changing. In South Africa, we [Quro Medical] are pioneering this hospital-at-home care by starting with the private sector and we are proud to have over 85% of medical aids that fully reimburse this solution.

“You see, we are trying to change the negative narrative around healthcare that is failing [and want] to present a positive narrative about healthcare that is changing.

“South Africa has high rates of hospital admissions and high rates of hospital readmissions. This has trapped us in a vicious cycle of declining quality of care and increased costs of care. Enter Hospital at Home: what we do is aggregate a basket of services that we consider essential to in-hospital care and we bring them to the patient’s home.”

Bongani Mayosi Foundation National Awards

A significant highlight of the event was the Bongani Mayosi Foundation National Awards, presented to final-year medical students from across South African universities who demonstrated exceptional promise and dedication to their studies. These winners were nominated and selected by their peers. The awards were handed over by Advocate Thembelani Mayosi, a trustee of the Bongani Mayosi Foundation.

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Recipients of the Bongani Mayosi Foundation National Awards

These awards not only serve as a recognition of academic excellence but also as a testament to the values and principles upheld by Mayosi throughout his illustrious career.

From the inspiring words of Mhlomi to the heartfelt award ceremony led by Advocate Mayosi, the event served as both a tribute to the past and a celebration of the future of medicine in South Africa.

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