On the cutting edge: meet Assoc Prof Maswime

15 January 2020 | Story Thania Gopal. Photo Je'nine May. Read time 6 min.
Associate Professor Salome Maswime heads up Global Surgery in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Associate Professor Salome Maswime heads up Global Surgery in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

She is a recipient of the prestigious Discovery Foundation Massachusetts General Hospital Fellowship Award, President of the South African Clinician Scientists’ Society, and recently joined the Faculty of Health Sciences in her new role as the head of Global Surgery.

Falling in love with the labour ward is where it all began for UCT’s recently appointed head of Global Surgery, Associate Professor Salome Maswime, who says she was enticed by the thrill and excitement of the labour ward and the pure joy of witnessing a healthy mom receiving a healthy baby. But it was also the deep disappointment of losing a new mother that persuaded Maswime that she needed to learn and do more. After graduating as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist from the University of Witwatersrand in 2013, Maswime completed a PhD investigating caesarean-related morbidity and mortality. “I did a study across 15 hospitals and that is when I really realised how health systems affect surgical outcomes,” says Maswime.

Before joining UCT, Maswime was also granted the prestigious Discovery Foundation MGH Fellowship Award to further her training and studies at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health in Boston, in the United States. Here, she used the opportunity to broaden her research and clinical skills and meet some of the best scientists and clinicians in the world.


“I did a study across 15 hospitals and that is when I really realised how health systems affect surgical outcomes.”

Now, she is extremely excited to be based at Africa’s best university.

“UCT offered me an opportunity that was just so aligned with what I wanted to do with my career. After spending a year learning about global health, it was really just the perfect alignment for me to come and lead global surgery with my background in caesarean sections. She also credits the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT for having done a lot of groundwork in preparing for global surgery. “I feel like I’ve come to a place that is fertile to developing global surgery as a unit.”

Global surgery

Describing global surgery as the interface between clinical disciplines and public health, Maswime says it’s really about improving equity, improving healthcare, universal surgical access and providing good quality care. This is particularly relevant in low-resource settings such as South Africa because of the high surgical morbidity and mortality, an unmet need for access to surgical care, high rates of complications, delays in patients receiving care, and differences in the standards of care. “And so, we’ve got such a high burden of disease and unless we start looking at the why and the how to improve it, we will continue practising medicine the way we have been taught to. But if clinicians and public health specialists start talking to each other, we will find solutions together that are going to improve outcomes. Global surgery is about doing that…”


“Find yourself and do what you believe in and what you meant to do.”

Maswime describes herself as creative, hardworking and ambitious.

But she is also a dreamer, who’s unafraid of stepping up to challenges and reimagining new ways of delivering patient-centred healthcare, such as the integration of maternal and mental health services. She encourages young people not to conform. “Find yourself and do what you believe in and what you meant to do," she says. For this multitalented mother of two, this almost meant giving up medicine for a career in the performing arts. Maswime is a talented musician (who plays the trumpet and French horn) and also started a creative arts group at university where she was involved with writing, acting and producing.

In her new role, Maswime’s vision is to develop global surgery at UCT into a world-renowned centre for excellence, to contribute to changing the way that surgical practice is taught, and to training and developing people who are equipped to take this forward across the continent. Oh, and of course, she dreams of becoming an A-rated scientist along the way. Stay tuned.


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