Aneesa Vanker (Department of Paediatrics and Child Health) is a paediatric pulmonologist based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. When asked to introduce herself, she often calls herself an “institution nomad”. She hails from Pietermaritzburg but for the last 13 years Cape Town has been her home.
She attended an all-girls school in Pietermaritzburg and grew up in a medical family with her Father, a GP and District Surgeon and her Mother a psychiatrist. Her younger sister subsequently also ended up studying medicine. She outlines her journey that has brought her to UCT.
“It was by choice and not coercion that I applied to study medicine after matriculating. After exploring a few options, I chose to stay in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and completed my MBChB degree at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of Natal (as it was then known). I got my first taste of the “Mother City” as an intern at Groote Schuur Hospital and after rotating through paediatrics knew that becoming a paediatrician was what I needed to do. I returned to KZN to complete my community service at Escourt Provinical Hospital in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. While many of my peers then chose to go overseas, I was keen to start on my path to becoming a paediatrician and was excited to commence my registrar training in paediatrics, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal rotating through the training hospitals in both Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
“Between work, calls and studying for exams, I also managed to maintain a long-distance relationship and got married to my husband, Yacoob Jaffar, who lived in Cape Town. This brought me back to Cape Town to complete my paediatric training at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, Stellenbosch University and my interest in paediatric respiratory medicine developed, fostered by some inspirational mentors. After completing a fellowship in paediatric pulmonology I was left at another crossroads of where to now. However, life has a way of working out and a Discovery Foundation Award allowed me to commence a PhD and simultaneously a post as a paediatric pulmonologist became available at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, UCT where I have been for the last 8 years holding a clinical job and doing research towards my PhD.
“I graduated with a PhD in December 2018. Life remains a busy mix of work and family. I have two daughters, aged 3 and 7, and the unwavering support of my husband. My research interest is the environmental determinants of child lung health and I hope to continue working in this field. I try to keep fit and sane by running (albeit a little slowly) and have completed five Two Oceans Half Marathons with my father, a very special and humbling experience, especially when spectators point out that he is out-running me!
“Through my life I have been guided by many independent and determined women including my late mother and my aunts who have successfully managed careers and raised families. I am passionate about transformation, giving voice to those often unheard and enabling women to succeed where possible. Being part of the NGP programme, I hope to continue on this journey, further develop my academic career and lay down some roots!”
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The Next Generation Professoriate (NGP) is a mid-career academic staff development and support programme. Funded by the vice-chancellor’s Strategic Funds, the NGP addresses demographic inequalities in the academic hierarchy. The goal is to help members become associate and full professors.
The NGP was officially launched in September 2015. By the end of 2018, four of its members had been promoted to full professor and a further 14 had reached the rank of associate professor.
The programme is led by Dr Robert Morrell, who has over 35 years of academic experience in South African universities. He has a B1-rating from the the National Research Foundation (NRF) and is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences in South Africa.