The NHLS hosted its inaugural PathRed Congress 14th to 16th April at the Emperors Palace Conference Centre, Johannesburg. Despite the economic challenges that the NHLS is facing, the Congress demonstrated the commitment the NHLS has for nurturing and providing a firm foundation to researchers and for research. The initiative for a Congress follows the inaugural NHLS Research Summit which was convened with the overarching theme of improving health through research. The PathRed Congress show cased ongoing research within the NHLS and gave researchers across the organisation the opportunity to engage with their peers and research leaders.
The NHLS has also recognised that in order to build a sustainable research programme there has to be an investment in the growth and support of emerging researchers. The PathRed programme addressed this with a programme of workshops for emerging scientists. The workshops covered scientific writing and publishing skills, research ethics, data management, data analysis and grant writing skills. There was also a workshop on the development, training and mentoring of emerging scientists.
The Congress was organised in house and Prof Jim Phillips (NIOH) contributed to the Scientific Advisory Committee. Mr Lincoln Darwin (NIOH) was member of the Organising Committee taking care of the interactive PathRed web site and the Information Technology requirements during the Congress.
Plenary speakers included Ms Malebona Precious Matsoso, the Director General of the National Department of Health and Mrs Joyce Mogale, the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the NHLS. The Director General stated her commitment to the NHLS and outlined the new funding model for the organisation. The CEO of the NHLS reiterated the pivotal role of research in the work of the NHLS.
The Executive Director of the NIOH, Dr Sophia Kisting was also an invited plenary speaker and addressed the delegates on the subject of Decent Work, emphasising how feedback from rigorous research was vital in preventing exposures and accidents in the workplace. Research and risk assessments should lead to sustainable preventions in the workplace. She spoke about the need to develop and supervise young researchers and assisting them to gain higher degrees. The majority of health care professionals are female and the recognition of the needs of women in the workplace was discussed.
Prof Phillips conducted a workshop on Routinely Collected Data: A Neglected Resource for Research. It was attended by junior scientists, students, interns and technologists. The workshop illustrated how much of the cost of doing research was spent on data gathering, yet the NHLS has a great wealth of data that can be exploited for research. Using examples from the NIOH the workshop showed the delegates that routinely collected data can be a powerful research tool.
In addition to skills training the NHLS plans to provide a mentorship programme for young scientists. As part of the consultative process prior to implementing a process for mentors and mentees, Clive Gray held a mentorship workshop. Jim Phillips assisted with this workshop and the feedback from the emerging scientists that attended was very positive with some saying that it was inspiring.
In the scientific programme, Ms Marion Jiya George presented a paper entitled Genotoxicity Assessment of Gold Nanoparticles Using an in vitro Micronucleus Assay; Prof Jim Phillips presented a poster which examined the fate of inhaled crocidolite and chrysotile asbestos fibres.