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28 September

Professor Laetitia Rispel, head of the Wits School of Public Health and CHP’s Scientific Director, was awarded a new research chair for “Research on the health workforce for equity and quality”. This is the second chair of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) associated with CHP.

SARChI aims to assist South Africa’s transformation into a knowledge economy, boosting its international competitiveness and improving people's quality of life. The initiative strengthens the ability of the country's universities to produce good postgraduate students and high-quality research and innovation outputs.

Prof. Rispel was one of four new chairs at Wits which now has 25 SARChI chairs. The Chair will generate new knowledge and expand scientific capacity on health workforce planning, production, performance and dynamics in South Africa, contribute to capacity strengthening in health workforce research, and provide evidence to strengthen the development and implementation of national health workforce policies. It will provide for theoretical and methodological innovation in this area, thus enhancing international debates in the academic disciplines that it spans – public health, health economics, sociology, public health policy and management.

The Chair will also make an important contribution to international knowledge, by leading cross-country studies (particularly the BRICS countries) that draw lessons beyond the specifics of national contexts and are useful for other countries embarking on similar health sector reforms.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Pandor said that so far SARChI had involved mostly men, with four out of five research chairs going to male professors.

"Today, that changes. Today, we make history. Today, we have 42 new female research professors. From now, nearly half of our 201 research professors are women," said the Minister.

Dr Beverley Damonse, Acting CEO of the National Research Foundation, said the announcement was part of the NRF’s joint effort with the DST to address gender disparity in the research community. The NRF contributed over R340 million to research projects of female scientists in 2014 alone, and since 2002, had supported more than 18 000 women in obtaining their postgraduate qualifications.

Prof. Rispel gave her inaugural lecture on Monday, 28 September 2015 where she reflected on her PhD research done at CHP. The title of the lecture was “Revolutionary health policy in praxis: Analysing the progress and fault lines of 21 years of health sector transformation." Click here to read a summary of her presentation. An article on the inaugural lecture appeared in The Conversation.

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