The second cohort of 10 Research Fellows has been welcomed into the Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL) programme managed by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS).

An orientation workshop was held for the incoming Fellows to get to know staff, principal investigators, advisory committee members and Fellows from Cohort 1 in addition to understanding the goals and objectives of the programme.

The project secured a significant investment for a five-year period from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States. The research training grant funds the training of 20 emerging researchers from UKZN and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (KZN DoH), with the aim of producing world-class scientists, creating new knowledge to address local health challenges.

The second cohort consists of five junior UKZN faculty members drawn from various departments from UKZN’s College of Health Sciences and five Fellows from the KZN DoH.

Programme director of the workshop was DRILL Project Manager, Dr Nisha Nadesan-Reddy, who welcomed the Fellows and introduced speakers. Communicating Principal Investigator Professor Petra Brysiewicz congratulated the new Fellows for being selected and encouraged them to use the workshop to network with their new colleagues and the many other DRILL role players who will support them over the next three years. Co-Principal Investigators introduced the five scientific tracks they lead to help the new Fellows understand the scope of the health issues prioritised under DRILL.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the CHS, Professor Busi Ncama; Manager of Epidemiology, Health Research and Knowledge Management Unit at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Dr Elizabeth Lutge; members of the DRILL Advisory Committee, the DRILL Principal Investigators and Fellows from the first cohort, welcomed the new cohort and stressed the importance of a programme such as DRILL.

They advised the new cohort to commit themselves to the training programme to enhance their research knowledge and skills. ‘What really excites me more about DRILL is the relationship between the University and the Department of Health,’ said Ncama, who added that the DRILL programme had her full support as it matched her vision of supporting emerging researchers who have new and fresh research ideas.

The Fellows from the first cohort emphasised the importance of fully committing to the programme, and attending the various training sessions. ‘This is a fantastic personal development, academic and research opportunity, and I encourage you to make the most of it,’ said DRILL Fellow, Dr Diane van Staden.

Words: Lungelo Khanyile