Goal 3


The UKZN offers a sound research programme, unrivalled when compared to other African  universities. Despite this, there are several opportunities for further training and development, particularly in preparation for South Africa’s NHI.

Major investments have been made in expanding and modernising facilities to meet the needs of basic biomedical research. However, there remains a critical shortage of qualified research faculty to benefit from this investment.  

In line with its goals to address the skills shortage, the MEPI project at UKZN aims to increase the capacity for relevant research specifically within a South African context. This is achieved by developing the knowledge and skills of undergraduate students to conduct research supported by an environment conducive to undertake doctoral studies. 

In doing so, the programme will encourage post graduate education and retention within the research faculty which will further enhance UKZN’s-position to conduct targeted epidemiological research on finalisation of the MEPI supported MLCs.

Research Programme overview
The success of this programme will result in increased capacity at both academic and public health level. The retention of graduates at the university will enhance its training capacity and attract other academics to its ranks whilst on a public health level, the resulting impact would be an increase in the scientific knowledge of the characteristics of HIV/AIDS leading to improved treatment plans for patients, regionally and beyond its borders.

The UKZN MEPI project aims to achieve this through the following activities:

1)    Undergraduate activities

a. Preceptorship

Establishment of decentralised teaching centres, the MLCs in peripheral facilities with a structured programme developed by key stakeholders, including The Departments of Family Medicine, Public Health and Rural Health. 

Plans are underway to establishing facilities for research in these Centres under supervision of family medicine consultants and registrars.

b. Undergraduate Research During the Selectives Module 

This programme is being conducted in years 2-4 where students are posted for two weeks training at community health centres in groups of four. Students are expected to conduct individual and group research activities at each of these sites with relevant focus on the psycho-social aspects in relation to health and disease within the community, using their experience at the health centre, literature reviews and research projects. Students are, at the end of the programme, expected to demonstrate a clear understanding through a research paper. 

c. Research activities of the Dual-qualification programme 

Already underway, this programme identifies exceptional undergraduate medical students to pursue a masters programmes in conjunction with their undergraduate studies. Billed as the flagship programme of the medical school, it is also aimed at building capacity in clinical research and encourage retention to the medical school. 
2) Postgraduate activities

a. RESCAP (Research Capacity) Project

This project aims to build research capacity through the following: 

1. Development of an online learning research ethics module. 
This will build on the Training, research and resource ethics and education (TRREE) online resource which already exists for Francophone countries. The UKZN module is specific to South African health laws and culture (see http://elearning.trree.org/). 

The TRREE module has been live since 2014 and is freely available to all researchers and students both in and out of South Africa.

2. Research ethics training. 
MEPI supports students to attend a  one-week modular research class as part of the South African Research Training Initiative (SARETI), a Fogarty programme. It is offered at a higher level than the NIH Ethics certificate and credits from the three modules taught at the UKZN can be used towards a Masters programme.  32 students have attended these modules to date.

3. Training for two PhD candidates per year.
These Biomedical Research Ethics Committee (BREC) fellows shadow the BREC  Chairman and is aimed at building skills in research ethics.  7 PhD students have completed fellowships.

4. Training on Grants Writing and Management for UKZN Faculty and Research Office staff members.
The key purpose here is to enable staff to develop skills of grant writing and management. 144 people have been equipped with these skills since the beginning of MEPI.


The REMETH PhD support program aims to improve retention of academics at UKZN, produce faculty of high quality and caliber, and produce locally relevant, good quality research that will strengthen public health systems. 

Various supportive workshops including basic and intermediate epidemiology, biostatistics and systematic review modules facilitated by Columbia University, University of Washington and Stellenbosch University. These workshops equip thedoctoral and other participants with necessary and relevant research skills.

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