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Annual Social Responsiveness Reports

During 2015, staff and students of the Division of Biomedical Engineering continued their social engagement in many ways. For the first time, we would like to share some of our activities over the year.


Work Shadowing

The Division of Biomedical Engineering hosted grade-11 learners from various schools including SACS, Wynberg High, Reddam House, and Herzlia School for work shadowing throughout the year. Work shadowing programmes ran over one to three days and involved the engagement with staff and students in all research groups of the Division of Biomedical Engineering but also involved experiences at Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre at UCT and the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.

Department of Human Biology Learnership Program

Through Dr Sudesh Sivarasu and A/Prof Thomas Franz along with postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students from their research groups, the Division of Biomedical Engineering, participated in Department of Human Biology Learnership Program for learners from Curro Schools in the Western Cape. The programme over one day organised by the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine and hosted 60 learners (14-15 years; grade 8/9) on 7 October 2015 at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. Dr Sivarasu and his group showcased innovative research in medical devices and orthopaedic biomechanics. The group of A/Prof Franz demonstrated computational modelling in bioengineering and therapies of cardiac diseases.

Public and Social Awareness

Dr Sudesh Sivarasu of the Division of Biomedical Engineering was one of five finalists in the 2015 Philips Innovations Fellows competition. Following the formal announcement of the finalists, the concept solution of a passive mechanical ventilator was revealed to public and media in a number related news articles in national and international media (Innovation Fellows Competition, Philips Reveals Innovation Fellows Finalists). Public awareness through news articles and interviews. One such news article 'reScribe Reinventing Stroke Therapy' features reScribe, a UCT incubated company for stroke rehabilitation.

Hosting of Internships

The Division of Biomedical Engineering hosted a number of national and international students for vacation and research internships. Dr Sivarasu’s Orthopaedic Biomechanics and Medical Devices Lab hosted four undergraduate engineering students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Michigan State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr Malebogo Ngoepe, Dr Mazin Sirry and Kevin Sack from the Mechanobiology Lab hosted one medical and two engineering students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Imperial College London and University of Southampton.

Engaged Scholarship

Health Innovation and Design Course

Dr Tinashe Mutsvangwa, Dr Nailah Conrad and Prof Tania Douglas from the Division of Biomedical Engineering offered the “Health Innovation and Design” course in the Faculty of Health Sciences. The course underwent its pilot in 2015. In the course we aim to use design thinking to address and innovate for health problems. In an effort to always apply relevant and user-driven case studies, participants in the course worked with three community groups throughout the year. Firstly, participants designed solutions for Rehabilitation Care Workers (RCWs) who work at a community level to provide multidisciplinary rehabilitation therapy to patients in their homes and community. Our solutions were aimed at addressing their safety, accessibility and visibility while conducting the community work. We then worked with ReAbled, an organisation formed to provide peer support for the disabled community in and around Cape Town. Here participants designed for increasing that organisations visibility and also its ability to retain peer support workers after training. Finally, we had Neighbourhood Old Age Home (NOAH) as a community partner and worked on assessing the needs of hearing-impaired senior citizens.

Child Health in Sub-Saharan Africa

The MRI Research Group of the Division of Biomedical Engineering continued with the longitudinal neuroimaging follow-on study of the Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral (CHER) trial - research that is aimed at understanding the effects of HIV infection and early antiretroviral therapy (ART) on children's brain development in the long term. This is a question that affects Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, given the large number of children that are living with HIV.

Together with the Child Development Research Unit, researchers in the Department of Human Biology continue to study the effects of prenatal alcohol and drug exposure on brain development. Since incidence rates of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in certain communities in South Africa are amongst the highest in the world, these studies address a major local public health problem. As part of these studies, children and their mothers/caregivers receive counselling and referrals as needed. Children with any abnormal pathology on MRI are also referred for a clinical scan.

Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre at UCT

The Cape Universities Body Imaging Centre at UCT (CUBIC-UCT) was commissioned on 23 March 2015. Since its inception, CUBIC-UCT has been providing Magnetic Resonance scanning to two Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) patients per day at no cost. The benefits of this service are two-fold: (i) to reduce the long waiting lists on the GSH scanner, which is about 4 months for outpatients, and (ii) to provide patients with complicated pathology with advanced scanning techniques and expertise in these advanced methodologies for improved treatment planning.