>First-ever MSF Scientific Day in SA showcases operational research

>First-ever MSF Scientific Day in SA showcases operational research


MSF showcases medical humanitarian field research at first-ever ‘Scientific Day’ in South Africa in partnership with Wits University

Operational research symposium seeks to improve quality of medical care, share knowledge and influence practice


Johannesburg – Presenting operational field-based research for the first time ever locally, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) launches Scientific Day Southern Africa on Thursday, 9 June 2016 at the University of Witwatersrand School of Public Health.

MSF Scientific Day Southern Africa offers local academics, medical professionals, health institutions, medical students and the media unique access to insights originating from the frontlines of MSF’s medical humanitarian action. The symposium, which this year attracts 200 participants, reflects the challenges, achievements and innovations emanating from our diverse field programmes around the world.

“MSF Scientific Day is an opportunity for our fieldworkers to present and discuss their research with academics and professionals. In the past we’ve seen how these gatherings contributed to refining our work and improve the quality of our medical operations. Having such opportunities allows us to challenge the impact our operational research is having in our daily work and on the lives of the patients and beneficiaries,” says Dr Helen Bygrave, MSF Scientific Day Southern Africa convenor and Medical Unit HIV-TB Advisor.

Internationally Scientific Days have been an established feature on MSF’s global calendar, evolving as a forum for dialogue and knowledge-sharing in a few selected countries, including India, the UK and Zimbabwe.

“The MSF Scientific Days aim to connect audiences – across countries, organisations, and disciplines – to enable critical analysis and debate on the state of medical and innovation evidence underpinning humanitarian operations. We’ve also seen how this platform contributes to influencing medical humanitarian and public health practice globally,” explains Bygrave.

At Scientific Day Southern Africa, MSF staff will present findings in four sessions chaired by renowned professionals drawn from prestigious institutions. They include: Prof. Lucille Blumberg, Deputy-Director for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases; Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights; Samantha Khan-Gillmore from the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) and Prof. Ashraf Coovadia from Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

The diverse body of presentations range from contributions on the impact of engaging mothers in screening their own children for malnutrition; operational strategies from our HIV programmes to reach the global 90-90-90 targets; and innovative e-health apps to improve the quality of antibiotic prescribing to paediatric patients. The symposium also features a debate around delivering healthcare to vulnerable displaced populations in Africa and Europe.

“Scientific Day Southern Africa is a window to the world, and a conference without borders. We hope this event deepens the awareness about medical humanitarian practice in Southern Africa while strengthening MSF’s relationship with medical and academic community in South Africa,” says Dan Sermand, General Director MSF Southern Africa.

Prof. Laetitia Rispel, Head of the Wits School of Public Health says the choice of venue is most appropriate as the School is a lived space for local and international gatherings that enhances Wits’ enabling environment for research and teaching excellence.

“In light of our national and global responsibility to serve and elevate public health academic endeavours, the Wits School of Public Health congratulate MSF with its inaugural operational research symposium. The symposium aims to improve the quality of medical care, share knowledge and influence practice, with a particular focus on the medical humanitarian field. The topics are aligned to both the research and teaching endeavours of the School,” says Rispel.



Borrie la Grange  - Head of Communication MSF Southern Africa

+27 79 872 2950 | borrie.lagrange@msf.org



MSF Scientific Day Southern Africa 2016 has been endorsed by Health-e News, the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ), The University of WitwatersrandLancet Global Health and F1000 Research.

  • Some highlights from presentations / discussions à READ the Full Programme and Abstract Booklet here


  • Early access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Swaziland: 6 month treatment outcomes and patient experiences – MSF undertook a six-month study to assess the treatment outcomes and patient experiences for 625 patients who had an early initiation to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Swaziland. The MSF study cements the other previous research findings on the impact of test and treat. However, it is clear that this strategy also comes with its challenges and shows glaring gaps between the policy itself and practice.


  • Implementing community-based testing strategies among sex workers in the transport corridor in Mozambique – A study from Mozambique looks at the effectiveness of community-based HIV/Aids testing strategies among vulnerable groups including; sex workers, truck drivers and men who have sex with men along a transport corridor in Mozambique. The study presented by Humberto Jassitene, the MSF medical co-ordinator in Mozambique can potentially provide positive lessons which could be replicated elsewhere including in South Africa. The country is geared to implement new strategies meant to safeguard the health of sex workers from June onwards. One key conclusion from the study is that sex worker peer educators have a key role in developing trust among their peers and can support the uptake of testing and retesting.   Please feel free to contact me to arrange interviews or for additional information.


  • Mothers screening for malnutrition by MUAC: results from a large-scale pragmatic trial in rural Niger – A study from Niger looks at how equipping mothers with skills to screen children for malnutrition is bearing fruit. In most instances, community health workers (CHWs) screen for acute malnutrition in the community by assessing mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) on children aged between 6 and 59 months. MUAC is a simple tool that has shown good results in terms of predicting mortality in acutely malnourished children than other methods. MSF has been implementing this strategy in Niger and the results have proved useful. This method is cost effective and reduces the burden of malnutrition on health care workers.


Background on MSF Scientific Days

Launched in 2004 in London, MSF Scientific Days aim to connect audiences – across countries, organisations, specialities and disciplines – to promote debate and exchange around the evidence underpinning our medical humanitarian operations. Valuable exchanges with partner organisations, medical and policy audiences help guide our operations, influence and ultimately improve the quality of care for our patients.

Starting in 2015 MSF Scientific Days, branched out to Zimbabwe and India where similar symposia were hosted. This year MSF Scientific Days event were held in London (20 & 21 May) and New Delhi (28 May)


Contact us
Borrie la Grange Head of Communications, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
Borrie la Grange Head of Communications, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
About Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
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South Africa