Bongani Mayosi, 1967-2018

Tributes paid to a leading African expert on heart disease

August 16, 2018
Bongani Mayosi

One of the leading African experts on heart disease has died.

Bongani Mayosi was born on 28 January 1967 in Mthatha, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. He obtained a medical degree (1986) and then a bachelor of surgery (1989), both with distinction, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and worked as an intern at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth. He joined the University of Cape Town in 1992 and was appointed head of the department of medicine in 2006, and then, in 2016, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. He was admitted to the fellowship of the College of Physicians of South Africa in 1995 and obtained a PhD from the University of Oxford in 2003.

Author or co-author of more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, Professor Mayosi was involved in a number of major research projects that brought together scientists from across the world. One on the genetics of heart disease involved collaborators in Canada and Italy as well as the US and the UK. Others relied on pan-African teams to address major health challenges facing the continent. Researchers from Canada, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zimbabwe and, particularly, Nigeria joined forces to find ways of managing tuberculous pericarditis. An even wider group, also involving scientists from Brazil, India and Yemen, worked together on ways of preventing rheumatic fever.

Mamokgethi Phakeng, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, paid tribute to Professor Mayosi as a dedicated and highly effective researcher who would be “remembered for his scientific rigour and his dedication to improving public health. Last year, a research team led by him made international headlines for identifying a new gene that is a major cause of sudden death by heart failure among young people and athletes. Professor Mayosi’s involvement in this research included spending 20 years monitoring a South African family that was affected by this disorder.”

His eminence had been widely recognised in South Africa and beyond. He was picked out as one of the Top 25 Influential Leaders in Healthcare by the South African Institute of Health Care Managers in 2007 and was awarded the nation’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe, in 2009. He was elected to the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in London in 2006 and, last year, to the US National Academy of Science.

Professor Mayosi, who suffered from depression (and was said to have been greatly affected after he was targeted by students during the Fees Must Fall protests), took his own life on 27 July. He is survived by his wife, Nonhlanhla Khumalo, and two daughters.

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