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Passing of Professor Bongani Mayosi


Written on Wednesday, 1 August 2018 08:53

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Professor Bongani Mayosi on 27 July 2018.

Professor Mayosi was born on 28 January 1967 in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. He studied at what is now the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, earning two medical degrees with distinction. After stints at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth and then as a registrar in Cape Town in the mid-1990s, Prof Mayosi accepted a fellowship at Oxford University in the UK where he completed his PhD in 2003. Whilst there his interest in cardiomyopathy and rheumatic heart disease developed and he decided to focus on a research-centred career in the field of cardiology – in particular cardiovascular diseases of the poor.

Upon returning to Cape Town, Prof Mayosi assumed research, teaching and clinical responsibilities in internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital. In 2006, at the age of 38, he was made the youngest Professor and Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town. He was awarded the country’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) in 2009 for his contribution to medicine and dedication to improving the health of people in developing countries and was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town in 2016.

His A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) counted him among the ranks of leading international researchers and in 2017 he was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in the United States, becoming the only African on the highly prestigious list - considered one of the highest honours in the fields of health and medicine and awarded to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. Amongst his many other achievements Prof Mayosi was a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, a former President of the College of Physicians of South Africa, President of the South African Heart Association 2008 – 2010, Immediate Past President of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology and Chairman of the South African National Health Research Committee.

He was highly regarded for his work in a range of fields with his research interests spanning the genetics of cardiovascular traits, treatment of tuberculous pericarditis, epidemiology of heart failure in Africa and the prevention of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. 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 bearing testimony to his tenacious pursuit of pioneering research that can help save lives.

Prof Mayosi was an inspiration to many and a great leader in work that reached across boundaries and touched people across continents, a great friend, who always found time to share in the lives of those around him and a great mentor, whose support and counsel led many to aspire to and achieve what was not thought possible. A man above all men, who believed in lifting as you rise and that ideas are far more important than money, Bongani cared about every part of those he mentored, asking about family and home before the subject of work. He believed to his core that he could be better, do more and serve more deeply.

His loss to South Africa, Africa, cardiovascular diseases of poverty, his family and friends is unfathomable. Professor Mayosi will be deeply missed by everyone who had the pleasure and fortune to cross his path and will always be remembered for his integrity, scientific rigour and dedication to improving public health.