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Wits alumni receive the country’s highest honour
Issued by: Wits University  
[Johannesburg, 29 April 2013]

Wits University would like to congratulate the following three of its alumni, who have been awarded National Orders by the President: Prof Glenda Gray, Dr Ridwan Mia and Dr Bernie Fanaroff.

Prof Glenda Gray was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) for her life-saving research in mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Aids, which has changed the lives of people in South Africa and abroad. Her work has not only saved the lives of many children, but also improved the quality of life for many others with HIV and Aids.

Gray is the Director and founder member of the Wits-affiliated Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, in Soweto, which has achieved international recognition for its research and results. In 2002, the PHRU estimated that approximately 1 400 babies became infected. Now, with effective rollout of PMTCT interventions and optimising antiretroviral prophylaxis, less than 500 babies acquire HIV from their mothers in Soweto per annum.

Every unit is only as strong as its leader, and Gray has demonstrated an exceptional ability to collaborate with other investigators in multi-centre trials. “Our unit is strong because our scientists are passionate about understanding HIV, sharing our findings and making a difference in the world. This award is a great honour, and I’d like to accept it on behalf of the community of dedicated clinicians, scientists and researchers who work with me, and who share the vision that eliminating paediatric HIV is realisable and achievable!”

Dr Ridwan Mia was awarded the Order of the Baobab (Silver) for his excellent contribution to the field of medicine and for giving hope to victims devastated by burn injuries.

Mia recently made history when he and a team of doctors saved three-year-old burn victim Pippie Kruger’s life by transplanting skin cloned from her own cells in a lab in Boston, in the US. The medical team led by Mia performed the surgery on 11 June 2012 in the Garden City Hospital, making it the first reconstructive surgery where cloned skin was used in Africa.

Dr Bernie Fanaroff, who led South Africa’s bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver) in recognition of his excellent contribution to astronomy and his dedication in putting South Africa on the map. He is a thinker, an academic, a trade unionist and an exceptional public servant.

Upon receiving news of the award, Dr Fanaroff said: “From the beginning, South Africa’s SKA bid was a combined effort of the SKA Bid Team, the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation and other stakeholders. Contributions made by team members both past and present were key in ensuring the success of our bid, and credit cannot go to any single individual. From the co-operation we received from role-players from the outset, to the various managers, engineers, consultants and volunteers involved in the SKA bid, we can all stand proud for what we have achieved, not only for Africa, but for astronomy as a whole. The honour of my nomination being accepted by the President is indeed an enormous one and is reflective of the team effort that has gone into bidding for the SKA.”

Contact details:

Prof Glenda Gray
(011) 989 9700

Dr Ridwan Mia
(011) 463 6591

Dr Bernie Fanaroff
(011) 442 2434

Editorial contacts
Wits University
Kanina Foss
(+27) 11 717 1024

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