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Clinical virologist appointed head of department at UKZN

Appointed Head of Virology in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN, Dr Nokukhanya (Khanyi) Msomi says she is both pleased and eager to see her vision through in her new position, which she assumed in January 2020.

"I'm fortunate to work in a discipline with a strong foundation readily laid by the previous heads. The dedicated team of virologists I work with also makes my job a little easier as we share a common goal," said Msomi, whose unit is based at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.

Sharing her vision for this discipline, Dr Msomi aims to take the virology discipline to new heights when it comes to research excellence and promoting visibility for this discipline, which is a challenge since virology is a discipline that operates behind the scenes - its function is not well understood by the public. She believes all this will be possible through forging strong collaborations nationally and internationally.

Dr Msomi brings a wealth of experience to this discipline as she has built enormous training and experience in HIV management and has conducted research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Her research interest in viral hepatitis aims to improve diagnostic science by conducting locally responsive and relevant research behind this devastating disease.

Dr Msomi completed her MBChB at the then University of Natal in 1998 and later joined the registrar programme at UKZN IN 2009 after running a practice as a clinician. She obtained a Diploma in HIV Management, Fellowship in Pathology and MMed in Virology. She is currently completing her PhD studying the evolution of Hepatitis B virus and its variants. She is a current NRF grant recipient and has previously received the Wellcome Trust scholarship to study viral genomics and bioinformatics at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. Dr Msomi also serves as a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) sanctioned National Certification Committee appointed by the Minister of Health to guide and drive country efforts on Polio eradication.

A self-driven, dynamic individual with good interpersonal skills, she seamlessly functions as a lecturer, researcher and a service pathologist. She is passionate about mentorship and is an amateur mountain-biker.

Forty-three-year-old Dr Msomi says it is encouraging to see that most institutions are now increasingly appointing women in leadership positions. "As nurturing beings, women have a natural embodiment for leadership as they lead homes and lead communities, which makes them natural born leaders."