06 October 2021 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied
Dr Gladys Kigozi, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Health Systems Research & Development (CHSR&D), University of the Free State (UFS) has been selected to participate in the second phase of the 1st Cohort of the Future Professors Programme (FPP).

Dr Gladys Kigozi, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Health Systems Research & Development (CHSR&D) at the University of the Free State (UFS), is the only academic from the institution who has been selected to participate in the second phase of the 1st Cohort of the Future Professors Programme (FPP).

Dr Kigozi, who is responsible for project fundraising, conceptualisation and design, data gathering and analysis, and dissemination of research findings on the social aspects of health, health systems, and healthcare at the CHSR&D, is one of just 29 candidates out of 114 nominations who were selected across 26 universities following a rigorous selection process. The FPP programme is managed by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on behalf of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

“I feel overwhelmed and at the same time delighted and honoured to represent the University of the Free State at the national level. My selection is timely given the urgent need for equity and transformation within the Higher Education sector in South Africa and more specifically, the UFS. 

“Black female representation at the professorial level is essential. Increasingly, black women at institutions of higher learning are being encouraged to assume such positions. Furthermore, Africa experiences unique health systems challenges. More and more, addressing these challenges requires insights/voices from black female health systems researchers. As a health systems researcher the FPP is an opportunity for me to reinforce my research capacity towards health systems strengthening and policy translation,” says Dr Kigozi about her selection. 

“The need for health systems strengthening is highlighted by outbreaks like the Ebola virus disease in Africa and COVID-19 worldwide. The FPP can contribute to my learning more about systems analysis, how to contribute to policymaking and bridging policy-implementation gaps. This is imperative in a country with an ailing public health system amidst rising burdens of communicable and non-communicable disease, and stark inequality and inequity.” 

Looking forward to most 

According to Dr Kigozi, the FPP incorporates a wide range of elements including applying for National Research Foundation (NRF) rating, research grants, enhancing research capacity, mentoring, personal development and other dimensions required for eligibility to full professorship. Dr Kigozi says she appreciates that the academic profession is a generally demanding one and that institutional cultures and practices can unintentionally contribute towards an alienating environment, especially for black females. 

“Thus, in terms of personal development, the FPP would be an ideal support platform for me to foster resilience and to learn from others how to effectively cope with the challenges in academia.

“At the end of the programme, I hope to have attained a wide range of competencies that would consolidate my eligibility for full professorship, including upgrading my NRF rating and skills on how to apply for competitive (international) grants, as well as knowledge on ways to initiate and sustain collaborative research networks,” says Dr Kigozi.

Ideal platform to interact and gain insights and advice from other researchers 

According to Dr Kigozi, the FPP presents an ideal platform for her to interact with other fellows across various disciplines and to gain insights and advice from established researchers outside of the institution. This can help her to navigate challenges facing academics particularly, how to obtain funding for research in uncertain times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

 “I also look forward to subjecting my work to peer review and to receive advice and input from established academics on utilisation and development of theory, how to hone and refine my theoretical, methodological and analytical skills, and how to disseminate my research findings to best effect. The FPP would also offer a safe space for me to ‘soundboard’ new ideas for research on topical international and national health agendas. I also look forward to the opportunity to learn new ways and means to develop and sustain successful (international) collaboration from more experienced academics.”

Busy with various research projects 

As an initiative of the DHET, the FPP seeks to contribute towards a critical mass of academic excellence and leadership in higher education institutions in South Africa, says Dr Kigozi. “To this end, this FPP is an important platform for the fast-tracking of mid-career academics, particularly black (female) academics to full professor level, demonstrating excellence in research, teaching, postgraduate supervision, scholarly engagement and policy development. Advancing to professorship will help me to support other aspiring black (female) health systems students/researchers.”

This busy researcher is leading a research project to explore tuberculosis (TB) patients’ experiences of depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse. Together with her CHRS&D colleagues, she is also participating in various COVID-19 related research including a national online survey on COVID-19 vaccine literacy and acceptability, a retrospective study seeking to analyse and report on the impact of COVID-19 on essential health services, mortality in hospital-admitted patients and outcomes in patients with a history of TB, and a study investigating the health well-being of vulnerable families in the Mangaung Metro.

Dr Kigozi is also a member of the UFS Transformation of the Professoriate Program, and is the fourth member of the Transformation of the Professoriate Program to be selected for the national Future Professoriate Program. 

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