03 October 2023 | Story André Damons | Photo André Damons
Dr Asha Malan
Dr Asha Malan, Head of Vascular Surgery in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), was elected as the President-elect for the Vascular Society of Southern Africa – the first woman in South Africa to be elected for this position in the Society’s 40-year existence.

Dr Asha Malan, the Head of Vascular Surgery in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), has made history by being elected as the President-elect for the Vascular Society of Southern Africa. This milestone marks the first time a woman in South Africa has attained this prestigious position in the Society’s 40-year existence.

Dr Malan, an exemplary surgeon and a trailblazer, is not only one of the seven qualified female vascular surgeons in the country but also holds the distinction of being the youngest and first female to head an academic unit in South Africa. Her election took place at the recently concluded 2023 Vascular Society of Southern Africa (VASSA) Congress, a significant event for the UFS Division of Vascular Surgery, under her leadership as the congress chairperson. The Congress was hosted at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West, Cape Town, in collaboration with the World Federation of Vascular Societies (WFVS) and the European Society of Vascular Surgery (ESVS).

Reflecting on her achievement, Dr Malan remarked, “It is not only an honour to be the first woman in 40 years to lead this Society, but an honour to be elected for this role.  VASSA has established a well-recognised international footprint and has invested significantly in promoting the growth of vascular surgery as a specialised surgical field in South Africa.” 

She added, “Representing the Society in this capacity allows me to continue serving its members and the Southern African community, creating awareness not only about the growing burden of vascular diseases but also the advancements in the field to address these challenges.” 

First gathering since 2018

The 2023 VASSA Congress marked the first gathering of Vascular Surgery specialists in South Africa since 2018, a gap caused by the pandemic. The event was attended by approximately 300 delegates, including nursing staff, radiographers, vascular technologists and other allied health professionals with a keen interest in Vascular Surgery. VASSA sponsored nursing staff, a radiographer and a vascular technologist from Universitas Academic Hospital to attend the meeting. 

The high-quality, four-day programme featured talks from local and international experts covering various aspects of vascular surgery, such as aortic surgery, peripheral arterial disease, carotid pathology, dialysis access and venous disease.  Notably, the academic programme saw the participation of 32 international speakers. Guest speaker, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, the founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, delivered an inspiring talk during the ethics session titled “Humanitarian efforts within the Healthcare Sector – Sharing the Responsibility”.  


During the Congress, Dr Malan and several Vascular Surgeons from the Department of Surgery represented the UFS. Dr Malan shared her experiences in developing a dedicated unit for the management of complex thoraco-abdominal aneurysmal disease, a talk that garnered significant interest and applause from both local and international experts. 

In her presentation, Dr Malan took the audience through her journey to several different international units to gain expertise in open thoraco-abdominal aortic surgery. She also highlighted the UFS Division of Vascular Surgery’s achievement of being the first academic Vascular Surgery unit in South Africa to perform a complex endovascular aortic aneurysm repair.  In addition, Dr Sam Letsoara and Dr Wikus Mulder, Vascular Surgery Fellows in training, presented the local evolution of endovascular therapy as well as an audit of endovascular management of blunt thoracic aortic injury at Universitas Academic Hospital, respectively.  Dr Sam Agbo, a registrar in the Department of Surgery, also presented his MMed research, evaluating the cost of open versus endovascular management of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

The Congress significantly contributed to the promotion of Vascular Surgical awareness and care, not only in South Africa, but across Africa and globally. It stands as a testament to the dedication and expertise of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of the Free State.

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