About us


Professor Karen Sliwa

Prof Karen Sliwa – SOCRU co-ordinator Prof Karen Sliwa – SOCRU co-ordinator

Prof Karen Sliwa, MD, PhD, FESC, FACC, DTM&H graduated from the Free University of Berlin, Germany, in 1990. She interrupted her medical studies to take up a one-year research scholarship for a MMed at Hadassah University, Jerusalem, Israel.  Subsequently, she spent two years at the Tropical Disease Research Institute in Berlin, where she was involved in basic science research in macrophage activities in malaria.

In 1992 she decided to obtain further clinical training and applied in South Africa, where she hoped to gain more knowledge in infectious and tropical diseases.  She retained her interest in research and enrolled for a part-time PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand (1998 - 2002).  At the same time, she specialised as a specialist physician and cardiologist.

Karen worked at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Soweto, and the University of the Witwatersrand from 1992 - 2009 as a senior houseman, registrar and consultant. She was subsequently appointed as an associate and later she was awarded full professorship. In March 2010, she was appointed to a joint clinical and research position as a full professor in the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and the Groote Schuur Hospital.

For more than a decade, her main focus of research has been related to immune activation and left ventricular remodelling in idiopathic and peripartum cardiomyopathy (heart failure). Her work in relation to heart failure in pregnant women due to give birth, or just after delivery, emanates from careful descriptive studies into basic mechanism and has resulted in her initiating a promising new treatment. She is now involved in a dedicated cardiac disease and maternity clinic at the Groote Schuur Hospital. In addition, she has initiated, and leads, large African population studies. 

Dr Kim Lamont

Dr Kim Lamont Dr Kim Lamont

Kim Lamont completed her undergraduate degree in Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Limpopo with distinction. She then moved to the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2007 to complete her honours degree. She continued her academic journey at UCT, attaining a distinction for her MSc in 2009 and completing her PhD in record time (three years) in 2012.

In April 2012, she joined HeduAfrica, and was selected to feature in a video on healthy living. This sparked increased interest in access to health information, information dissemination, and the flexible, fluid, exciting new methods of delivering health messages through the use of information technology (IT).

She is a content manager for HeduAfrica as well as a part of the HeduAfrica think tank. She has spent much of her free time showing patients at the maternity hospital in Groot Schuur and at Senaoane Clinic and Elias Motsaledi Clinic in Soweto how to access health information using iPads and touch-screen technology.

In November 2012, she was the recipient of a prestigious award from the NIH (USA) Millennium Leadership Training Programme on Non-Communicable Diseases scholarship. She is now involved in a study titled, “The PROTECT Africa Study: Pregnancy-Related Obesity Prevention Through Education and Communication Technology in AFRICA”, which is conducted under Professor Karin Sliwa, Professor Simon Stewart and Professor Kerstin Klipstein. She is the project coordinator for this study, which aims to address low educational levels around health in young African women.

In response, a pilot study has been conducted, showing the utility of an innovative IT-based programme to provide readily accessible and understandable health education to this vulnerable sector of the population (HEDUAfrica: www.hedu-africa.org). Her particular interest in the intervention arm of the PROTECT Africa Study is the use of SMSes and video to provide health information.

She has also been involved in educating adolescents in Soweto about healthy eating habits because she believes it is through the nurturing of skills that we are able to build the capacity and innovation required for the African continent.

Sandra Pretorius

Sandra Pretorius – dietician Sandra Pretorius – dietician

The Soweto Cardiovascular Research Heart Unit (Socru) was set up in January 2006 in order to co-ordinate a range of research into cardiovascular disease in Soweto, South Africa, and to promote research collaboration in this area. Socru is a University of the Witwatersrand recognised research unit.

The unit is based at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, south of Johannesburg. It works hand-in-hand with the Cardiac Department at the hospital, researching heart disease in patients that visit the hospital’s Cardiac Clinic. The clinic sees approximately 9000 patients per year.

“The unit’s mission is to do research in cardiovascular diseases that are common in Southern Africa, because little research is done in that area,” says the unit’s co-ordinator, Professor Karen Sliwa. “Conditions that are specific to Southern Africa need to be studied in our local environment. Little interest exists in other parts of the world to research diseases such as peripartum cardiomyopathy, since pathogeneses and management of such diseases is of lesser importance to the western world.”

Professor Sliwa has been conducting research in Cardiomyopathy and heart failure since 1996, when she did her PhD on the subject. She also supervises PhD students studying various aspects of cardiovascular disease.

Socru is funded primarily by the University of the Witwatersrand and receives project grants from the South African Medical Research Council, the Circulatory Disorder Research Fund, and also from businesses, including pharmaceutical companies Bayer, which sponsors this website, Pfizer, and pacemaker manufacturer Medtronic. Tiger Brands is the sponsor for a R1-million upgrade of the cardiac clinic, under its Unite for Health Programme.

 “Cardiovascular disease is very common worldwide, but 90% of the money goes to 10% of the diseases,” says Sliwa. “Very little research is done on diseases that are common in Africa.”

Kayleen Gal

Kayleen Gal – clinical research and trial monitoring Kayleen Gal – clinical research and trial monitoring

Kayleen Gal gained clinical training in London at the Northwick Park Hospital. She started out as a research assistant in a Phase I unit and was quickly promoted to senior research assistant. She then worked her way up to study coordinator and then to trial monitoring. She spent time in Germany gaining experience and knowledge in their processes and procedures.

She transferred to South Africa in 2009 where she assisted a nephrologist in various chronic kidney failure trials at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. During her time there, she met Prof Karen Sliwa and joined her research team as a clinical research associate. Gal is currently monitoring Phase III heart failure prevention studies, hypertension studies (HOPE 3 and APOLLO) and a trial in the investigation of the management of pericarditis (IMPI). 

She has always been passionate about trial monitoring and clinical research.  This has led her to open and operate a company based specifically on the requirements of running and performing clinical trials.

Contact information

Soweto Cardiovascular Research Unit
The Wits Consortium Research Centre (Bara)
Orange Building
Corner of College and Theatre Roads
Behind the nurses' residence
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Phone: +27 (0)11 983 6501