Mark Engel Lecture

6 June 2019


image of a heart

Rheumatic Heart Disease: A Case Study

A public lecture by Dr Mark Engel, Associate Professor, Medicine, University of Cape Town and 2019 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

Elimination of Rheumatic Heart Disease in Africa is a continental priority, given the great morbidity and mortality associated with the disease in most low- and middle-income countries. It is a classic example of a disease that, despite the presence of effective primary and secondary prevention, treatment and rehabilitation methods with successful eradication in high-income countries, continues to wreak a heavy toll on many societies. We recognise that many important determinants of RHD lie outside the health sector, and thus include social determinants in addition to access to primary and tertiary health care resources.

The ASAP Programme (raise Awareness, establish Surveillance systems, Advocate for increased resources for treatment, and to promote Prevention strategies) was launched as a comprehensive approach to tackling RHD on the African continent.  Employing a multi-pronged approach, the programme emphasizes the importance of awareness-raising, surveillance, advocacy and prevention programmes being incorporated in research endeavours. Having been instrumental in the programme from its inception in South Africa, Dr Engel will report on the programme’s progress from population screening to genome-wide association studies involving 6000 participants from seven countries in Africa. The lessons learnt serve as an illuminating guide for initiating studies responsive to the health needs and the priorities of the population or community in which it is to be carried out, especially in a resource-constrained environment.

Mark E. Engel was born in Cape Town, South Africa, holds a BSc(MED)Hons in human genetics, an MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics and a PhD in Medicine, which he obtained in 2013, all from the University of Cape Town (UCT). Currently, he is appointed as an Associate Professor within the Medicine Department at UCT, after having worked initially as a laboratory scientist in Pathology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital with further training in molecular genetics and epidemiology in the UK, USA, and Canada.

Dr Engel’s research includes all aspects of rheumatic heart disease (RHD), employing a wide range of investigative approaches, from molecular to population-based research, in efforts to improve the understanding of this poverty-related heart disease. Recently, he established AFROStrep, Africa’s first multi-centre registry and biorepository for Group A Streptococcus (Strep A), the organism involved in RHD development, to document the occurrence and strain of infection, and to provide a platform for training and research across the continent. In addition, he is the lead on the register project of the African Union Taskforce.

In addition to presenting at national and international conferences, Dr Engel regularly lectures undergraduate and postgraduate students in epidemiology and research methods and has supervised a number of postgraduate degree dissertations. He was awarded the South African National Research Foundation’s Research Excellence Award for Early Career / Emerging Researchers in 2016.