UKZN alumnus and Associate Professor of Anatomy Nerissa Naidoo, has won the Science, She Says! award for the Africa and Middle East region.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) established the award to recognise an outstanding female scientist (under 40 years of age) who has contributed remarkably to the advancement of science and technology and bilateral scientific cooperation while performing research in one of five regions (ie Africa and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Europe; Central and South America and the Caribbean; and North America).
Naidoo was born in Chatsworth, Durban and completed her high schooling at Durban Girls’ High in Glenwood, going on to graduate with her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from UKZN under the co-mentorship of Ghent University, Belgium through the INSPIRE project of the Erasmus Mundus Programme. She currently holds the position of associate professor of anatomy at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Naidoo’s research focus area is on the clinico-anatomical features of degenerative articular complexes of the shoulder and lumbar spine regions. Through her findings, she established population-specific datasets for normal and pathological groups, and proposed proof-of-concepts in diagnostic medical imaging approaches, with the aim of contributing to the improvement of pre-operative strategies and post-operative patient outcomes. This is important research as musculoskeletal pain ranks alarmingly high in terms of global disabilities.
After starting to work at MBRU in 2017, her research interests expanded in alignment with the scientific priority areas of the UAE’s National Advanced Science Agenda 2031 which resulted in a collaborative relationship with colleagues at the University of Palermo, Italy. The collaboration also helped to establish a framework for joint co-curricular projects. This was made possible through the MBRU Summer Scholars Programme, a flagship co-curricular course organised under the auspices of the institutional International Accreditation and Student Development Committee, in which Naidoo holds the position of vice-chair.
Naidoo’s research studies have been presented at national and international scientific meetings and appeared in 40 peer-reviewed publications. She is also the recipient of several awards including the Doctoral Innovation Scholarship from the National Research Foundation of South Africa; the Mobility Scholarship by the INSPIRE Project of the Erasmus Mundus Programme, and MBRU Mutairu Ezimokhai Excellence in Teaching: Rising Teaching and Innovation Awards.
In 2020, she was recognised as a Next Generation Women Leader by McKinsey and Company and appointed as a Review Editor for the journal Frontiers in Clinical Diabetes and Healthcare – Diabetes Multiorgan Complications. She has a long-standing affiliation with the Golden Key International Honour Society as the previous South African representative on the Council of Student Members.
Naidoo is married and loves to travel and explore global cuisines with her biggest supporter – her husband. ‘I love travelling – I feel that it is education for the mind and body. It allows me to reflect and rewind while gaining a different perspective on life. I am also an avid foodie – I love trying different cuisines, especially those of hidden gems.’
On her future plans, she said: ‘I was promoted to an Associate Professor in January this year. I hope to grow through this role by providing more opportunities for aspiring young anatomists from the Africa and Middle East region.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis