The Discipline of Statistics in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) hosted a three-day Advanced Multilevel Modelling in Biostatistics workshop on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

The aim was to enhance capacity in this area of Biostatistics which is the development of methods and theory and an application of statistics in biology, mainly concerned with medicine and health.

Professor Henry Mwambi and Professor Samuel Manda of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) hosted the workshop. UKZN’s Professor Temesgen Zewotir and Dr Tarylee Reddy were among workshop facilitators who covered model diagnostics and statistical computing respectively.

The workshop, which Mwambi and Manda plan to be the first of many, attracted 30 participants, mainly from SAMRC, UKZN, the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Durban University of Technology and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.

This workshop formed part of the Wellcome Trust’s Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS) sub-Saharan Africa Consortium for Advanced Biostatistics (SSACAB).

SSACAB is a consortium of 20 African and northern hemisphere institutions, led by the University of the Witwatersrand and including the KEMRI|Wellcome Trust Research Programme, UKZN, the University of Warwick and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Dean and Head of the SMSCS and the President of the MRC support the SSACAB programme and its related activities.

The Consortium provides funding for masters and PhD studies, and aims to develop and improve biostatistical skills among researchers, with an ultimate goal of creating research nodes of excellence to grow the discipline and a biostatistical network to nurture researchers with advanced skills and expertise.

Mwambi and Manda indicated that similar workshops would take place at least once a year at the institutions which are part of the Consortium. Mwambi added that the kind of training offered by this kind of workshop provided those who did not do further courses after their first degree with the opportunity to be exposed to this kind of advanced training and close knowledge gaps.

Many alumni from UKZN’s biostatistics programmes have gone on to work as biostatisticians and academics in leading medical and bioinformatics research institutes and centres and universities within South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and overseas.

UKZN boasts a strong biostatistics programme and training, and Mwambi hopes to make Pietermaritzburg a centre of excellence in biostatistics.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Christine Cuénod