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Accolades and Achievements | Research | Student Media

Prof Kebogile Mokwena – awarded C2 NRF Rating

Prof Mokwena is the first and only NRF Research Chair at SMU, and her research portfolio hasshone brighter in the past few years. She obtained the MSc (Physiotherapy) from MEDUNSA and later received a scholarship for doctoral studies in the USA, where she obtained the Doctor of Education (Health Education Administration) degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She came back home and was appointed the founding HOD of the Department of Social and Behavioural Health Sciences within the then National School of Public Health.

Her interest in mental health was triggered by an MPH student she supervised, who was screening for postnatal depression in Tshwane. She later developed a proposal in that area and was later awarded a grant by the South African Medical Research Council which she used to expand her research in postnatal depression in various provinces. Towards the end of 2009, nyaope (a concoction of various substances) use was getting the interest of media publications, which caught her attention as well as her interest as a social and behavioural scientist. She was given a small seed grant by the University, which she used to conduct the initial qualitative studies among nyaope users in Ga-Rankuwa, Soshanguve, Nkangala and Mabopane.

As her work was established and her publications in this area increased, she was awarded a 3 year grant for adolescent mental health and substance abuse, which was extended to 6 years, by the South African Medical Research Council. At this time, the two research areas of substance abuse and mental health were coming together as a niche area, which prompted her to put together an NRF Research Chair proposal on substance abuse and population mental health, which was awarded in 2018, thus becoming the first NRF Research Chair at SMU. In 2022 the 5-year prestigious grant was renewed for a further 5 years (2023 to 2027). Prof Mokwena continues to provide research leadership at SMU, as evidenced by collaboration with other researchers and supervision of students within and outside of Public Health. Her collaborations include researchers at UJ, UCT, WSU, UFS and the SAMRC.

In 2022 she co-ordinated a special edition of a journal, and provided leadership in encouraging academics to write and submit publications. “My advice to postgrad students is that they should have a publication in mind even as they develop a proposal. My current doctoral students conduct studies in various focus areas of mental health, including bullying in schools, parental stress of people who are raising children with disabilities, childhood trauma and burden of care of family caregivers of mental health care users”, said Prof Mokwena. Her current major research projects include several clinical studies on the health impact of nyaope, undiagnosed depression and anxiety among groups of people, and a national study to screen for postnatal depression among clinic attendees. She has built a strong research team which she credits with being integral to her research success.

She received 3 research excellence awards from SMU at the end of the 2022 academic year and has now added a C2 rating by the NRF to her recent achievements.

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