Dr Nqoba Tsabedze

Cardiology researcher

It was winning Intern of the Year during his internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital that ignited his desire to specialise. And today Dr Nqoba Tsabedze is one of the country’s leading clinician-scientists focused on unlocking the secrets of sudden heart failure prevalent in black South Africans.

Tsabedze, 35, is currently completing his PhD, on the genetics of idiopathic cardiomyopathy at Wits University while working in the cardiology division at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital. He says when he was in his final year of physician training his father needed a pacemaker implanted, which sent him in the direction of cardiology. He new the speciality would be all-consuming, but also that that was where he could save lives. Today, his work — where he sees patients leading normal lives after seeking help when they were extremely ill years previously — continues to inspire him. “With black patients, heart failure is predominantly their disease, and they are being affected younger and younger.

White and Indian people suffer heart attacks, but I wanted to find answers to why the black population was affected by heart failure without any obvious cause,” he explains. “For my research, I’m looking at people with no risk factors whatsoever, who suddenly now manifest with weak hearts — and we don’t know why.”

Through DNA taken from the blood, he draws up a “family pedigree” to begin to investigate a possible genetic cause. “We have a cohort of families we’re working with, and are hoping to identify any association with genetic markers,” Tsabedze says. Other than his hospital and research work, he also runs the academic programme for fellows training in cardiology, and teaches medical students. He has been published in five internationallyaccredited journals, and works as a reviewer.

He is also an executive member of the Heart Failure Society of South Africa, and of the SA Heart Association. “I want to perform globally competitive research that is both relevant and responsive to the health needs in South Africa, and have spurned the lucrative private sector to devote myself to work in the public sector. “I hope my decision will inspire others to follow my lead to ultimately improve the health and quality of life of all South Africans,” Tsabedze says. In his leisure time, he enjoys travelling, jogging, and spending time with his family.

— Di Caelers

Website: https://www.wits.ac.za/staff/ academic-a-z-listing/t/nqobatsabedzewitsacza/