Dr Salome Maswime

Obstetrician, gynaecologist, lecturer and director

One of South Africa’s few clinicianscientists, Dr Salome Maswime (34) has devoted her career to improving women’s health not only through science, but also everyday hard work at the coalface of the public health sector. It was two deaths in the labour ward in Greytown during her community service — which she believed were avoidable — that spurred her on to acquire more training the field of obstetrics and gynaecology.

After recently completing her PhD focused on bleeding before and after Caesarean sections, Maswime now spends half her week caring for patients at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, and the remainder conducting research. “I use my clinical work to come up with research projects to advance medicine and examine new drugs and how they can be absorbed into the system,” she explains. Maswime also assists midwives working at local clinics to improve antenatal care services, and mentors registrars. While South Africa has a 25% Caesarean rate, Maswime points out that other countries with rates as low as 1% are still doing things better.

“South Africa’s maternal death rate has been increasing over the past years, and my PhD examines the causes in respect of Caesareans, and the fact that many women who need them can’t access the service in the state sector. If they could, we would improve our death rates and ensure more healthy mothers and babies,” she says. She is proud that a piece she wrote on the subject for The Conversation attracted 12 700 readers, and was republished globally.

She has also presented her research at conferences here, and in Canada, Spain and Denmark. Another of Maswime’s roles is to liaise with the Gauteng health department on the maternal health system, raising issues, proposing new interventions, and alerting the authorities to existing concerns with a view to providing solutions. “I have found through my work and research that it all starts with strengthening health systems, addressing the shortages of beds, skills and specialist care.

“If we strengthen those things, we will definitely improve maternal outcomes,” she says, adding that her primary focus is to reduce maternal mortality here and across Africa. Outside of her work, Maswime spends time with her husband and two sons, and is also an accomplished trumpeter.

— Di Caelers

Twitter: @MrsMaswime