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Phd Students

Dr. Zhang Wan Zhu (Ranio)

Email: mndwan002@myuct.ac.za, raniox@hotmail.com

I was born and grew up in China, where I got my Bachelor degree in Medicine(MBChB). In 2006, I shifted to Uganda with my family and have been living in this country since then. I got my Master degree of internal medicine(MMed) in 2012 in Makerere University and completed cardiology fellowship training in 2016 in Uganda Heart Institute.

I am currently working as a general cardiologist in Uganda Heart Institute, playing roles in clinical services, teaching and research. My areas of interest are cardiovascular imaging and cardio oncology.

In 2008, I jointed Cardiac Disease and Maternity Research Group in Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Disease in Africa as a PhD candidate, under the supervision of Prof Karen Sliwa and Dr Feriel Azibani.

My research project is aimed at evaluate the burden and risk factor of subclinical anthracycline therapy related cardiac dysfunction(ATRCD), identify available conventional ECHO parameters that are able to diagnose subclinical ATRCD and evaluate effectiveness of available cheaper drug in treating subclinical ATRCD.


Ms Pheletso Letuka

emainl:  LTKPHE001@myuct.ac.za

My name is Pheletso Letuka and I was born in Maseru, Lesotho. I graduated from the Nelson Mandela University with a degree in Human Movement Science in 2016. In the same year I was admitted to the Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons) in Physiology at UCT, where I graduated in 2017. I then pursued a Msc in Medicine under the supervision of Professor Ntobeko Ntusi and co-supervision of Professor Brian Rayner, UCT.

I am currently a PhD candidate within Professor Ntusi's research group. My masters research project focused on using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to characterise the phenotype of resistant uncontrolled hypertension. In 2019, we will be exploring the connection between the brain and gut microbiome as well as the development of vascular dementia in patients with resistant uncontrolled hypertension using functional MRI (fMRI).


Ms Carmelita Abrahams

I am Carmelita Abrahams, and I was born in Cape Town. I have started my research journey at the University of Stellenbosch where I completed a BSc in Human Life Science, and a BScHons and MSc in Physiology at the Physiology Department. My research interest was Doxorubicin induced liver toxicity. 

I am currently a PhD candidate part of the cardioprotection research group with Prof Sandrine Lecour. My project investigates whether there is an association between Doxorubicin induced cardiotoxicity and a shift in High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) subclass, functionality and composition in a breast cancer model. The project includes a variety of laboratory techniques that includes rodent echocardiography, cell culture, HDL isolation and HDL functionality assays. 


Mr. Polycarp NDIBANGWI

Email: ndbpol001@myuct.ac.za ; ndibangwi@gmail.com

Polycarp Ndibangwi is an open-minded Genetics PhD candidate. His research activities have involved the use of Next Generation Sequencing methods, Advanced Statistical programs, Bioinformatics, Genetics and Molecular Biology techniques. He has been writing professionally and currently wants to determine whether genetic mutations are associated with cardiomyopathies in a large South African cardiomyopathy cohort of probands.


Mr Aremu Olukayode Solomon

em: solomonpeace23@gmail.com

Aremu Olukayode Solomon is a Ph.D. student supervised by Prof Ntobeko Ntusi and A/Prof. Sebastian Skatulla. He holds an MSc in Physiological Sciences from Walter Sisulu University where he explored the antihypertensive and antioxidant properties of some medicinal plants in SHRs and L-Name-induced hypertensive Wistar rats. He is involved in Rheumatic heart disease project, where he is investigating the numerous contributions of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance and autophagy biomarkers in RHD, being a causative factor of heart failure.


Mr Daniel Mutithu

email:  MTTDAN008@myuct.ac.za>

I am a first year PhD student working on Rheumatic heart diseases (RHD) with Prof. Ntobeko Ntusi and A/Prof. Sebastian Skatulla.

The project aims at combining medical imaging techniques, mechanical tissue testing, as well as cell and molecular biological analysis of cardiac tissue samples with computational cardiac mechanics to gain insight into the chronology of inflammatory heart diseases from the medical and the biomechanics perspective to guide decision making in finding patient-specific treatment options.

My piece of the puzzle is conducting metabolomics studies on RHD tissues with an aim of tracking disease signaling small molecules (metabolites) that could be markers for RHD progression.

Having an MSc Medical Biotechnology (Wageningen University & Research Center, The Netherlands) and BSc Biotechnology (Kenyatta University, Kenya) have contributed to my interest in using modern technologies in answering cardiovascular disease questions.


Mr Stephen Kamuli

stephenknzeki@gmail.com; KMLSTE001@myuct.ac.za

BSc in Biochemistry

Stephen is originally from Nairobi, Kenya where he performed his undergraduate studies at The University of Nairobi and then went on to graduate in 2013. He moved to Cape Town in February 2015 and is currently undertaking an MSc in molecular genetics under the RHDGen project banner at The University of Cape Town under supervision of Professor Bongani Mayosi and Dr. Gasnat Shaboodien (PhD).

Stephen’s work centers on understanding the genetic etiology of the various forms of cardiomyopathies which includes patients with arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), restricted cardiomyopathy (RCM) and peripartum cardiomyopathy (PCM).


Mr Vitaris Kodogo

Email: kdgvit001@myuct.ac.za / kodogovitaris@gmail.com

Mr Vitaris Kodogo is a PhD student within the Cardiac Disease in Maternity Group, supervised by Prof Karen Sliwa and Dr Feriel Azibani. His project aims to understand the mechanisms involved in cardiac remodelling during normal pregnancy and postpartum. He is a holder of an MPhil from The University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences. The desire for cardiovascular research emanated from his Masters studies where he looked at dyslipidaemia in HIV patients in Zimbabwe



Ms Tafadzwa Machipisa

mchtaf001@myuct.ac.za / taffymach@yahoo.com

BSc (Biomedicine), BSc Hons (Chemical Pathology),  MPhil (Maternal and Child Health)

I was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe. I started my first degree in South Africa, and I am currently a Ph.D. (Med) student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, and McMaster University, Canada. 


I am currently working on the genetics of rheumatic heart disease (RHD), using RHDGen (The genetics of rheumatic heart disease network); supervised Professors: B Mayosi (late), M Engel (South Africa), G Pare (Canada), and B Keavney (UK). My focus is on identifying the genetic cause of RHD in Africans, and how these genetic factors lead to the development of disease. I am currently based at the Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory (GMEL) at McMaster University's Population Health Research Institute, PHRI. Previously, I have worked on the molecular genetics of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and the genealogy of founder population mutations in Plakophilin-2 (PKP2) in South Africa. 

My areas of interest, research and training, include: Genetics, Computational and Statistical Genetics, Global and Public Health, Maternal and Child Health, Gender, and Leadership.


2020-present: Fellow, The African Computational Genomics (TACG) Research group, MRC/UVRI, Uganda and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK 

2019-present: President, African Caribbean Graduate Student Association, McMaster University

2016-present: RHDGen Fellow, Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative

Favourite Quote

“Better is not good enough, the best is yet to come.”-TBJ


Dr. Julian Hoevelmann

Email: julian.hovelmann@uct.ac.za

I studied Medicine at Hannover Medical School (MHH), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Münster. I completed my doctoral thesis (Dr. med.) at the Department of Cardiology and Angiology at MHH. In 2020, I started my residency in internal medicine and Cardiology at the Saarland University in Homburg (Saar).

As a scholar of the Biomedical Education Program (BMEP) funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), I joined the Cardiac Disease in Maternity research group led by Prof. Karen Sliwa at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa for a research fellowship in 2017. Since then I have continued to work on various research projects at the HICRA.

A postdoctoral research scholarship by the German Research Foundation (DFG) enabled me to return to Cape Town and to pursue my research interests in heart failure, cardiomyopathies, cardiac disease in maternity, arrhythmias and electrocardiography.

Ms Siddiqah George

021 406 6554 | grgsid001@myuct.ac.za

MSc in Biomedical Sciences, Stellenbosch University

I am currently a PhD candidate in the Cardioprotection Group at HICRA, under the supervision of Associate Professor Sandrine Lecour.

My PhD research elucidates how prolonged fructose overconsumption mediates changes in mitochondrial function in rat white skeletal versus cardiac muscle, as a model of mitochondrial dysfunction in advanced type-2 diabetes.

The study also investigates exercise and nicotinamide riboside (a vitamin B precursor) as potential therapies for ameliorating fructose-induced mitochondrial dysfunction.


Mr Timothy Spracklen

email:  SPRTIM002@myuct.ac.za

I am a PhD candidate from the Hatter Institute’s Cardiovascular Genetics group. I completed my BSc in Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of Cape Town, and stayed here for my BSc(Med)(Hons) and MSc. I am currently investigating the genetics of familial cardiomyopathy, supervised by Dr Gasnat Shaboodien and Prof Bongani Mayosi. The overarching aim of our research is to understand the genetic aetiology of various forms of heart muscle diseases, including dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathies. The objectives of my project include (1) the analysis of next-generation sequencing data from individuals affected with familial cardiomyopathy and (2) the establishment of model systems in our laboratory for the functional validation of candidate genes, and further analysis of cardiac disease mechanisms.


Mahmoud March 2014Dr Mahmoud Sani



I was born and grew up in Kano, Nigeria. I am a clinician and my background is Internal Medicine and Cardiology. I graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria with MBBS in 1993. I finished residency in internal medicine and cardiology in 2002.

My areas of interests include heart failure, cardiovascular imaging and cardiovascular features of HIV/AIDS. I have been involved in many collaborative researches in cardiovascular medicine across the African continent led by Prof Karen Sliwa and Prof Bongani Mayosi. I currently work with Bayero University Kano and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Nigeria.

I enrolled to do a PhD at the Hatter Institute of Cardiovascular research in Africa, under the supervision of Prof Karen Sliwa and Dr Gad Cotter. I will be working on “characteristics and outcome of acute heart failure patients in sub Saharan Africa” with focus on the role of conventional (NT Pro BNP) and novel (Galactin -3 and GDF-15) on diagnosis and prognosis in these patients.