Prof Liesl Zűhlke, Paediatric Cardiologist, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital2018-08-20T14:02:06+00:00

Project Description

Meet Prof Liesl Zűhlke, Paediatric Cardiologist, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital 

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“Cardiovascular disease is now the third single cause of death in the country and non-communicable diseases is the major cause of mortality. Although there have been many advances in healthcare, this is not being addressed in a multidisciplinary, focused way and we have to accelerate efforts in this regard.”

Professor Liesl Zühlke trained as a Paediatric Cardiologist in Cape Town and Dusseldorf, Germany. She earned her MPH in clinical research methods, and her PhD on outcomes in rheumatic heart disease from the University of Cape Town (UCT). She was the first and is still the only full-time female consultant in Paediatric cardiology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor within the Department of Paediatrics in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT in December 2016. Additionally, in 2016, Prof Zühlke achieved C1 rating with the South African National Research Council (NRF) for her work in paediatric cardiology and RHD.

Prof Zühlke has received a number of awards including an academic excellence award from the Discovery Foundation, a US National Institutes of Health Fogarty Fellowship, a Welcome Clinical Infectious Disease Research Initiative Fellowship award and an early career Thrasher award in addition to the Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship, an award given to clinical scholars of excellence and just recently won the prestigious MRC/DFID African Research Leader Award. She is past-president of the Paediatric Cardiac Society of South Africa, the current president of the South African Heart Association and the chairperson of the paediatric task-force of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR).

When Prof Zühlke was only 3 or 4 years old, she began operating on her dolls and announced to her family that she was going to be a doctor.  From then on, she never considered anything else and virtually every oral she prepared at primary school was on the pioneers of medicine.

“I was always fascinated by cardiology, who wouldn’t be with Chris Barnard in your country, but once I was training as a paediatrician, was also quite nervous of this challenging discipline. After my very first day in paediatric cardiology I knew I had found my place and I immediately applied for a training post in this speciality. I have never regretted it for a moment. Cardiology is a great humbler, I still learn every day and it is extremely busy and intensive. I do however quite enjoy that aspect as well.”

These are her goals …….

“Cardiovascular disease is now the third single cause of death in the country and non-communicable diseases is the major cause of mortality. Although there have been many advances in healthcare, this is not being addressed in a multidisciplinary, focused way and we have to accelerate efforts in this regard.

We need to invest more in human capital (there are far too few doctors and nurses in the country); in science and research and then learn lessons from other countries. Rates of heart disease are going down in other parts of the world and we need to put these lessons into practice in our own country.  At the same time, we need to take into consideration our particular context and never forget the social determinants of health and the role that poverty and inequality plays in health outcomes.”

“Children have heart disease – it is the most common birth defect and affects almost 1% of children. The sooner we deal with it, the better it is for their long-term outcome. Equally, prevention of adult heart disease starts in childhood. So, awareness and early diagnosis is crucial. At Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the department of paediatric cardiology is attempting to spread awareness, diagnose and manage heart disease in children to the best of our ability. Donors who have contributed to our work and efforts, contribute to saving a child and a family- heart disease in a child has a huge effect on the family as it is mostly a life-long condition. We are the largest public service cardiology unit in the country and our work can only accelerate with donor help.

Prof Zühlke’s main goal relates to Cardiovascular Diseases of Children, Adolescents and Pregnant women.  It covers research and clinical activities in congenital heart disease, rheumatic heart disease and adult congenital heart disease. She has several research projects in these areas and directs the Children Heart Disease Research Unit. “I would like to see this work grow and expand to other countries, highlight the need for focusing on children in the management, early diagnosis and novel causes of congenital heart disease and ultimate elimination of rheumatic heart disease. Children are often ignored in the public health agenda by global players and it is my mission to ensure that this is not the case especially in Africa.

“Overall, my work objective is to improve the lives of children with heart disease in our country and on our continent.”

Prof Zühlke seems to balance a hectic work schedule and business travel with a very busy family life as well.  Her husband is a plastic surgeon at Tygerberg Hospital and she has two sons, 13 and 17.  But family is a priority and evening meals are shared together. Sunday lunches are spent with the entire family – in her own words – “the Zupaburys”.  She also travels with the family and, when possible, they all escape to a secluded cottage somewhere with no cell phone reception or even electricity. Walking their two dogs, Django a French bulldog and Bella, a 60-kg Neapolitan Mastiff, also brings much joy and quiet time to reflect.

“I love being a paediatric cardiologist and the fact that children respond to those who care about them, not about status or position. There is something refreshing and pure about that.  Working with children also means working with families and developing a long-term relationship with them, which I really enjoy. I truly love what I do.”

Prof Liesl Zühlke, Paediatric Cardiologist
MBChB DCH FCPaeds Cert Card MPH FESC FACC PhD
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Prof Liesl

“Cardiovascular disease is now the third single cause of death in the country and non-communicable diseases is the major cause of mortality. Although there have been many advances in healthcare, this is not being addressed in a multidisciplinary, focused way and we have to accelerate efforts in this regard.”

“Cardiovascular disease is now the third single cause of death in the country and non-communicable diseases is the major cause of mortality. Although there have been many advances in healthcare, this is not being addressed in a multidisciplinary, focused way and we have to accelerate efforts in this regard.”

Professor Liesl Zühlke trained as a Paediatric Cardiologist in Cape Town and Dusseldorf, Germany. She earned her MPH in clinical research methods, and her PhD on outcomes in rheumatic heart disease from the University of Cape Town (UCT). She was the first and is still the only full-time female consultant in Paediatric cardiology at Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor within the Department of Paediatrics in the Faculty of Health Sciences at UCT in December 2016. Additionally, in 2016, Prof Zühlke achieved C1 rating with the South African National Research Council (NRF) for her work in paediatric cardiology and RHD.

Prof Zühlke has received a number of awards including an academic excellence award from the Discovery Foundation, a US National Institutes of Health Fogarty Fellowship, a Welcome Clinical Infectious Disease Research Initiative Fellowship award and an early career Thrasher award in addition to the Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship, an award given to clinical scholars of excellence and just recently won the prestigious MRC/DFID African Research Leader Award. She is past-president of the Paediatric Cardiac Society of South Africa, the current president of the South African Heart Association and the chairperson of the paediatric task-force of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR).

When Prof Zühlke was only 3 or 4 years old, she began operating on her dolls and announced to her family that she was going to be a doctor.  From then on, she never considered anything else and virtually every oral she prepared at primary school was on the pioneers of medicine.

“I was always fascinated by cardiology, who wouldn’t be with Chris Barnard in your country, but once I was training as a paediatrician, was also quite nervous of this challenging discipline. After my very first day in paediatric cardiology I knew I had found my place and I immediately applied for a training post in this speciality. I have never regretted it for a moment. Cardiology is a great humbler, I still learn every day and it is extremely busy and intensive. I do however quite enjoy that aspect as well.”

These are her goals …….

“Cardiovascular disease is now the third single cause of death in the country and non-communicable diseases is the major cause of mortality. Although there have been many advances in healthcare, this is not being addressed in a multidisciplinary, focused way and we have to accelerate efforts in this regard.

We need to invest more in human capital (there are far too few doctors and nurses in the country); in science and research and then learn lessons from other countries. Rates of heart disease are going down in other parts of the world and we need to put these lessons into practice in our own country.  At the same time, we need to take into consideration our particular context and never forget the social determinants of health and the role that poverty and inequality plays in health outcomes.”

 

“Children have heart disease – it is the most common birth defect and affects almost 1% of children. The sooner we deal with it, the better it is for their long-term outcome. Equally, prevention of adult heart disease starts in childhood. So, awareness and early diagnosis is crucial. At Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the department of paediatric cardiology is attempting to spread awareness, diagnose and manage heart disease in children to the best of our ability. Donors who have contributed to our work and efforts, contribute to saving a child and a family- heart disease in a child has a huge effect on the family as it is mostly a life-long condition. We are the largest public service cardiology unit in the country and our work can only accelerate with donor help.

 

Prof Zühlke’s main goal relates to Cardiovascular Diseases of Children, Adolescents and Pregnant women.  It covers research and clinical activities in congenital heart disease, rheumatic heart disease and adult congenital heart disease. She has several research projects in these areas and directs the Children Heart Disease Research Unit. “I would like to see this work grow and expand to other countries, highlight the need for focusing on children in the management, early diagnosis and novel causes of congenital heart disease and ultimate elimination of rheumatic heart disease. Children are often ignored in the public health agenda by global players and it is my mission to ensure that this is not the case especially in Africa.

“Overall, my work objective is to improve the lives of children with heart disease in our country and on our continent.”

Prof Zühlke seems to balance a hectic work schedule and business travel with a very busy family life as well.  Her husband is a plastic surgeon at Tygerberg Hospital and she has two sons, 13 and 17.  But family is a priority and evening meals are shared together. Sunday lunches are spent with the entire family – in her own words – “the Zupaburys”.  She also travels with the family and, when possible, they all escape to a secluded cottage somewhere with no cell phone reception or even electricity. Walking their two dogs, Django a French bulldog and Bella, a 60-kg Neapolitan Mastiff, also brings much joy and quiet time to reflect.

“I love being a paediatric cardiologist and the fact that children respond to those who care about them, not about status or position. There is something refreshing and pure about that.  Working with children also means working with families and developing a long-term relationship with them, which I really enjoy. I truly love what I do.”

 

Prof Liesl Zühlke, Paediatric Cardiologist

MBChB DCH FCPaeds Cert Card MPH FESC FACC PhD

Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital

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