Prof Heather Zar

Prof Heather Zar

Heather Zar is Professor & Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and Director of the School of Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa.  After specialising in paediatrics she did 3 years of sub-specialist training in paediatric pulmonology at Babies Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre, New York, USA. She then returned to South Africa, following an academic career (including a PhD) while working at UCT. Her work, encompassing research, clinical care, education, training and advocacy, has focused on child lung health.

She has developed a strong clinical translational research program, establishing several clinical research sites and building a core clinical research facility. Research has focused on priority areas in child lung health including pneumonia, TB, HIV-associated lung disease and asthma.  Key findings have influenced international practice guidelines and improved care. She leads a novel birth cohort study, the Drakenstein child health study, to investigate the early determinants of child health and development of chronic disease in a peri-urban area of South Africa.  She is currently an A-rated scientist by the National Research Foundation. She has published more than 270 papers in high impact journals, mentored several postgraduate students and has received many research grants from international funding agencies such as the NIH, the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the European Developing Country Clinical Trials Partnership.

She is Chair of a large department based at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the largest African hospital dedicated to children.  She has led the development of national, African and global education programs for child health including a national paediatric pulmonology training program and an African fellowship training program. Clinical, research and training programs have built much capacity in Africa in child health.

She is President of the Pan African Thoracic Society and serves on the Forum of International Respiratory Societies, enabling her to promote a strong advocacy agenda for child lung health. In 2010 she was given a special award at the International Congress of Paediatric Pulmonology for outstanding leadership and distinguished service to children with the greatest need. She was awarded the South African National Science and Technology award for an Individual for an Outstanding Contribution to Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation through Research and its Outputs over the last 5-10 years. In 2014 she was given the World Lung Health award by the American Thoracic society, the first African and first child health specialist to receive this.

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