Department of Psychiatry, SU – 2021 year in review

As we fast approach the end of 2021, we are also fast approaching the two-year mark since COVID-19 first affected us all. On the one hand, the impact that this pandemic has had on all of our lives is truly profound and underscores painful and increasing inequalities — on the other hand, despite being in a 4th wave, we have been offered much that is so promising, including new technologies and all the lessons that we have learned about using them during this pandemic. We have learned to pivot in many directions, to be nimble in the face of daily crises, and to be resourceful amidst dwindling resources.

I want to express admiration and deep appreciation to each member of this department for adjusting and readjusting, and working tirelessly throughout the year to serve patients, train, educate and uplift students (undergraduate and postgraduate) and address their wellness needs, advance science, and for the support and compassion in doing so.

This year, we accomplished much and on many fronts. But before I proceed to singling out some of the accomplishments, many of you will remain unnamed but that does not diminish the contributions that you have made during the course of the year. This includes the Heads of Clinical Units (Prof Liezl Koen, Dr Kerry Louw, Dr Rene Nassen, Dr Rob Allen (who recently retired), and recently appointed Dr Anusha Lachman), Heads of Psychology (Dr Christina van der Merwe and Melany Hendricks), other senior members of staff who carry significant responsibilities (Prof Dana Niehaus, Prof Ulla Botha, Dr Lize Weich, Colin Mitchell, Dr Riaan Olivier), CEOs at Tygerberg, Stikland and Lentegeur Hospitals, heads of research programs (Prof Robin Emsley, Prof Christine Lochner, Prof Sian Hemmings, Marlene de Vries and Anna-Susan Marais),  our research co-ordinator (Dr Muneeb Salie), psychiatrists, psychologists, registrars,  researchers (clinical and basic researchers) on the various research unit and programs, sessional lecturers, extraordinary lecturers, and all administrative staff and support staff for your continued outstanding work and commitment to the department and for endeavouring to help us realise our singular goal, which is service in all of its facets on the bedrock of excellence and innovation.  




Psychiatrists – joint appointees:  21

Sessional Psychiatrists:  1



Psychologists:   joint appointees: 14

Sessional Psychologists:   1







In 2021 we welcomed new staff to the department and had existing staff take on new positions.


Kayleigh Filton (HSRC Intern) – October 2020

Kerryn de Buys Laboratory Manager – June 2020

Rudolf Liebenberg Clinical Trainer – July 2021

Brigitte Swartz Part time Clinical Psychologist – June 2021

Nontozamo Testse Research Assistant – August 2021



Dr Anusha Lachman

Dr Leigh Van den Heuvel May 2021

Dr Kate Mawson May 2021



Dr Anthea Payne (Maziena) – General Psychiatry Specialist Stikland

Dr EJ Smith – Senior Lecturer – General Psychiatry Specialist Stikland



New Registrars

Dr Kirsten Rowe February 2021

Dr Mahlatse Thosago February 2021

Dr Adyan King August 2021

Dr Portia Mtyapi-Nyaka August 2021

Supernumerary Registrar

Dr Frieda Kalenga November 2021

Supernumerary Senior registrar

Dr Chionni Siwo October 2021



Maryke Hewett – Clinical Psychologist – May 2021

Kayleigh Filton – Research Assistant – October 2021



Dr Jenny Bloom – Research Assistant – June 2021

Keren Buys – Laboratory Manger – November 2021


We are a department with a strong academic footprint and extensive clinical and scientific expertise and 2021 with all its upheaval has been no exception.



MMed candidates that passed the MMed Part I exam in 2021:

 Dr Michelle Bowers

Dr Kirsten Rowe


Registrars who successfully passed their FC Psych Part II in 2021:

Dr Henmar Botha

Dr Jean-Marie Le Roux

Dr Yanga Vava

Dr Wilma Kruger-Steyn

Dr Petrus Steyn

Dr Deidre Pringle



A total of 21 registered PhD candidates for 2021, with 3 new PhD candidates joining and 3 candidates completing their PhD in 2021.

Jani Nothling (Graduated in March 2021)

Freda Scheffler

S Dada


MSc obtained

Mr Morne du Plessis

Ms Allegra Moodley



Prof Robin Emsley was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP). The WFSBP Lifetime Achievement Award in Biological Psychiatry is awarded to a senior research scientist whose lifework has significantly influenced today‘s field of biological psychiatry and is the highest award bestowed by the WFSBP.  He will share the award with Prof Peter Riederer (Germany).

Prof. Christine Lochner was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in Psychiatry July 2021

 Dr Jacqui Womersley received an NRF Research Development Grant for Y-Rated. Project title: Biological Signatures of Longitudinal Cognitive Function in South African Women with HIV.

Erine Brocker and Leigh Van den Heuvel received joint 1st prize for best poster at the SASOP 2021 congress.

Dr Kerry-Ann Louw has been grandfathered by the HPCSA as a subspecialist in the category Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

Dr Lize Weich has been grandfathered by the HPCSA as a subspecialist in the category Addiction Psychiatry.

Berte van der Watt was awarded the Bongani Mayosi National Health Scholarship.

Prof Gene Hoyme, one of the doctors involved with the FASER study, was recently honoured by Augustana University who named a room at Sanford Imaginetics after him for his lifelong contributions to Augustana University and genetic work at Sanford in general.

Tanya van Aswegen a PhD student in Psychiatry finished second at the SU heat of the 2022 cycle of the national FameLab science communication and public speaking competition. Considered to be one of the biggest science communication competitions in the world, FameLab creates a platform for young emerging scientists to speak to public audiences about their work.

Dr Leigh Van den Heuvel – Received a NRF Thuthuka grant for the COVID-MH-Clin study.


2 staff members received NRF RATINGS in 2021

Prof Christine Lochner – B3 rating

Dr Jacqueline Womersley – Y1 rating



Total published (as of 9 December 2021): 113

South African Journals: 13 (12%)

International journals: 100 (88%)


There were 4 MMed projects published or accepted for publication in 2021 and 1 by an  MPhil in Neuropsychiatry

  1. J. Benelmokhtar: Factors associated with dropout at 2 years post-initiation of treatment in the first episode of schizophrenia, South African Journal of Psychiatry.
  2. F-P. Joubert: Extrapyramidal side effects in first-episode schizophrenia treated with flupenthixol deconoate, South African Journal of Psychiatry.
  3. J-M. le Roux: The clinical and demographic profile of women living with HIV admitted to the acute unit at Stikland Psychiatric Hospital, South African Journal of HIV Medicine.
  4. Steyn: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy modified for a resource-limited setting in Cape Town, South Africa: a descriptive study, South African Journal of Psychiatry, accepted.


  1. A. Mlaki: Prevalence and associated risk factors of depression among older adults in rural Tanzania.


There were 16 papers published by PhD students as 1st author and 2 by postdocs

  1. Bröcker: 1 paper in SAMJ.
  2. Kalungi: 2 papers; BMC Medical Genomics and Frontiers in Genetics.
  3. Lachman: 2 papers; Frontiers in Psychiatry and Early Child Development and Care.
  4. K. Luckhoff: 1 paper in Psychiatry Research.
  5. Nothling: 1 paper in Translational Psychiatry.
  6. Phahladhira: 1 paper in Psychiatry Research.
  7. Scheffler: 2 papers; Psychiatry Research and Schizophrenia Research.
  8. van Aswegen: 1 paper in Brain Sciences.
  9. S.J. van der Watt: 4 papers; Couple and Relationship Theory, South African Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychology and Medicine, and Transcultural Psychiatry.

Postdoc (first author): 2

  1. Spies: 1 paper in Journal of Community Genetics (also has 4 co-author publications).
  2. Swart: 1 paper in Frontiers in Neuroscience.


In closing, it is important to acknowledge all of the administrative staff (Patricia, Mary, Vanessa, Talia, Aneesa, Talita, Andrea, Schumaya, Suzelle, Samantha) for their commitment and dedication, and for all the day-in-and-day-out support they provide.  


This has been a difficulty year. All we can do is look forward, keep our spirits up, do the best that we can do, and be good to ourselves continuing to be agile and adaptable and anticipatory in our outlook. Our department is highly regarded internally and externally. I want to thank you again for the support extended to me this year. This crisis has taken its toll on all of us, but it has forced us to find different ways of connecting to develop needed emotional resilience to get through this stressful time.


The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.
– Oscar Wilde


I am grateful for your hard work and commitment to the department and wish you a peaceful and relaxing break. I trust that the new year will be one of renewed optimism, exciting experiences, and innovative approaches to the way we function as a department. I look forward to our continuing work in 2022 and to carving out a future for our great department.


Prof Soraya Seedat

Professor and Executive Head of Department of Psychiatry