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Today, only 28%* of researchers are women and only 3% of Scientific Nobel Prizes have been awarded to women.
Heather Zar has dedicated her career to improving the diagnosis and treatment of these common causes of childhood illness and mortality in her native South Africa.
“I have always felt a strong commitment to work in areas where there is a real need,” she says.
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She is Department Chair at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the largest African hospital dedicated to children, and has led the development of education and research programmes to increase capacities in Africa.
In a context where resources are in short supply, Dr Zar has adopted a pragmatic approach, focusing on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases with the greatest impact.
She has developed simple tests to diagnose tuberculosis and pneumonia in children from spit and nasal swab samples, which have been integrated into global World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
Too many of them succumb to diseases that could be prevented or treated.
Pneumonia affects 36 million children across Africa each year, and is fatal in more than 700,000 children globally, with nearly 60% of these deaths occurring in Africa.
Her drive to become a scientist began the day her aunt and uncle brought her into their laboratory; her preoccupation with social justice came from her own parents.