Glenda and Ralf dive into all things education, medicine, and science. They discuss the current challenges of COVID-19  considering a wide range of factors that need to be taken into account during this time.

Born and raised in Boksburg, South Africa, Glenda Gray knew from the age of six that she would become a doctor. In this week’s Top Women podcast, Topco Media CEO, Ralf Fletcher, sits down with the leading physician, scientist and activist. As the first ever woman president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, Glenda has a wealth of knowledge and experience. She is a strong activist for the equal rights of women and girls, and was listed as one of Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes Africa in 2020. With a strong view that as a society, we need to provide young disadvantaged individuals with opportunities in science and technology, Glenda shares her hope for the future in terms of education and how equal opportunity will play out in the coming years.

Glenda and Ralf dive into all things education, medicine and science. They discuss the current challenges of COVID-19  – considering a wide range of factors that need to be taken into account during this time. They talk about the lesser-discussed factors of the virus as well as how it presents itself in the bigger picture.

Key takeaways to look out for in this podcast

  • During this time, we are all feeling worn out and anxious and even though tensions are running high, we cannot stop questioning and challenging each other.
  • In South Africa, our issue during COVID-19 is how we respond to the medical phase of the epidemic and how robust and resilient our health system proves to be.
  • Due to the fact that we do not have enough resources for science and maths teaching at high school level, there is a shortage of capable students who could possibly provide important answers during this time.
  • Sometimes the bridge between high school and university is insurmountable and this creates problems when it comes to students transitioning into tertiary education.
  • Issues of race, class and privilege are very real in South Africa and not something we can ignore – we need to invest in young scientists who come from diverse backgrounds and we need to spend time nurturing and preparing them.
  • Failure can be seen as the heartbeat of science. We experiment on things we don’t have the answer for, and we need to be prepared for any outcome, regardless of whether it was what we predicted or not.
  • Freedom of expression and the right to ask certain questions is important – we need a vibrant democracy, and it comes to a standstill when we don’t speak up.

Glenda Elisabeth Gray MB BCh, FC Paeds, DSc (hc), OMS is a South African physician, scientist and activist specializing in the care of children and in HIV medicine. In 2012 she was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe (Silver). She became the first female president of the South African Medical Research Council in 2014, was recognised as one of the “100 Most Influential People” by TIME in 2017 and was listed amongst “Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes Africa in 2020. Her research expertise involves developing microbicides for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV vaccines.

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