About us


DRILL was the result of a competitive grant application to the Fogarty International Center of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded to the co-PI team at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2015 to support a research training and induction programme for early career academics and health professional staff members, under five scientific areas of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Mental Health, Health Professions’ Education, Health Research Ethics and Health Systems Research.

Early career academics and health professional staff members at UKZN and the KZN Department of Health (DoH) include but are not limited to Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Associate Professors, and health professionals working within the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

The goal of DRILL is to produce 20 high quality scientists skilled to lead socially valuable, locally relevant and culturally sensitive research programmes designed around the health challenges facing South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal in particular.


To develop mentorship and supervision skills in the 20 DRILL Fellows to inspire, train and support other promising academics in research development and building communities of practice.

To capacitate, train and produce, after 5 years, twenty world-class scientists in health including early career academics of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and health professional staff members of KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (KZN DoH) in the fields of HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Health Professions Education, Health Research Ethics and Health Systems Strengthening

To build the eligibility and increase the likelihood of retention of the 20 trained scientists at UKZN and KZN DoH resulting in a pool of highly skilled researchers who will be on an accelerated career development track for scientific leadership

The principles underpinning the

DRILL training programme

Mentorship and support using a triad of DRILL Fellows, research supervisors and career development mentors

Development of research knowledge, skills and values

Research leadership development, attainment of a National Research Foundation (NRF) rating and inclusion in the accelerated research career development track

Building communities of practice to cultivate DRILL Fellow-led knowledge hubs

Responsiveness to local, national and international health priorities underpinned by the philosophy of social accountability, research integrity and excellence

DRILL Overview


The intention of the DRILL training programme is to contribute to staff development and succession planning programmes in academic and other governmental and non-governmental organizations that are involved in knowledge production.


The Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL) programme is supported by the Fogarty International Center (FIC), NIH Common Fund, Office of Strategic Coordination, Office of the Director (OD/OSC/CF/NIH), Office of AIDS Research, Office of the Director (OAR/NIH), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH/NIH) of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number D43TW010131.


The goal of DRILL is to produce 20 high-quality scientists skilled to lead socially valuable, locally relevant and culturally sensitive research programmes designed around the health challenges facing South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal in particular.

Meet the PIs

Professor Petra Brysiewicz

Professor Petra Brysiewicz is a full professor in the School of Nursing & Public Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; an honorary full professor in the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Surgery at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the DRILL Communicating PI. She has worked with research and education of health professionals, primarily nurses, in South Africa and Africa for over 25 years, predominately in the area of acute/emergency care. Petra is the editor-in-chief of the International Emergency Nursing journal and associate editor for several other journals. She is an NRF rated researcher and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the American Academy of Nursing (AAN).

Professor Mosa Moshabela

Professor Mosa Moshabela is currently Associate Professor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the former Dean and Head of School of Nursing and Public Health in the College of Health Sciences. He is a chief medical specialist, having trained as a medical practitioner (MBChB), and specialized in Family Medicine and Primary Health Care (M Fam Med). He further completed a Masters in Demography and Health (MSc), and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the field of Public Health, with a specific focus on health systems and policy research. He is currently the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Health in the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), and chairperson of a sub-committee to evaluate and report on the national Health sector response to COVID-19 in South Africa. Internationally, he is a member (2018-2020) of the Lancet Commission on Synergies between Health Promotion, Universal Health Coverage and Global Health Security, and US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine commission member on Human Resources for Health in Rwanda (2018-2020) and the Global Roadmap towards Healthy Longevity (2019-2021) commissions.

Professor Suvira Ramlall

Professor Suvira Ramlall is a Principal Specialist Psychiatrist at King Dinuzulu Hospital in Durban; an Associate Professor at UKZN and President of the College of Psychiatrists (CMSA). She was the first Academic Leader of the Registrar Training Programme of the College of Health Sciences, UKZN. She is a clinician and academic involved in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education for 25 years. She serves on the provincial mental health technical advisory and registrar steering committees. She co-founded the KZN Mental Health Advocacy Group and co-manages the KZN branch of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). She was appointed as a member of the Technical Working Group on Mental Health for the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Covid 19.

Professor Fatima Suleman

Professor Fatima Suleman is Professor/Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Policy and Evidence Based Practice, School of Health Sciences, UKZN. Her focus is on ensuring affordability and access to medicines. She was appointed by the Minister of Health as member (2010-2014)/chair (2014-2020) of the Medicines Pricing Committee, served on several WHO committees; and provide technical advice on pharmaceutical policy for several countries in Africa and Asia in the last 17 years.

Professor Douglas Wassenaar

Professor Douglas Wassenaar is a Co-Director of the South Africa Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI PhD programme) in the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN, collaborates with the HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group (HAVEG), and is a registered Clinical Psychologist. He chairs the UKZN Biomedical Research Ethics Committee (BREC) and is a former chair of the HSRC Research Ethics Committee. He is a member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. His research interests are primarily in aspects of health research ethics with human participants and selected topics in clinical psychology. His Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics (JERHRE) and Associate Editor of the South African Journal of Psychology.

Dr Nisha Nadesan-Reddy

Project Manager:
Dr Nisha Nadesan-Reddy obtained her MBChB (summa cum laude) at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal. She also successfully completed a Fellowship of the College of Public Health Medicine of South Africa [FCPHM(SA)] and a Master of Medicine in Public Health Medicine. She is registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA), General Medical Council (GMC), College of Medicines of South Africa and the Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA). Dr Nadesan-Reddy has previously worked as a Registrar in Public Medicine at King Edward VIII Hospital and Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine. She also worked at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) attachment at the eThekwini municipality health department and was extensively involved in the Department of Public Health Medicine’s academic programme. Her most recent position was that of Public Health Medicine Specialist, Project Manager of the US NIH-funded UKZN Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI).