PROF SORAYA SEEDAT, distinguis­hed professor of psychiatry and executive head in the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbos­ch University


Why we think she’s brilliant: Prof Seedat has about 20 years’ experience of clinical and epidemiolo­gical research in the field of neuroscien­ce. She holds the South African Research Chair in Posttrauma­tic Stress Disorder, and is the director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Genomics of Brain Disorders Research Unit.

Regarded as a leading expert in posttrauma­tic stress and anxiety disorders, she directs several research programmes into PTSD, HIV and foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and has an extensive portfolio of neuroscien­ce projects.

A key area of her research is how risk and resilience work in stressrela­ted disorders in people exposed to lifethreat­ening trauma, and investigat­ing effective and pragmatic treatments where resources are scarce. For the past three years, she has worked to improve child and adolescent access to mental health services, part of which involved developing a mental health screening app for nurses in clinics in SA and Zambia. Prof Seedat also helped to create awareness around mental health during the Covid19 pandemic, organising and cohosting a webinar training series for mental health profession­als and healthcare providers globally to build capacity in screening for, diagnosis of and management of mental health problems.

What drives her: Relentless curiosity and deepseated impatience. Despite numerous breakthrou­ghs in psychiatry, she believes the world is still far from quick and effective interventi­ons that would dramatical­ly improve the course and outcome of mental disorders. ‘The brain is exquisitel­y unique and highly complex, and it continues to confound us all!’

She says: ‘There is no better way to sustainabl­y advance neuroscien­ce and psychiatry research on the continent than to nurture more critical thinkers and passionate doers, especially women.’

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