It was just two years ago that we marked the untimely passing of Tania Douglas, co-founder and board member of CapeRay, following a courageous battle with breast cancer. Tania was a professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and at the time of her death held the prestigious South African Research Chair in Biomedical Engineering and Innovation. Earlier this week at UCT’s Faculty of Health Sciences there was a celebration of this remarkable woman’s life with the launch and inaugural award of the Tania Samantha Douglas Scholarship in Biomedical Engineering.
This was a special occasion because Tania’s parents, Dr Aubrey and Mrs Rita Douglas, were present – it was their idea to establish the award and whose generosity brought it to fruition. The keynote speaker at the event was Kit Vaughan, Tania’s friend and co-founder of CapeRay, who gave a presentation entitled “The Scholarship of Tania Douglas.” Professor Douglas made over 100 original and substantial contributions to knowledge during her lifetime and Kit selected five of her journal articles to highlight her legacy.
These included: (1) a novel method for diagnosing the facial phenotype associated with fetal alcohol syndrome; (2) measurement of radiation dose from a slit scanning X-ray machine used in whole body imaging of trauma patients; (3) automated detection of TB in sputum smears using a smart microscope; (4) diagnosis of breast cancer with a dual-modality device for which she was the principal investigator on the research grant; and (5) a user-centred design framework for mHealth apps that was published in PLoS ONE.
The inaugural recipient of the scholarship was Oreneile Maphetlho, seen above left being congratulated by Kit while Tania’s parents look on. Nene, as she is known to her friends, earned a BSc degree in chemical engineering with 1st class honours before enrolling for her MSc in biomedical engineering at UCT in 2022. She was selected for the award based on her outstanding grades last year when she was the top-ranked student.
Tania herself was an outstanding student, first in electronic engineering at UCT, and then during her postgraduate studies in bioengineering at Vanderbilt (master’s) and at Strathclyde (doctorate). Aside from many peer-reviewed publications, her other great legacy is the group of postgraduate students she trained and mentored in the shadow of Table Mountain. Tania would be proud to know that the first recipient of a scholarship in her name, Nene Maiphetlho, has been inspired to pursue a doctorate in the field of cancer research.