G.Whitaker International Burns Prize
Under the patronage of the Authorities of the Sicilian region for 2013

By law n.57 of June 14th 1983 the Sicilian Regional Assembly authorized the President of the Region to grant the “Giuseppe Whitaker Foundation”, a non profit-making organisation under the patronage of the Accademia dei Lincei with seat in Palermo, a contribution for the establishment of the annual G. Whitaker International Burns Prize aimed at recognising the activity of the most qualified experts from all countries in the field of burns pathology and treatment. Law n° 23 of December 2002 establishes that the prize becomes biannual.
The next prize will be awarded in 2013 in Palermo at the seat of G. Whitaker Foundation.
The amount of the prize is fixed at Euro 20,660.

The Adjudicating Committee is composed of the President of the Foundation, the President of the Sicilian Region, the Representative of the National Lincei Academy within the G. Whitaker Foundation, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of Palermo University or his nominee, a Representative of the Italian Society of Plastic Surgery, three experts in the field of prevention, pathology, therapy and functional recovery of burns, the winner of the prize awarded in the previous year and a legal expert nominated in agreement with the President of the Region as a guarantee of the respect for the scientific purpose which the legislators intended to achieve when establishing the prize.

Anyone who considers himself to be qualified to compete for the award may send by January 31st 2013 his detailed curriculum vitae to: Michele Masellis M.D., Secretary-Member of the Scientific Committee G. Whitaker Foundation, Via Dante 167, 90141 Palermo, Italy.

Award of the G. Whitaker International Burns Prize for 2011

At a meeting held on 1 April 2011 at the seat of the G. Whitaker Foundation, Palermo, the Adjudicating Committee, on the grounds of the scientific achievements, national contributions, international involvement, social cooperation and humanitarian obligations presented by the various candidates and in consideration of their high level, awarded the 2011 G. Whitaker International Burns Prize to Dr A. Elizabeth van der Merwe, since 1991 Head of the Tygerberg Burn Unit, Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa.
Dr A.E. van der Merwe was born in 1947 in Edenburg, Orange Free State, South Africa. Her university career: MB, ChB (MD) 1972, M Hons in Physiology 1987, MSc Physiology 1994 at University of Stellenbosch. Her positions: Researcher and Medical Officer in Tygerberg Burn Unit 1983/1990, Lecturer and Consultant in the Department of General Surgery (Univ. Stellenbosch) 1990.
Her activity is rich in commitment on various aspects of burn disease.

- Collaboration with trauma surgeons: to provide better education for medical officers and medical students in the emergency room. In 2004 she initiated Oxford Southern University’s first publication, “Handbook of Southern Africa”, updated in 2010. This pocket handbook is prescribed for every medical student in South Africa.

- Collaboration with the Department of Accident and Emergency (A&E) at the University of Cape Town and with the University of Stellenbosch: to implement the education of burns and the rotation of registrars in Tygerberg Burn Unit in order to improve their knowledge of burns. Attending a course on “Emergency Management of Severe Burns” became compulsory for all candidates.

- Collaboration with PASASA (Paraffin Saving South Africa) and the National Government: to implement surveillance programmes to support changes in the legislation regarding the manufacture of certain household items. Legislation was passed in 2007 to control the manufacture of paraffin stoves according to strict standards. Studies at the Tygerberg Burn Unit showed that the incidence of burn injury from paraffin stoves was already decreasing.

- Collaboration with WHO on a study of the outcome of adult burns patients after injury with paraffin stoves, open fires, electrical appliances or assault.

- Collaboration with the National and Provincial Government: to decentralize burns management by establishing new Burn Units in peripheral hospitals and staff education; to modernize the tertiary hospital services; to attend (April 2005) National Parliament and participate in a discussion of Fire and Floods in Human Settlements, acting as specialist to enact legislation on township fires.

- Collaboration with the University of Western Cape, Stellenbosch, and the University of Cape Town to negotiate a postgraduate Burns Course for Nursing in South Africa. Many workshops have been organized to this regard.

- Dr van der Merwe tackled the humanitarian aspect of the burns problem with strategic planning in the burn unit to organize social support for very poor victim. The “Tygerberg Burn Society”, a non-profit organization was established, open to everyone who wants to support and uplift burn victims’ social circumstances. The purpose of this financial planning is to provide social support and to rehabilitate victims, resolving their material needs and sending young people back to school or on educational courses.

- Collaboration with the Central and East African Surgical Society to evaluate the influence of traditional medicine in burn management in Africa.

- Collaboration with pan-African burn workers to provide a profile of burn injury and burn care on the continent.

- Collaboration with the “Continuous Medical Educational” (CME) journal to develop a very broad campaign for non-specialists and general practitioners, educating them in burns management. This was once again a booster for burn care in South Africa.

- As Head of the Burn Unit, she realized in 1997 the intensive management of burn patients in intensive care. In 2008 extensive renovation of the Tygerberg Burn Unit was accomplished with a much better equipped facility. The holistic approach to burn care was never sacrificed with multidisciplinary involvement and auxiliary personnel. To be able to communicate with Burn Surgeons and Burn Societies in Africa the same model will be recommended. Although facilities in poor countries are insufficient, burn care will improve with hard work.

- Since 1983 she has been an active member and Secretary of the South African Burn Society.

- In 1998 she was appointed African Representative at the International Society for Burn Injuries (ISBI). This position she held for over 13 years, apart from being Vice-President from 2004- 2008.

- In May 2004 she was the founder President of the Pan African Burn Society. She and co-founder Dr Ina Steenkamp hosted the First Pan African Burn Society Conference in Cape Town. She chaired two successful PABS meeting in Assiut (Egypt) and Lagos (Nigeria).

- Dr van der Merwe has never stopping performing her research and quality improvement projects in Africa. Scientific production was conditioned because in the 1980s and ’90s research in South Africa was wiped off the table, with no sponsorship provided until the much more friendly 2000s. In those years her publications dealt mostly with clinical work.

The prize is awarded with the following motivation:
“Over the years Dr van der Merwe has been successful in establishing an integrated approach between Accident Surgery and Therapy of Burns, to a level that a University teaching course on Emergency Burns Management has become compulsory in the academic curriculum in South Africa according to her system.
“In this respect Dr van der Merwe has succeeded in presenting the problem to the nation’s Parliament, making burn prevention obligatory by law. This important work has been extended worldwide as a WHO programme, a worthy contribution indeed.
“Beside the burn surgical work that all specialists at high level must and do contribute, Dr A.E van der Merwe’s work shines also at the humanitarian level. Her research on burn risks in the poorer settlements and her passionate presentations in parliament for legislation in favour of living conditions among the black population are of great social significance, as also her efforts for safer manufacturing of cooking implements and safer household tools, all of which have shown good results.
“It is noteworthy that when asked what she considered to be her most significant encounter, she said, without hesitation, her meeting with Nelson Mandela.
“Additionally, she will be only the second woman to have received this international prestigious Prize.”

The official prize-giving will take place in Palermo at the G. Whitaker Foundation on 23 September 2011 in the presence of authorities and representatives of the academic, scientific and cultural world.

  Copyright ©2010 Euro-Mediterranean Council for Burns and Fire Disasters
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