Session Speaker: Dr. Cheryl Stewart

Dr. Cheryl Stewart is a Lecturer in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies which is her alma mater. In 2012, she was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship by the University of Pretoria. In 2015, she won second prize in the Clinical Junior Researcher category for a presentation she gave at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty Day. Later that year she also received the Young Investigators’ Award from the European Cystic Fibrosis Society’s Diagnostic Network Working Group. She has helped to raise US$1.25 million in grant funding.

Dr. Stewart is a molecular biologist who has worked on diseases affecting both plants and humans. Her passion is working with DNA since being able to understand and manipulate DNA continues to give us new ways of solving the problem of disease. Most recently, she has worked on the challenge of being able to arrive at a genetic diagnosis for cystic fibrosis patients in South Africa. (All of the genetic tests for the disease have a European bias which makes them less accurate when used to diagnose non-European patients). Working with her collaborators she recruited 65 patients and raised their diagnosis rate by 118%. She was also part of the team that trained 251 nurses from 19 institutions in 11 African countries as part of the African Genomic Medicine Training Initiative. Genomic medicine relies on a person’s DNA sequence to more accurately diagnose and treat them. In some instances, the information in a person’s DNA sequence can also be used to help prevent disease. This training programme assisted nurses to understand these cutting edge tools and how they could be used in their daily practice. She is also one of the experts working with the WHO on its Human Genomics in Global Health Initiative. The initiative seeks to make the benefits of genomic medicine accessible to all, not just those living in the First World.