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History of the Institute of Child Health

The Institute of Child Health (ICH) of the Medical School of the University of Cape Town was established in the early 1970’s.  The original motivation detailed the following objective – “to bring together medical, para-medical and sociological personnel concerned with child health into a cohesive unit, for the purpose of:-

  1. Research;
  2. Teaching and providing teaching facilities;
  3. Promoting awareness of children and their needs;
  4. Providing travelling fellowships.

The Institute was centred in a new building in the grounds of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.  It was built for the University by the Cape Provincial Administration in exchange for the Immunology Centre at Medical School.  The professional staff of the Institute would be drawn from all the associated university departments concerned with child health.

The UCT Foundation called for sponsors to make annual donations for a period of 5 years towards the project as a whole or any particular aspect of it.  At the same time, the Foundation would welcome gifts and bequests of capital to enable the University to accumulate a sum of money to be invested in a permanent endowment fund to provide for the future running costs of the Institute.

The diversity of specialities involving different aspects of child health complicated the task of co-ordinating the efforts of all concerned into a cohesive pattern.  No fewer than 12 departments of the Medical Faculty were involved including paramedical teams of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and nurses.  At that stage the difficulties were compounded by the fact that facilities for teaching and research were scattered between Medical School and 5 teaching hospitals.  The benefits resulting from combining all of these activities into one comprehensive unit were manifest.

Institutes of Child Health that were run on similar lines in London, Toronto and Melbourne were proof of the success which such a combination of skills could bring.

The decision to establish the Institute was taken with the approval and full co-operation of the Cape Provincial Administration.  The Institute therefore fell within the terms of the Joint Agreement.  This meant that departmental heads were responsible to:-

  1. the University via the Dean or other established channels for all University matters and
  2. the Superintendent of Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital for all matters, patient care, service, etc.

In 1995, it was decided that with the passage of time, the ICH was no longer achieving all the goals set out in the original motivation.  A change in structure was therefore indicated.

As the animal house facility had ceased to operate in 1985, the Animal Research Committee had been disbanded.

The ICH Library Committee effectively reported to the main Medical School Library Committee but it was felt that it was important to retain it as a sub-committee of the ICH Advisory Committee.

On the 5 December 1995, two new sub-committees, the ICH Research subcommittee and the ICH Information Systems subcommittee, were created.  The ICH Advisory Committee decided that in view of the fact that authority would be handed to the subcommittees for functioning and allocation of funds by all the committees under the ICH umbrella.  This document is the result.

In 1995, Professor H. Henderson, Chairman of the Research subcommittee, introduced MSc studentships to the ICH.  Two newly created funds, the ICH Scholarship Fund (140027) and the ICH Scholarship Operating Fund (430148) provided support and derived their income from the McCaul Bell bequest.

The ICH Research subcommittee would administer both the students and the funds.  In addition, the Mobil Research Associateship would fall under the guidance of this subcommittee and, from 1997, any grants received from the Harry Crossley Trust.

The initial award of R50 000 was made on 5 December 1995.  In 1995 and 1996, the fund supported a BSc Honours student, a Medical Biochemistry student, 3 Dietetic students, 2 MSc students, 2 MD students and MPhil in Maternal and Child Health students.

In 1996, Professors Henderson and Purves set up ICH core facilities for Molecular Biology and Protein Research using laboratory space on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

In 1997, Professor Alan Sive was appointed Chairman and was responsible for drawing up guidelines and a new application form for research funding.

The Information Systems subcommittee, chaired by Professor M. Mann, was to receive support from McCaul Bell Bequest.  Guidelines for the allocation of awards for computer equipment were drawn up.

In January 1997, an additional subcommittee, the ICH Publications Committee was convened with Professor Marian Jacobs as Chairperson.  This subcommittee would be supported by the McCaul Bell Bequest.  A review of the Paediatric Handbook was commenced, a publications policy workshop was held and electronic publication (ICH web page) discussed.

All subcommittees were responsible to the ICH Advisory Committee.  The Chairmen of the subcommittees, including the library subcommittee, were ex officio members of the ICH Advisory Committee.

Following the retirement of Professor S. Cywes, Professor H. Rode was appointed to the ICH Advisory Committee and elected Vice-Chairman.