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Alumni with outstanding scholarly achievements

The Unisa Principal's Award for Distinguished Alumni in Research honours alumni with outstanding scholarly achievements. This accolade highlights the exceptional accomplishments of Unisa's alumni, recognising them as ambassadors of the institution. Their dedication to research excellence advances their fields and reflects the core values and principles upheld by the university. In the 2024 instalment of the awards, Professor Dereje Bayiss Demissie was one of the two recipients of this award.


Prof Dereje Bayiss Demissie, recipient of the Unisa Principal's Award for Distinguished Alumni in Research

Demissie's association with Unisa began with his pursuit of a PhD in Health Studies, which he completed in 2020, focusing on reproductive health. In 2023, he furthered his expertise by earning a Master of Arts in Project Management from the Addis Ababa University's School of Commerce. The flexibility of Unisa's online platform was pivotal in his decision to further his studies. He found the programme structure conducive to his needs as an adult learner, allowing him to balance his studies with professional and personal commitments.

The supportive scholarly environment at Unisa played a crucial role in his academic growth. He benefited significantly from the guidance of his supervisors, Professor Lydia Monareng and Professor Rose Mmusi-Phetoe. Their constructive feedback and swift responses were instrumental in shaping his research. Demissie particularly credits Professor Mmusi‑Phetoe's energetic and vibrant mentorship for his academic success.

He mentions that the journey was not without challenges. Adjusting to the self-paced online learning system required significant time management skills and self-discipline. Demissie overcame these hurdles by creating a structured schedule and maintaining high motivation. His perseverance paid off, allowing him to complete his PhD within three years despite delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research and achievements

His extensive research portfolio, particularly in maternal and child health in Ethiopia, earned him the Unisa Principal's Award for Distinguished Alumni in Research. His contributions to the field have been widely recognised and cited, highlighting the impact of his work. In 2021, he was awarded Best Researcher in Sexual and Reproductive Health at the third Annual Reproductive Health Conference organised by the Centre of Excellence of the St. Paul Institute for Reproductive Health and Rights.

His research encompasses a broad range of public health issues, with over 63 primary articles, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, and more than 35 research articles on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Demissie has advised over 60 graduate students and two PhD fellows, demonstrating his commitment to nurturing the next generation of researchers. He also serves as an external examiner at various public universities and holds the position of Associate Editor in Chief of the Millennium Journal of Health.

Future aspirations

Demissie aims to continue his research journey by pursuing a postdoctoral maternal or reproductive health fellowship. This will enable him to delve deeper into his areas of interest, contributing further to the field and achieving new academic milestones. His dedication to research and significant contributions make him a notable figure in public health, with an impact extending beyond Ethiopia.

*By Cilla Boucher, Unisa Alumni Relations Officer, Unisa Foundation and Alumni Relations

Publish date: 2024/07/04

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