Committee Members

President: Dr. Dickens Akena (Uganda)

Dr. Dickens Akena is a psychiatrist and senior lecturer at the Department of psychiatry at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Akena completed his Ph.D. (2013) and Post-Doctoral training (2016) from the University of Cape Town. Dr. Akena conducts his clinical duties at the Butabika National Referral Hospital for mental health. Dr. Akena teaches systematic review courses at Makerere, Mbarara Universities in Uganda, and the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. Dr. Akena is the convener of a joint Makerere University and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health cross-cutting research methods course Dr. Akena has published over 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Akena is a recipient of both local (Makerere Innovations Fund) and international prestigious grants and has been a collaborator and local principal investigator in a number of NIH-funded grants.

Past president: Prof Dan J. Stein (South Africa)

Dr Stein is Professor and Head of the Dept of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town, Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s Unit on Risk & Resilience in Mental Disorders, and Inaugural Scientific Director of UCT’s Neuroscience Institute. Dan’s training includes doctoral degrees in clinical neuroscience and in philosophy, and a post-doctoral fellowship in psychopharmacology. He is a clinician-scientist whose work has long focused on anxiety and related disorders, including obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions and posttraumatic stress disorder. His research has had considerable influence (as evidenced by a Google h-index > 150, the highest of any African scholar), as has his mentorship (as evidenced by the career success of his postgraduate students and fellows).

President Elect : Prof Lukoye Atwoli (Kenya)

Dr Atwoli is Professor of Psychiatry and the Dean of the Aga Khan University Medical College, East Africa. He practices psychiatry at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. Prof Atwoli holds a Visiting Scientist position at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and is an Honorary faculty at the University of Cape Town.
Prof Atwoli is widely published, and his current research interests are centered on trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder and the genetics of mental disorders as well as children’s and youth mental health, and HIV and Mental Health. Prof Atwoli is a social and health rights advocate, and has influenced policy and programmes in the health sector as well as in the political sphere. He has been a strong mental health campaigner and advocate who constantly speaks out for the rights of the disadvantaged in society. He writes a weekly column in the Sunday Nation through which he dissects social issues in Kenya and beyond. Prof Atwoli is the immediate past Vice-President of the Kenya Medical Association (KMA). He is also currently the Secretary-General of the African Association of Psychiatrists (AAP).

Secretary: Dr Nastassja Koen (South Africa)

Dr Koen is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town; and Head of the Division of Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. She also co-heads the Psychiatric Genetics Group in UCT’s Neuroscience Institute.  She completed her medical and doctoral degrees at UCT, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in biological psychiatry.  Dr Koen’s research interests include the genomic, epigenomic and transcriptomic neurobiology, and the transgenerational effects of trauma-related disorders, particularly in the South African and African contexts.  In recognition of her work to date, she has received the South African Medical Association Young Leaders Doctors’ Award (Research); the Biological Psychiatry Special Interest Group Research Career Award; and the Harry Crossley Postdoctoral Research Award.  She has also appeared on the Mail and Guardian’s list of 200 Young South Africans.  Dr. Koen is currently an MPI on two multi-year NIH grants investigating transgenerational transcriptomic effects of maternal prenatal stress exposure, and she is the incumbent Secretary of the African College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Treasurer: Prof Noeline Nakasujja (Uganda)

Dr Nakasujja is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry in Uganda. She is serving as Chair for the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. Prof Nakasujja has served on a number of associations including the International Psycho-geriatrics Associations, the World Psychiatric Association, and the Association of Uganda Women Doctors. She is the president of The Uganda Society for Health Scientists and Chair for the Community Care for the Elderly task force of The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH).
Her work has focused on neurocognitive assessments across the life span as well as other areas in the field of psychiatry. She is currently a principal investigator on a study evaluating the stress and caregiver burden of individuals looking after patients with Alzheimer’s disease in the community. Prof Nakasujja is the first female psychiatrist in Uganda and been honored with a number of awards that include: British Royal College of Psychiatrists student travel award, Uganda Medical Association best researcher, The International Psycho-geriatrics Association Young Investigators award for Outstanding research endeavors undertaken in a previously un-researched field. She has received recognition for; an outstanding mentor for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent psychiatry, scientific achievements from the Uganda Society for Health Scientists 2010, Center for AIDS research award for best poster 2016 and was the recipient of the James Kimani award 2017, Society of Neuroscientists of Africa.

Additional Member Non-Psychiatry: Prof Kirsty Donald (South Africa)

Dr. Donald is Professor in Developmental Pediatrics and Neurology in the Division of Developmental Pediatrics at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, and Deputy Director of the University of Cape Town, Neuroscience Institute. Her research has focused on the complications arising from prenatal substance exposure, infectious disease, and other conditions of poverty. Her work explores the complex relationships between interacting risk factors across the lifespan including genetics, developmental assessments, and multiple imaging methods that facilitate a deeper understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms for the impact of HIV-exposure, substance exposure, and maternal violence exposure on the developing brain.

Prof Donald is a recipient of multi-year NIH grants that are investigating the longitudinal brain imaging trajectories of infants exposed to alcohol during the prenatal period as well as investigating genetic characterization of neurodevelopmental disorders in South African populations. Prof Donald has collaborated with colleagues from within the African region as well as those in the global North. Prof Donald is a member of the South African policy team for the National Department of Health where she is involved in addressing developmental disability screening and intervention. She is on the UNICEF expert panel for global standard-setting in child development.

Additional Member Psychiatry: Prof Bonga Chiliza (South Africa)

Dr. Chiliza is an Associate Professor/Chief Specialist and Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He completed his medical degree and psychiatry specialization at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and his Ph.D. at Stellenbosch University. His research interests include schizophrenia, consultation-liaison psychiatry, health services, and medical education. He is the President of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, as well as the Deputy Editor of the South African Journal of Psychiatry. Prof Chiliza has received several awards including the Hamilton Naki Clinical Research Fellowship and the South African Health Excellence Award. He has authored over 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He has also served on a number of NGO Boards, including the SA YMCA and Life Choices. He is one of the Founding Directors of Harambee Medical Consulting and the Africa Global Mental Health Institute.

Founder Member: Gerhard Grobler (South Africa)

Dr. Grobler is a psychiatrist who practices general adult psychiatry in the public sector of South Africa. He is currently the head of the Psychiatry clinical unit at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. His areas of interest include mood, psychotic, substance use, and personality disorders. He manages both in- and outpatients and has a special interest in working with transgender individuals during their transitioning. He teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the field of psychiatry. He is a member of various pharmaco-therapeutic committees and has an active interest in neuro-psychopharmacology.

Dr. Grobler’s research interests include the ethics around involuntary admission of mental health care users and the protection of fundamental human rights of such users. He has also done research on the mental health needs of transgender individuals and collaborative research on the presentation of gender incongruence. He is currently involved in developing a screening tool in the form of an m-Health application for use in the primary care setting.