Scientific Committee Chair (Adult): Dr Raksha Balbadhur
MBChB (UCT) DA (SA) Dip Pal Med (UCT) MPhil Pal Med (UCT)

Dr Raksha Balbadhur is a medical doctor of 21 years with an MPhil in Palliative Medicine from UCT and a Masters Degree in understanding the dignity experience of patients with advanced disease - a South African perspective.

As a founder and chairperson of VIHASA (the Values in Healthcare Association of SA), she has run hundreds of experiential workshops across Southern Africa to support healthcare practitioners with compassion fatigue.

Raksha is a Steering Committee member of Palnet KZN, a Board Member of PALPRAC and the Director of Beacon of Care. She is also a student and teacher of meditation and brings meaning and peace to the lives of her patients in the most challenging time of their lives.

Scientific Committee Chair (Paediatric): Dr Michelle Meiring
MBChB, FCPaeds, MMed (Paeds)

Dr Michelle Meiring is a Palliative Care Paediatrician who has worked in this field for nearly 20 years. She is the CEO of Paedspal, an NGO that provides a consultative paediatric palliative care service to public and private hospitals in Cape Town. A long-standing child health and palliative care advocate since her “Paeds HIV-days”, Dr Meiring chairs a national network for Children’s Palliative care known as PatchSA and has been involved at provincial and national levels in policy making in palliative care.

A keen teacher, Dr Meiring convenes the Paediatric option to the Post-Graduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine at the University of Cape Town. Dr Meiring has presented at several local and international conferences and has written a number of articles and book chapters. Most recently she was one of 4 editors of the latest edition of the Oxford Textbook on Palliative Care for Children.

On the research front, Dr Meiring has supervised students doing the MPhil in Palliative Medicine at UCT and is currently pursuing a PhD in Paediatrics with a Palliative care theme at UCT.

Conference Co-Chair: Dr Julia Ambler
MBChB; Dip. Pall Med (Cardiff); DCH

Julia graduated from UCT with her MBChB in 1998. After her junior doctor years, she spent 6 years in Oxford, UK returning home in early 2008. Whilst in the UK she trained and worked as a general practitioner and a children’s hospice doctor at Helen and Douglas Houses in Oxford.

Since returning to South Africa in 2008, Julia has focused on providing paediatric palliative care services in her home province of KwaZulu-Natal. She is currently deputy director and head of clinical services at Umduduzi – Hospice Care for Children. In her role, she consults in children’s palliative care and trains health professionals and medical students. She is a sessional lecturer in the Departments of Paediatrics and Family Medicine, Nelson Mandela Medical School, University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is the chairperson of The Association of Palliative Care Practitioners of South Africa (PALPRAC). As a communication skills expert, she is also a workshop facilitator for the Medical Protection Society.

Julia lives in Morningside with her partner, Tracey, and two sons, Luke and Jack.

Conference Co-Chair: Dr Margie Venter
MBChB; MMed (Clinical Oncology); PG Dip Palliative Medicine

Dr Margie Venter is a trained Clinical Oncologist and Palliative Medicine Specialist. After more than a decade in oncology, she now dedicates her clinical time solely to the field of Palliative Medicine. She did her postgraduate training in Palliative Medicine at UCT in 2016, and completed an advanced Palliative Medicine training course at Harvard Medical school in 2018/2019.

She runs a small private palliative care network, based in Stellenbosch, caring for patients whether in hospital, outpatient clinic or home. She is part-time lecturer at UCT for the postgraduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine and does undergraduate teaching in Palliative Medicine at Stellenbosch University. She is co-founder and current Clinical Director of PALPRAC, the Association of Palliative Care Practitioners of South Africa which was established in 2018.

She has a special interest in serious illness communication. She is also driven by finding innovative solutions to expanding palliative care access for South Africans, through health systems change and provider support.