Kirsten Rowe is a medical doctor from Cape Town, South Africa with a passion for global mental and neurological health. She was recently awarded her doctorate at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom where she studied as a Rhodes scholar. Most of her PhD data was collected at the MRC/Wits-Agincourt Research Unit where she is an honorary researcher.
Kirsten’s PhD looked at executive cognitive functioning which is a set of human brain functions enabling concentration, self-control, planning and goal-directed behaviour. She explored how executive function is affected in HIV-affected adolescents. She validated an innovative tablet-based cognitive screening tool: Oxford Cognitive Screen – Executive Function (OCS-EF), for use amongst adolescents in rural South Africa. She also examined how poorer executive function may predispose adolescent girls and young women in rural South Africa to increased risk-taking behaviour and thus risk for acquiring HIV. Finally, she worked with a multidisciplinary team spanning creative arts education, public health, music therapy and psychiatry to develop and pilot a music intervention involving group African drumming aiming to improve mood and executive function amongst HIV-positive adolescents in rural South Africa. She found that the drumming groups improved adolescents’ mood, reduced their internalised stigma, and increased their sense of inclusion and belonging.
Kirsten will begin specialty training in Psychiatry in 2021 and will continue doing part-time research at the unit in the field of public mental health.