prof tess van der merwe


Tess van der Merwe is an Honorary Professor and Researcher in the Department of Endocrinology, University of Pretoria. She is also the CEO of the 11 Centres for Metabolic Medicine and Surgery of South Africa CEMMS(SA). She was the Honorary Secretary of the International Association for the Study of Obesity for a period of 8 years and currently remains the Africa consultant for this association. In addition, she is the Chair of the South African Society for Obesity Metabolism (SASSO) and has served this organisation for more than 25 years. Professor van der Merwe established the CEMMS(SA) in 2005 and to date remains as the CEO of CEMMS(SA). She is also the Director of the Waterfall City Hospital Metabolic Medicine and Surgery Centre Research group and is a full time clinician at this hospital. Under her guidance, the Waterfall City hospital was awarded international accreditation to perform metabolic surgery in November 2011; and is currently the only hospital in SA that carries this honour. She received her MBChB from the University of Pretoria, South Africa (1982) and was subsequently awarded an FCP (SA), before becoming a registered Endocrinologist and gaining her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand. She was appointed as Associate Professor of Endocrinology at the University of the Witwatersrand 2003 – 2006. From 1989 – 1995, she spent a large percentage of time with Professor P. Lönnroth and other esteemed colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Göteborg, acquainting herself with various research models in cellular and clinical obesity. She has received numerous research grants. Professor van der Merwe has also received numerous ballet and cultural awards prior to studying medicine. She matriculated with seven distinctions, as the top student in Gauteng in 1976. Currently her primary clinical commitment is in the field of bariatric and metabolic surgery for obese and diabetic patients. She has been invited to chair prestigious international lectures and symposiums, and been invited to do numerous research and keynote international lectures in her field of medicine. She currently serves on the Scientific Board of the International Federation for Surgical Obesity.



Notable career awards are:

    •    SASSO and/or SEMDSA awards for best scientific presentations in the field of diabetes or endocrinology or obesity. 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002

    •    Zeneca Research Award. 1997

    •    Nomination for best publication, Faculty of Health Sciences. ‘Lactate and glycerol release from the subcutaneous adipose tissue of obese urban women from South Africa; Important Metabolic Implications’. 1998

    •    Faculty of Health Science Highest Research Award for research excellence. 2001

    •    Swedish Medical Association: Invited lecture, Stockholm. 2003

    •    Louis Mervish Eponymous Lecture, SAGES. 2006

    •    University of Pretoria Millennium Lecture. 2006

    •    American Biographical Society Election: ‘Great Women of the 21st Century’ published 2006

    •    International expert voting panel – diabetes and bariatric surgery guidelines. 2007

    •    World Congress of Arts Science and Communications Lifetime Achievement Award. 2007

    •    50th SAGES/SASES award for the best oral presentation. 2012

    •    Rooi Rose Red Chair interview. 2013

    •    The Who’s Who of the World nomination for most distinguished physicians in the world. 2013

    •    Selected to the IASO prestigious Awards Committee for ICO. 2014



Professor van der Merwe has in excess of 112 publications in the field of obesity, metabolism and endocrinology, and has contributed to obesity study modules for the Foundation for Professional Development and IASO. In 2006 & 2010 she wrote a manual on obesity management guidelines for South Africa and currently serves on the editorial board of a number of international journals. In the past, key areas of research interest included investigating in vivo and in vitro adipose tissue lipolysis and relating these findings to intermediary metabolism, quantification of body composition and body fat distribution genetics. She conducted a research portfolio in the clinical consequences and outcomes of bariatric surgery as well as MC4R polymorphisms in a South African obese population. 


Over the past 15 years she has conducted in excess of 680 media and television interviews and devoted much energy to creating a better understanding of the disease of obesity amongst public, media and medical professionals. She is frequently involved with providing public information and assisting with media releases. She has lectured to more than 2000 general practitioners during educational courses and symposiums and was instrumental in creating an informative website. She still contributes to the SCOPE international obesity course and is currently a member of the EAC-BS accreditation review committee for the Surgeon of Excellence Program. 


Over the last 10 years Professor Van der Merwe has founded 14 Centres of Excellence for Metabolic Medicine and Surgery in South Africa to take care of and treat the morbidly obese patient with bariatric surgery. To date over 1700 bariatric surgeries has been performed by this group and more than 4000 bariatric surgeries have been performed in SA since the inception of CEMMS(SA). She was also instrumental in securing medical aid funding with the principal funders in SA for metabolic obesity surgery.


Waterfall City Hospital

Magwa Cres & Mac Mac Avenue, Vorna Valley, Midrand, 1682


Linda Crystal

Tel: +27 11 304 7821

Isobel Vosloo

Tel: +27 11 304 7975

Fax: +27 11 304 7961

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