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prof tess van der merwe


Tess van der Merwe is an Honorary Professor and Researcher in the Department of Endocrinology, University of Pretoria. Internationally, 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. Currently, she serves on the Scientific Board of the International Federation for Surgical Obesity (IFSO).


In terms of private practice, she is the CEO and specialist endocrinologist at her internationally accredited bariatric centre located at Waterfall City Hospital in Midrand, Gauteng. Under her guidance, the centre was awarded the before mentioned international accreditation to perform metabolic surgery in November 2011 by the International Federation of Surgery and Obesity (IFSO); and is currently the only hospital in SA that carries this honour.

Medical Degree Years:


She received her MBChB from the University of Pretoria, South Africa (1982) and was subsequently awarded an FCP (SA), before becoming a registered Endocrinologist.

PhD Years:


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 was appointed as Associate Professor of Endocrinology at the University of the Witwatersrand 2003 – 2006.

Current Academic Work:


Professor van der Merwe has held many research grants during her career and is currently working with the Börgenson Lab in Sweden within the TESLA cohort. Furthermore, she conducts research within her own private practice along with her PhD student.

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. 



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. She is a mother of two and is an avid collector of fine art.



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


Over the past 15 years Professor van der Merwe 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 still contributes to the SCOPE international obesity course. Professor van der Merwe is additionally a current member of the EAC-BS accreditation review committee for the Surgeon of Excellence Program. 

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