UKZN Surgeon Benefits from Time Spent at Yale University
Dr Akhona Yakobi of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) is the first UKZN Black female Surgeon to visit Yale University in the United States on an exchange agreement between the two institutions.
The exchange arrangement began in 2015 when UKZN’s Head of ENT, Dr Yougan Saman, invited Yale representatives to visit UKZN. This initiative resulted in a research collaborative partnership inclusive of the provision of training programmes to staff and students across both institutions.
Furthermore, it also brought together ENT specialists from both universities to address clinical problems culminating in two research symposia and an outreach programme on early detection and prevention of head and neck cancer.
‘It’s an honour and a dream come true for me to be selected as the first exchange ENT Surgeon to visit Yale,’ said Yakobi, who is employed as an ENT specialist at Greys Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.
During her visit, Yakobi observed surgical procedures performed at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, including vestibular schawannoma (suboccipital approach) surgery and endolymphatic sac decompression surgery. She also attended the otorhinolaryngology spring meeting where ENT specialists in America gather to present their novel research.
She commented that the United States is miles ahead of South Africa in terms of advanced technology within its healthcare institutions, their privatised healthcare system and well-resourced hospitals, allowing highly specialised surgical procedures to be performed.
‘As a Black African female growing up in a rural area of the Eastern Cape, my experience in the US has confirmed for me that opportunities are now open to all and what we need to do is work hard to achieve our goals.’
Yakobi, who completed her MBChB at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape and obtained her Fellowship in Otorhinolaryngology in 2015 from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa, is currently completing her Masters of Medicine degree at UKZN.
She plans to improve her surgical skills by doing sub-specialty fellowships focused more on rhinology and head and neck surgery.
Her current research project is titled “Autogenic Intracranial Complications”, in which she is collaborating with neurosurgeon Dr Basil Enicker and Dr Zach Porterfield of Yale under the supervision of Dr Yougan Saman.
Yakobi is married with two children Inam (11) and Elam (5) whom she loves being with. During her spare time she participates in athletics and has completed more than 30 races in the past year.