High Prevalence of Shoulder Injuries Among Teachers

High Prevalence of Shoulder Injuries Among Teachers
Dr Zingisa Nyawose received a PhD in Biokinetics and Sport Science.

Dr Zingisa Nyawose’s PhD in Biokinetics and Sport Science points to a high prevalence of shoulder injuries among schoolteachers.

‘Shoulder pain is the most commonly reported musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) among primary school teachers,’ said Nyawose who was supervised by Professor Rowena Naidoo.

‘Shoulder pain among teachers can be associated with a reduced range of motion and muscle strength, resulting in further shoulder impairment and dysfunction,’ she explained. Many teachers experience shoulder pain due to the nature of their work, such as having to write on the chalkboard for long periods of time. ‘This can result in early retirement due to ill-health, increased sick leave, decreased productivity and decreased performance,’ noted Nyawose.

The eight-week shoulder rehabilitation intervention programme she developed was found to be a cost-effective solution to reduce shoulder pain and improve teachers’ ability to perform daily tasks.

The study was conducted in Pinetown district schools and Nyawose discovered that most teachers in the area were not aware of the profession of Biokinetics, which involves rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions.

‘Most would suffer from such conditions to a point of requiring surgery without having had exercise rehabilitation as a treatment option.’

Articles based on the study have been published in the South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and RecreationGlobal Journal of Health Science and the Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation.

Nyawose is a practicing Biokineticist with interests in musculoskeletal rehabilitation, health and fitness promotion, chronic disease management and enhancing physical fitness, with exercise as a modality of treatment.

She is passionate about her profession and would like to engage more communities, especially those that are still not aware of Biokinetics, to promote health and fitness, thereby improving their quality of life.

‘I have also developed a love for research and would like to be involved in more of that, including supervising and helping students,’ she said.

Nyawose grew up in a family-oriented home, with her parents and seven siblings. She is married and has a daughter.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Study calls for Optometry to be Integrated into India’s Health Care System

Study calls for Optometry to be Integrated into India’s Health Care System
PhD graduate, Dr Anitha Arvind.

Optometry could play a more meaningful role in meeting India’s eye care needs were it to be systematically integrated into the country’s health care system.

This conclusion was reached by PhD graduate, Dr Anitha Arvind in her study titled Meeting the Eyesore needs of India: What Role can Optometry Play and the Regulatory Framework needed for this role? It was supervised by Professor Kovin Naidoo and co-supervised by Professor Peter Clarke-Farr.

‘Measures need to be taken to ensure that education and training is adjusted to the needs of the public,’ said Arvind.

‘Optometrists should be actively involved in both awareness and health promotion interventions. They are better suited for diagnosis and management of ocular and systemic conditions through appropriate education and training. They can contribute to the prevention of avoidable blindness.’

The study also emphasised that the optometry profession needs to be recognised and integrated into the primary healthcare system.

‘Furthermore, it should provide comprehensive eye care services. Regulating the profession ensures that the public’s needs are protected and that there is standardisation in eye care delivery,’ said Arvind. She added that strategies to streamline optometry in terms of education, professionalism and service delivery will go a long way in meeting India’s eye care needs.

According to Arvind, the study was the first of its kind to study the current state of optometry in India in terms of education and service delivery.

‘My PhD journey was very enriching and at the same time challenging as I had to manage work, home and studies. I cannot thank my supervisors enough as they brought out the best in me and pushed me to complete my PhD. I can see a great change in my understanding of research and scientific writing and this helped me become a more confident person.’

Arvind is a mother of two teenage sons and is married to an Air Force officer in India. ‘Due to the nature of my husband’s work I get to travel across the country and explore its varied culture and rich geography. I am a fun-loving person and passionate about my profession, work and home.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Graduate Awarded Scholarship to Pursue his PhD in Germany

Graduate Awarded Scholarship to Pursue his PhD in Germany
Mr Cameron Scullard received a Master’s degree in Sport Science and Biokinetics.

Sport Science and Biokinetics Master’s graduate, Mr Cameron Scullard, has been awarded a scholarship to pursue his PhD at the University of Saarland in Germany.

His research study, which was supervised by Professor Johan van Heerden, was titled Knowledge, Attitudes, Perceptions, Reporting Behaviours and Management of Concussion among High-School Rugby Players in KwaZulu-Natal. One of his examiners was Professor John Patricios, a world authority on the subject.

The study delved into the contentious issue of concussion injuries within schoolboy rugby. ‘Rugby is one of the most popular sports in South African schools, a contact sport that presents a high risk for head injuries, particularly at amateur and low-skill levels. Therefore, it is surprising that the current literature focuses on provincial youth week tournaments with the most skilled players, which only account for a small fraction of the school rugby playing population in the country,’ said Scullard.

The study focused on players of various ages (13-19), skills levels (A-D teams), and cultural backgrounds in private and public schools. The results showed that only half (49.5%) of the players reported having been exposed to education on concussion. They recorded a 65.5% Index of Essential Concussion Knowledge (ECKI), indicating unsatisfactory knowledge and a high safety risk. Players have a false perception that sustaining a concussion is a “badge of honour” and tended to under-report concussions, because of not wanting to sit out of subsequent matches. 

‘Growing up, I always had a strong passion for sport and health, and my decision to pursue a career in this field was confirmed once I became aware of the reputable Sport Science and Biokinetics programmes offered at UKZN,’ said Scullard. 

His three-year PhD scholarship is funded by the Deutscher Fußball-Bund (DFB) at Saarland University. Scullard is currently in the process of writing up his research proposal on the topic of Neuroathletic training in football. 

‘My experience in concussion research, and now with neuroathletic training, has motivated me to develop and establish myself within the field of neurosciences in exercise. Neuroathletic training, a very foreign concept in South Africa, is a new and exciting neuroscience approach to optimise injury prevention and performance enhancement practices,’ he said.

Scullard considers himself to be a highly aspirational and motivated person, ‘I completed my Bachelor of Sport Science in 2016, and Honours in Biokinetics the following year. In 2018, I completed my internship and qualification as a Biokineticist. Thereafter, I opened my own biokinetics practice in 2019 and worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Glenwood High School. I attribute much of my success and work ethic to my family. I am fortunate to have a very supportive family who have provided me with the motivation and opportunities to reach my full potential.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Study Promotes Improved Care for Older Adults

Study Promotes Improved Care for Older Adults
Dr Keshena Naidoo received a PhD in Health Professions Education.

Lecturer in UKZN’s Department of Family Medicine Dr Keshena Naidoo graduated with a PhD in Health Professions Education.

Supervised by Professor Jacky van Wyk, Academic Leader of Research in the School of Clinical Medicine, the study was titled, Preparing Medical Graduates to Care for Older Adults. It was inspired by Naidoo’s personal experience of working in residential care facilities for the elderly and other primary healthcare settings.

‘The study advocates for quality healthcare for older adults and has implications for undergraduate teaching and learning at UKZN and other institutions in the sub-Saharan African region,’ she said.

The mixed method study investigated the medical geriatric curriculum at a sub-Saharan African medical school. It gathered the perspectives of elderly patients, learners and health professions educators.

The findings affirmed the need to enhance the geriatric curriculum for undergraduate Medical students, and to develop and implement minimum core competencies in geriatric care.

‘Policy guidelines to improve medical graduate preparedness to care for older adults include broader community engagement in curriculum design and delivery and increased attention to patient-centred care and interprofessional education,’ she said.

Naidoo has been involved in the training of Medical and Nursing students since 2003, and is passionate about training competent and caring primary healthcare professionals to work in community settings. She also completed a Sub-Saharan Africa-FAIMER Regional Institute (SAFRI) fellowship in Health Professions Education, and intends to follow up her study by collaborating with other health professional disciplines in order to promote interprofessional education at UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Age is Just a Number

Age is Just a Number
Mrs Pumla Ntikinca graduated with a Master’s degree in Nursing.

Seventy-five-year old Master’s in Nursing graduate, Mrs Pumla Ntikinca is outstanding proof that age is just a number.

Academic Leader in the Discipline of Nursing Mrs Fikile Mtshali said that Ntikinca’s achievements bear testimony to the fact that being resilient, driven and determined can help one to achieve one’s life goal.

Supervised by Drs Ann Jarvis and Olivia Baloyi, Ntikinca’s study was titled, An Exploration of Attitudes, Knowledge and Perceptions on Assessment of Pain in Neonates, by Advanced Midwifery Students at a University in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

‘My interest in this topic was aroused when I was a nurse educator at a nursing college, teaching Neonatology to midwifery students,’ she recalled.

‘I realised that nurses in general fall short on the intricacies of specialised care in Neonatal Inclusive Care Units (NICUs). I decided to register for a Clinical Master’s degree in Advanced Midwifery (Maternal and Childcare). The study aimed to assess and generate evidence for Nursing education and practice.’

Three categories emerged from the content analysis of the data, namely, the elimination process, restricted assessment and non-standardised approaches.

‘Pain did not receive primary attention as an indication of neonatal discomfort,’ said Ntikica. The study also identified a lack of knowledge on the use of assessment tools, with haphazard assessment, and the lack of a scientific approach to pain assessment in the neonate by advanced midwifery students. ‘This poses a challenge to the long- and short-term health of the neonate and needs to be recognised in midwifery nursing curricula,’ she added.

Ntikica’s future plans include completing a book that she has started writing which reflects on hergrowing up and development to womanhoodShe will also be compiling articles to submit to journals on neonatal care.

Hailing from the small town of Mt Frere in the Eastern Cape, Ntikinca said her relationship with UKZN dates back to the time when she was a tutor at the University. She grew up in a Christian family where advancing in education was the norm. ‘My mother and father were qualified teachers and my father received an honorary degree from the University of Fort Hare at his retirement. I can proudly say that I come from a family of professionals, graduates and academics, both on the maternal and paternal side. My children, nieces and nephews also fall within these categories.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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UKZN Graduates its First African Woman with a PhD in Leisure and Recreation

UKZN Graduates its First African Woman with a PhD in Leisure and Recreation
UKZN staff member, Dr Khumbuzile Khumalo.

Dr Khumbuzile Khumalo, fondly known as KK, graduated from the College of Health Sciences with a PhD in Leisure and Recreation for her study titled, The Development of a Policy Framework for Physical Activity and Sport for Children with Disabilities in Schools in Disadvantaged Communities in KwaZulu-Natal. She is the first African Leisure and Recreation specialist to graduate with a doctorate in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and is a staff member in UKZN’s Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences.

Her study resulted in a policy framework for physical activity and sport for children with disabilities (CWDs) in schools in disadvantaged communities. ‘Provision of sport facilities and equipment suitable for CWDs requires a collaborative effort between the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR) and community stakeholders to address long-standing barriers,’ said Khumalo.

In developing the policy framework, Khumalo ensured that CWDs and their families made significant contributions, thereby ensuring that their voices were heard. The framework will be presented to the DSR with the intention of it being adopted and implemented in KwaZulu-Natal; especially in schools based in poorly resourced communities.

‘I have a passion to work with people with disabilities. Currently, I am a member of the interim UKZN Division of Sport Union Executive Sport Organising Committee. Last year, we launched the UKZN Disability Sports and Leisure Association (UKZNDSLA). This association includes students with disabilities on all UKZN campuses.’

Khumalo is the proud mum of a son who graduated with his PhD in Genetics from Stellenbosch University in 2017. He is currently working in Norway.

‘I am the daughter of the late Ms N Mchunu and Mr A Khumalo. I was born in Ladysmith, Steadville Township. I enjoy reading, socialising, travelling, going to church, and participating in any recreational activity during my leisure time. I would like to thank all my family members, Bongiwe Gumede, colleagues, and Prophet Dr SB Radebe for their encouragement and inspiring words of support that enabled me to reach my final destination.’ 

Khumalo is most appreciative of her supervisors, Professors Rowena Naidoo and Verusia Chetty. ‘They were my beacons of hope when I wanted to give up. They believed in my passion for CWDs, and my ability to complete my PhD and supported me all the way.’

‘Khumalo’s PhD journey was one of many hardships, but her perseverance and dedication led to this long overdue moment, one which all prospective graduates and their supervisors anxiously anticipate. We believe that team work is key, and as supervisors we believe that supporting a candidate and making them believe in themselves is the key to succeeding,’ commented Naidoo and Chetty. Both work in the area of disability and rehabilitation and are excited to share KK’s policy framework with the relevant governing structures.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Doctoral Degree Achieved Against All Odds

Doctoral Degree Achieved Against All Odds
Dr Sifiso Makhathini graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Dr Sifiso Makhathini was awarded his doctoral degree in Pharmaceutics for his study titled, Design and Synthesis of Novel pH-responsive Fatty Acid-Based Lipids for the Development of Nano-Delivery Systems for Enhancing Vancomycin Activity against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).

MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus because of it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics. Globally, drug-resistant microorganisms have emerged which are associated with high mortality rates. ‘Novel nano-drug delivery systems, including lipid-based drug delivery systems, represent an alternative therapeutic approach to combat antimicrobial resistance resulting from conventional dosage forms,’ said Makhathini who matriculated from Nhlanhlayethu Secondary School.

His study aimed to design and synthesize fatty acid-based pH-responsive lipids (FAL, OLA-SPDA and DMGSAD-lipid) and explore their potential for the preparation of pH-responsive nano-based vancomycin (VCM) delivery systems to treat infectious diseases caused by MRSA. It resulted in the development of novel medicines that are more effective against resistant bacteria than available medicines. Said Makhathini, ‘This can improve the treatment of various disease conditions associated with bacterial infections.’

Having grown up in rural Ulundi and later in the township of Ntuzuma, Makhathini faced many challenges during his studies. He said, ‘As an undergraduate studying pure and applied chemistry, I encountered many financial challenges. In my final year of study, I became an undergraduate research assistant during the semester vacation to earn an income. My deep and sincere gratitude to my family for their continuous and unparalleled love, help and support during this journey. Even though the journey was not easy financially, thank you for always believing in me with all you had. I am forever indebted to my parents who gave me the opportunities to advance my studies to reach this level of education and become the person I am.’

Makhathini recalls the inspiration behind pursuing a career in pharmaceutical chemistry, ‘As an undergraduate research assistant, I was exposed to medicinal chemistry research as I was involved in the design and synthesis of drugs with potential as antimicrobial using organic synthetic processes. I became fascinated by recreating/derivatising molecules found in nature to develop pharmaceutical drugs via simplified synthetic processes to effectively produce new drugs on a large scale. Since then, my interest in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmaceutics has been guided by developing new ways to develop new drugs, designing systems to effectively deliver the drug and understanding how the drugs interact with the biological system to produce a positive therapeutic effect.’

Makhathini’s study was supervised by Professor of Pharmacy, Head of the Drug Delivery Research Proto-Unit and Head of the NanoHealth Pillar of the Nanotechnology Platform at UKZN, Professor Thirumala Govender. The data from the study resulted in three first-authored research publications, one co-authored research publication and one co-authored review article.

‘I want to express my deepest appreciation to my supervisor Professor Thirumala Govender for the patient guidance, encouragement and advice she provided throughout my time as her student. None of this would have been possible without her proper guidance and her character-building criticism. I would also like to thank the entire team (Nano Drug Delivery Unit) for their support,’ said Makhathini who would like to one day lead his own research team to address critical problems affecting medicine and society, either in an academic or industrial setting.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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PhD Study Exposes the Dangers of Self-Medication with Antibiotics

PhD Study Exposes the Dangers of Self-Medication with Antibiotics
PhD in Public Health graduate, Dr Neusa Torres-Tovela.

Dr Neusa Torres-Tovela received a PhD in Public Health for her study on practices of self-medication with antibiotics and non-prescribed antibiotic dispensing in Maputo City, Mozambique.

Supervised by Dr Lyn Middleton and Mr Vernon Solomon, the study aimed to identify, describe and analyse the factors behind self-medication with antibiotics by pharmacy clients and the practices of non-prescribed antibiotic dispensing by pharmacists, given the legal status of antibiotics as prescription-only medicines in Mozambique.

‘In Mozambique, utilisation of antibiotics for self-medication purposes and non-prescribed antibiotic dispensing are common,’ said Torres-Tovela.

‘These prescription-only medicines are being sold, acquired and dispensed without prescriptions at pharmacies and markets. This is concerning in the current post-antibiotic era where we face the global public health problem of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. My research was guided by these concerns,’ she added.

‘The study commenced with a systematic scoping review thanks to the expertise of one of the lecturers in the School of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson who shared knowledge and facilitated hands-on workshops,’ said Torres-Tovela.

Thereafter, she undertook a comprehensive qualitative study in Maputo City. ‘I immersed myself in the world of pharmacy clients who acquired antibiotics without prescriptions and the pharmacists who dispensed these antibiotics. I observed that both phenomena are frequent and that the participants regard them as part of “daily life”.’

The study found that people misused and self-medicated using antibiotics such as Amoxicillin, Cotrimoxazole, Azithromycin, Metronidazole, Amoxicillin with clavulanic acid, Tetracycline, Doxycycline and Erythromycin to treat self-diagnosed respiratory tract infections, a sore throat, fever, cough, vaginal discharge, eye problems, the common flu, urinary infections, wounds, and toothache. Worryingly, these antibiotics were used without physician oversight or for conditions that do not necessarily require antibiotic therapy.

Including the systematic scoping review articles, the research has been published in four international journals, with three more under peer-review.

Torres-Tovela noted that, ‘The research provides the health authorities and entities with considerable evidence-based information to better address the misuse of antibiotics, and to promote improved antibiotic stewardship and conservancy. Such evidence will also be useful for curriculum (re)design for training pharmacists, health professionals and promoters in Mozambique. There is an urgent need to implement health promotion and education programmes that raise awareness of the risks of antibiotic misuse. This will enable individuals and communities to make informed decisions.’

Back in 2013, Torres-Tovela met UKZN’s Professor Sabiha Essack in Mozambique while they were working with the Mozambican team on a global partnership for antimicrobial resistance.

She was part of a meeting where Essack presented a vision of an antimicrobial stewardship and conservancy project funded by Norway.

‘I was inspired and motivated to make use of my background in Social Sciences and Anthropology to develop my research in this field, considering the scarce evidence on antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance in Mozambique.

‘In 2016, after doing some research on which university I would register at for my PhD studies, I contacted Professor Essack, who remains a real inspiration for me and is very supportive. My decision was also motivated by UKZN’s high ranking among sub-Saharan African universities. Furthermore, Durban is only seven hours driving time from my home in Maputo, which enabled me to drive home to visit my family on long weekends and short holidays. This was the “cherry on the top” that helped me to choose UKZN and I don’t regret it!’ she said. She expressed her thanks to Professors Essack, and Mashamba-Thompson and to her supervisors Dr Middleton and Mr Solomon.

Torres-Tovela is currently disseminating the results of her research to the health authorities and stakeholders in Mozambique. ‘I am preparing presentations and seminars as well as policy briefs that can be used to inform policymakers and health promoters towards the re(design) of health promotion strategies regarding the rational use of antibiotics, supervision and accountability mechanisms.’ She is also involved in research, lecturing and master’s students’ supervision in Mozambique.

Torres-Tovela is married with three children. ‘I regard myself as a simple person and I appreciate being with people with positive thoughts and energy. Physical exercise, especially aerobics and step classes, a good massage, and a little good wine make me feel mentally strong and keep me going,’ she said.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Graduate Presents His Findings at International Conference

Graduate Presents His Findings at International Conference
Mr Martin Kisenge received a Master’s in Optometry.

Master of Optometry graduate, Mr Martin Kisenge gave an oral presentation on the findings of his study at the international virtual conference on Eye Health in A Changing World at the beginning of October.

The study, titled Assessing Barriers to Uptake of Refractive Services in Kakamega Municipality, Kenya, was supervised by Dr Naimah Ibrahim Khan.

‘I was sponsored by the BreinHolden Institute and their university of choice was UKZN. However, I would still have chosen UKZN because many of my friends studied there and they said it is one of the best in Africa. It also has many famous optometrists as lecturers; hence I knew I would be taught by the best,’ said Kisenge.

He added that this was the first study of its kind to be undertaken in Kakamega Municipality and Kenya at large.

Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the second most common cause of visual impairment. Kisenge found that negative attitudes towards wearing spectacles, and the lack of accessible and affordable refractive services are the main barriers to the uptake of these services. The study recommends that refractive services be integrated into public health institutions for easy accessibility and affordability. ‘Community education regarding refractive services will also greatly boost their uptake,’ said Kisenge.

He is currently employed as an optometrist at Sabatia Eye Hospital and also teaches at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He plans to further his studies and obtain a full-time lecturing post.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Master’s Study Focuses on Drug-Food Interactions

Master’s Study Focuses on Drug-Food Interactions
Ms Emmanuella Chinonso Osuala graduated with a Master of Pharmacy degree.

Ms Emmanuella Chinonso Osuala graduated with a Master of Pharmacy degree following her study that evaluated the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) of patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) regarding drug-food interactions at selected hospitals in the eThekwini district of KwaZulu-Natal.

Supervised by Dr Elizabeth Ojewole, the cross-sectional study was conducted at Addington, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, and King Edward VIII Hospitals among 342 patients and 459 HCPs.

The findings revealed low levels of knowledge of drug-food interactions and poor practices towards preventing such interactions.

According to Osuala, drug-food interactions can lead to adverse drug reactions and therapy failure, potentially impacting patient safety and treatment outcomes. ‘Adequate KAP among patients and HCPs is thus essential.’

She recommended that HCPs receive training on drug-food interactions from undergraduate to postgraduate levels as well continuing professional development. This will ensure that patients are counselled on such interactions and help reduce adverse reactions and therapy failure. Osuala also recommended that healthcare institutions develop practice guidelines and policies on patient counselling in this regard.

She noted that HCPs play a vital role in ensuring patient safety and optimal therapeutic outcomes. Given South Africa’s high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, the study offers new knowledge that can be used to inform policy and improve practice.

Osuala completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree with distinction at the University of Lagos in 2014. She briefly worked as a community pharmacist in a retail chain pharmacy in Nigeria before starting her master’s programme at UKZN and is currently a pre-doctoral research fellow at CAPRISA under the mentorship of Dr Tanuja Gengiah.

She expressed thanks to God for successful completion of her programme and is also grateful to her husband, family and friends, mentor and supervisor for their support and encouragement.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Social Accountability not Universally Understood

Social Accountability not Universally Understood
PhD graduate, Dr Amy Clithero-Eridon.

‘Social accountability is poorly understood and quite often interpreted by individuals as a personal responsibility or a set of values,’ said Dr Amy Clithero-Eridon who graduated with a PhD in Family Medicine.

‘Local context matters when defining a term that is not universally understood, yet gaining in importance as an educational concept. It is essential to know how it is understood, interpreted, put into practice, and, most importantly, the impact on graduates and the communities in which they practice,’ she added.

Clithero-Eridon’s study titled, Understanding of Social Accountability in the Nelson R. Mandela Medical School (NRMSM) Curriculum, was supervised by Drs Andrew Ross and Stephen Knight of UKZN, and Drs Cameron Crandall and Danielle Albright of the University of New Mexico. It aimed to understand how health professional education in the area of social accountability is developing at the School and, ultimately, how this is translated within communities through graduate practice.

The research relied on qualitative techniques supplemented by quantitative data where appropriate. A survey was conducted among Medical students, community mentors and physician preceptors on their understanding of the term “social accountability” Clithero-Eridon analysed Medical students’ background characteristics, motivation for pursuing a medical career and future practice intentions. She then compared the characteristics and practice intentions of NRMSM graduates working in district hospitals to non-NRMSM graduates. The survey included hospital and community health facility staff associated with the training or supervision of first-year Medical graduates.

The study’s findings point to a noticeable lack of interest in primary care, and in particular, family medicine amongst graduating students. ‘Although a third of all medical doctors reported their intention to remain at district hospitals, graduates from non-South African schools remained longer than graduates of the NRMSM or other South African medical schools,’ she said.

Clithero-Eridon said that consideration of a student’s characteristics on admission, and sustaining initial motivation through community immersion with mentors who reinforce the values of primary care and community involvement throughout the curriculum, can assist students in “becoming” socially accountable as part of their professional identity formation.

‘Raising awareness in health professional schools of how their students experience social accountability would enable the development of more targeted and effective strategies and programmes to create a fit-for-purpose workforce,’ she added.

‘Social accountability is both an institutional and personal responsibility. It is not solely academic learning nor does it replace technical skills. It is an ongoing process of planning, doing, and acting and not a final endpoint.’ 

Clithero-Eridon is a faculty member at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. ‘In addition to teaching Medical students about the social determinants of health, health policy, and health services research, I participate in numerous educational research initiatives focusing on educational best practices, health services research, and social accountability within medical education.’

She is the North American Regional Representative for the Network Towards Unity for Health, a global organisation that fosters equitable community-oriented health services, education, and research to improve health locally and globally. She is an active member of the Training for Health Equity Network (THEnet), a global consortium of 13 universities that studies aspects of social accountability in different contexts and assists health professional organisations that strive to become socially accountable.

‘I would love to teach at UKZN as a guest lecturer. I don’t just teach - I learn from students and exchanging knowledge, ideas and resources is fun! I would also like to assist medical schools globally in their pursuit of social accountability and grow family medicine as a specialty in partnership with THEnet.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Study Develops Normative Data for Visual Function Parameters

Study Develops Normative Data for Visual Function Parameters
PhD in Optometry graduate, Dr Charles Darko-Takyi.

Dr Charles Darko-Takyi was awarded a PhD in Optometry for his study that developed normative data for visual function parameters for a West African school going population using simple, inexpensive but acceptable free-space optometric clinic techniques.

The study investigated expected binocular visual function data among normal junior high school children in the central region of Ghana and compared these results with data from other populations. It was supervised by UKZN’s Professor Vanessa Raquel Moodley and co-supervised by Dr Samuel Bert Boadi-Kusi of the University of Cape Coast.

A total of 1 261 normal participants between the ages of 11 and 17 were selected for comprehensive binocular vision testing. ‘My data now serves as the expected data for the West African population and guides eye doctors, especially optometrists to accurately diagnose and manage binocular vision problems among West African children,’ said Darko-Takyi.

Three publications have resulted from his work, one of which has been published in African Vision and Eye Health, with the other two having been peer-reviewed.

Darko-Takyi is a Research Fellow (lecturer) in the College of Health Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He is also a practicing optometrist at the UCC eye and optometric clinic.

‘I would like to be involved in campaigns to promote optometric practice in Africa and the world. My interest is promoting the practice of binocular vision in eye clinics on the continent,’ he said. 

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Study Develops Tool to Assist Traditional Health Practitioners

Study Develops Tool to Assist Traditional Health Practitioners
Dr Pharm Eben received a PhD.

The findings of Dr Pharm Eben’s PhD study led to the development of a standardised tool to assist traditional health practitioners (THPs) to manage diabetes and hypertension.

Supervised by Professor Manimbulu Nlooto, the study surveyed Zulu and Tswana traditional health practitioners’ perspectives on the management of diabetes and hypertension.

This comparative cross-sectional descriptive study that employed a mixed-method approach was conducted in KwaZulu-Natal and North West province.

It aimed to affirm evidence-based practice to determine whether THPs in two diverse backgrounds adopted similar approaches.

‘The findings led to the development of the standardised tool which will assist THPs to manage diabetes and hypertension,’ said Eben.

‘This is ground-breaking research in the field of African traditional medicine, and the first such tool to be developed.’

Five manuscripts emanated from the thesis, four of which have been published, with one under review in an accredited journal. The study won several awards including the best poster presentation at the Korean Society of Nephrology Conference in Seoul in 2019.

Eben also received a travel grant to present at the annual Molecular Biology Society Conference of Japan in Fukuoka in December 2019.

‘The motivation to achieve the ultimate in any field regardless of the challenges one faced kept me going. The difficulties I faced in the thesis proposal writing helped me to learn about research which helped to achieve my PhD,’ said Eben.

‘Sometimes facing challenges at the outset makes room for improvement. It kills complacency and sets you on the right path and when you find your feet in the research space, the passion to learn, coupled with good supervision and consultations with experts in the field produces a quality dissertation,’ he added.

Eben is currently the CEO of his pharmaceutical consultancy firm, Theorikem Altermedico Pharma Consultancy Services.

His future plans include assisting UKZN to come up with innovative ideas to maintain its position as the Premier University of African Scholarship.

Eben described himself as a hardworking young researcher with strong Christian values. His father is a retired high school principal and his mother was a trader at a local market in the Brong-Ahafo region of Ghana.

A pharmacist by profession, Eben is the last born in a family of six siblings, three boys and three girls.

He was actively involved in Model UN activities around the globe, and served as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) chair during the Zurich International University Model UN conference held in Zurich in 2017.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Promoting the Development of TeleHealth

Promoting the Development of TeleHealth
PhD graduate, Dr Kabelo Leonard Mauco.

Dr Kabelo Leonard Mauco graduated with a PhD in TeleHealth Medicine following a study titled, e-Health Readiness Assessment for Botswana, which was supervised by Professors Maurice Mars and Richard Scott.

Mauco said the lack of a suitable framework called for the design and development of an acceptable e-health readiness assessment framework (eHRAF).

‘Interviews were conducted with Botswanan health and e-health experts and the participants identified the desirable components and aspects of a country-specific framework. An evidence-based developing country-specific eHRAF was designed, developed and validated. The draft framework applied the four major e-health readiness themes identified by key informants (governance, stakeholder issues, resources, and access), accommodated other published themes, and considered the 41 subthemes and principal entities identified from the key informant responses. The content was refined based on local and global (developed and developing country) validation by e-health experts.’

According to Mauco the eHRAF offers guidelines for e-health policy development and planning by identifying the major areas to be considered when preparing for an e-health readiness assessment in the context of developing countries, hence ensuring sustainable implementation of e-health solutions.

Mauco is a researcher and lecturer at a university in Botswana and plans to branch into data analytics in healthcare. He enjoys participating in a variety of outdoor recreational activities.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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