PhD Improves Quality of Life for HIV Infected Individuals Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy

PhD Improves Quality of Life for HIV Infected Individuals Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy
Dr Takshita Sookan.

Progressive resistance training (PRT) and whey protein intake is strongly recommended for HIV infected individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to a study by Dr Takshita Sookan who graduated with a Sports Science PhD.

Sookan said patients on ART were at risk to develop complications related to body composition changes, inflammation and cardiometabolic risk. ‘These conditions increase the possibility of functional decline, co-morbidities and mortality. Resistance training in combination with protein-containing nutrition is effective in improving these conditions,’ her study confirmed.

Sookan said since the advent of ART, patients with HIV have longer life expectancies. However, treatment does not fully restore immune health and consequently, a number of inflammation-associated and/or immunodeficiency complications such as, HIV associated lipodystrophy, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other metabolic complications are increasing. Cumulative toxicities from exposure to ART causes clinically-relevant metabolic disturbances.

Supervised by the internationally acclaimed Professor, Andrew McKune, the study demonstrated that a PRT programme can decrease IL-10. ‘Elevated levels of this Th2 cytokine are associated with disease progression in HIV-infected individuals,’ Sookan explained, adding that further investigation is required to understand the effect this decrease has on disease progression in this population. 

Quality of life (QOL) components improved in ART treated HIV-infected individuals that participated in the study’s PRT programme at King Edward VIII Hospital’s Pilani/Family Clinic. ‘Changes were seen in the physical, social and environmental domains. This could be attributed to positive social and environmental effects of exercise programmes.  Exercise training is an inexpensive and efficacious strategy for improving QOL in this population with an impact on other facets of their lives,’ Sookan said.

Sookan said: ‘Working with the participants in the study was truly humbling. Their strength through adversity is inspirational. There were many administrative and logistic issues with the study but I am grateful to have completed it with the help of many, many people who selflessly gave me their time and effort. It has renewed my faith in humanity.’

Her PhD was supported by numerous scholarships, and Masters obtained cum laude, for which she felt very grateful. ‘My mother is extremely proud and happy that I have finally reached the end of this journey. My extended family and friends have made this time very special by celebrating this achievement with me,’ she said.

She also thanked every person and collaborator that assisted her in her project. ‘Your contribution has been invaluable; particularly my supervisor, Professor Andrew McKune, I couldn’t have completed this without him.’

Sookan resumed her position as a Lecturer in the Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences. ‘I am currently finalising research collaborations with international researchers and am excited to undertake new research.’

Sookan has also taken up a role in the Biokinetics Association of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Charter and is responsible for continued educational programmes for the region. ‘I am also interested in continuing my work with the Biomedical Research Ethics Committee. The role of ethics in research is crucial and opens up a new avenue of research that I am interested in,’ she said.

Lunga Memela


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New Model of Care for HIV Rehabilitation Develops from PhD

New Model of Care for HIV Rehabilitation Develops from PhD
Dr Verusia Chetty with her family.

A first-of-its-kind model of care for the rehabilitation of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in South Africa is being implemented at Mariannhill near Durban where UKZN Physiotherapy Lecturer, Dr Verusia Chetty, conducted research for her PhD.

The study was funded by the South African Medical Research Council National Health Scholarship Programme.

According to Chetty, rehabilitation professionals have seen a surge in the need to address the disabling effects of HIV, its comorbidities and anti-retroviral therapy. ‘These needs raised the question of what model of care could feasibly address these challenges and integrate rehabilitation into the response to HIV. The aim of this study was to develop a model of care that addresses the new rehabilitation related needs of PLHIV within a health care setting.’

The model has already received positive feedback from all stakeholders within the study setting at Marriannhill, including PLHIV. Experts agreed that improving access to care, optimal communication between all stakeholders, education and training for health care workers and home-based rehabilitation were essential for the model. Furthermore, task-shifting and evidence based practice were seen as fundamental for optimal care.

‘The developed model was reviewed for relevance against the backdrop of policies impacting rehabilitation practice in South Africa,’ said Chetty. ‘South African legislature is enabling in its redress to change, however gaps exist in translating policy into practice. I intend on furthering the rehabilitation campaign to translate policy into practice and have more dynamism in the rehabilitation component of primary health care. ’

Chetty was flown to Pretoria to attend the launch of two prestigious 2014/15 publications after winning the Health Systems Trust’s (HST) 2015 Emerging Public Health Practitioner Award. Her thesis submission was selected as the winning chapter for 2015 receiving a cash prize and the opportunity to meet senior research staff at HST to discuss areas for future interaction and collaboration.

‘To have been selected as the winner is an amazing accomplishment and huge step for me and good position for me to advocate for rehabilitation of PLHIV.

‘I have had exemplary supervision from Professor Myezwa at Wits University and Professor Jill Hanass-Hancock at UKZN’s Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division. Professor Hanass-Hancock has already recruited me for a post-doctoral study where we will focus on rehabilitation frameworks for children living with HIV.’

Her children have been on the PhD journey with her, she said. ‘They have showed such patience and grace toward a very busy mother. I also have a very supportive husband and extended family. I love teaching and research is what drives me.’

Lunga Memela


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Oral Health Custodians Obtain Dentistry PhDs

Oral Health Custodians Obtain Dentistry PhDs
Dr Moganavelli Reddy, Dr Shenuka Singh and Dr Sunitha Dookie.

Equal access to quality oral health services for South Africa’s young and old was high on the agenda of two newly graduated PhDs.

Supervised by Dr Shenuka Singh, UKZN’s Dentistry Academic Leader, Dr Sunitha Dookie and Dr Moganavelli Reddy graduated with doctorates in Dentistry after completing critical studies informing the country’s policies and implementation.

Dookie analysed the impact KwaZulu-Natal’s primary health care philosophy has on district oral health service delivery and found distinctive gaps between policy and implementation. 

‘The primary health care philosophy has not translated into improved efficiency, effectiveness and equity of oral health service delivery,’ said Dookie. ‘Nor has it reduced the oral disease burden in the region. Oral health service delivery is underpinned by a clear primary health care philosophy but it has not translated into practice as inequities still persist,’ she said.

Statistical data from the study revealed that the oral health care system has not impacted on dental caries levels, the major oral disease in this region. ‘The current delivery of oral health services in KwaZulu-Natal is poor. Reasons cited for this include the recurring theme of a lack of financial, human, and material resources as well as equipment, the structure of the system itself and deficiencies between policy formulation and putting that into practice. All these factors have also resulted in inefficient and ineffective delivery of services.’

Reddy conducted a three-phase study systematically assessing the viability of including oral health promotion at 23 health-promoting schools in the 11 districts of KwaZulu-Natal and to establish whether this approach would be an appropriate mechanism for school-based oral health service delivery.

The study, under peer-review at graduation and already published in two journal articles, developed a framework providing a systematic and negotiated approach for the planning, implementation and review of the oral health promotion intervention based on the needs of six-year-old learners at the identified schools.

‘The strength of this framework was underpinned in its multi-level approach to ensure quality of oral health care delivery. The limitations of this framework were that it was not tested for effectiveness to bring about behaviour change as this was a long-term goal,’ Reddy explained.

Reddy said there was a need for multiple stakeholder involvement in policy monitoring with specific strategies for implementation and evaluation of oral health promotion activities. ‘There is also a need to ensure stakeholder involvement in the development of oral health learning material at school level.’ More research needs to be done to explore the mechanism to support and address inequity in oral health promotion related service delivery at schools and to test the adaptability of the framework in other health related settings both provincially and nationally, she advised.

Dookie and Reddy said they were grateful to their families and supervisor for unyielding support during their doctoral journey.

Singh said: ‘Both graduates have worked consistently hard and are excellent role-models for other students embarking on postgraduate studies.’

 Lunga Memela


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Top Bachelor of Optometry Graduate Pays Tribute to her Grandma

Top Bachelor of Optometry Graduate Pays Tribute to her Grandma
Ms Philisiwe Ximba.

Family and friends of Ms Philisiwe Ximba ululated when she graduated as UKZN’s Best Overall Final-Year Optometry Student, winning a Genop Holdings - Stephen Hugo Award for the achievement.

Her grandmother dug deep into her pension funds to support Ximba’s first-year fees at UKZN after she had matriculated from the King Zwelithini High School in Eshowe. ‘I was fortunate and thanked the almighty when I received a provincial Department of Health bursary at second-year as it allowed to me focus on my primary goal which was my studies and finishing my degree,’ said Ximba.

Ximba worked hard, receiving 14 Merit Certificates, a Dean’s Commendation, and an award for Excellent Work Ethic. She was also named Best Dresser at a Student Christian Fellowship function.

‘I am honoured and astonished to graduate as the top student in Optometry,’ she said. ‘It came as a pleasant surprise to me and in all honesty I didn’t expect it. Achieving my degree means a lot to me because I can now inspire the youth back home that everything is possible when you work diligently regardless of where you come from.’

Ximba said she was determined to pursue a masters and a PhD in Public Health. ‘I chose optometry because I always wanted to know more about the eyes as we all know they are the windows of our souls. My dreams keep me going.’

Ximba said she has learned that there are no short cuts in life. ‘If you want to achieve something, let nothing stop you no matter the circumstances. Hard work, focus and sacrifice will bring results.’

Lunga Memela


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Occupational Therapy Students Graduate Cum Laude

Occupational Therapy Students Graduate <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Fatima Moola and Ms Tamlyn Wanless.

UKZN’s Discipline of Occupational Therapy (OT) salutes students, Ms Fatima Moola, Ms Tamlyn Wanless and Ms Zaakira Fakroodeen, who all graduated cum laude.

The trio said it was humbling to graduate as top students in their discipline, however the entire class had worked hard which had helped them reach this significant milestone.

Occupational Therapy is an extremely challenging field of study because it tests you both physically and psychologically, said Moola, a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society who matriculated among the top 30 in the KwaZulu-Natal Association of Muslim Schools.

‘I feel grateful to the Almighty for blessing me. This is definitely not something that I expected, so I’m quite surprised,’ said Fakroodeen.

Fakroodeen said she loved the profession because it provided opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those who have some sort of disadvantage. Prayer, family, her classmates and amazing support from her final-year research group are what kept her going.

‘I knew I had worked really hard throughout my studies but it was still a great surprise and proud moment when I found out that I am graduating cum laude,’ said Wanless (23), now living in Johannesburg.

Wanless was a prefect at high school, deputy head boarder, vice-netball captain and head girl of the Midlands Youth Choir. ‘I also received honours for netball, drama and singing as well as Colours for academics. Whilst at UKZN I was invited to be a member of the Golden Key Association, received a scholarship for academic achievement and was awarded six subject prizes at the end of fourth-year. 

OT Academic Leader, Professor Kitty Uys said: ‘The discipline of Occupational Therapy is proud of these students receiving the highest accolade for their hard work over the four years of studies. I want to say that there is a direct relationship between their achievements and the quality of teaching they received.’

Lunga Memela


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Hard Work the Answer, Says Summa Cum Laude Graduate

Hard Work the Answer, Says <em>Summa Cum Laude</em> Graduate
Ms Danell Brand.

Bachelor of Nursing candidate, Ms Danell Brand (23), was a top achiever in her discipline, graduating summa cum laude.

Brand said she was grateful to have had an opportunity to study and to do so to the best of her abilities.

‘Obtaining my degree gives me the courage and confidence I will need to further my academic career as it serves as proof that the right mind set in addition to hard work and commitment, pays off.’ 

She hopes to do postgraduate studies once she has completed practical experience in the clinical field.

‘Constantly reminding myself that there is room for improvement, drives me to do so under difficult circumstances and it is this kind of mind set that keeps me going in all aspects of life,’ said Brand.

She advised those still studying to put in a 100% from day one. ‘Every test and assignment you prepare for and complete ultimately prepares you for examinations. Hard work and commitment throughout the year means that you are already prepared for three-quarters of your examinations.’

Brand, the younger of two daughters in her family, was raised by her mother who enforced the values she has today.

‘Even though I was never showered with material riches, I am blessed to have a small support system at home consisting of family and close friends.’

 ‘The thing I value most about my time at UKZN is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. At UKZN I was privileged to interact with numerous people from different backgrounds and not only did I learn more about social relationships but I believe the experience has taught me a great deal about myself as well.’

She earned numerous Certificates of Merit from UKZN.

Nombuso Dlamini


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Hockey Fan Graduates Cum Laude

Hockey Fan Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Jenna Lambert.

Former Epworth High School hockey star, Ms Jenna Lambert, was overjoyed when she received her Bachelor of Sport Science degree cum laude.

Lambert (21) of Pietermaritzburg said it was a great honour and she was proud to have achieved such good results. ‘It's a big step on the road towards becoming independent.

‘I was hoping that I would graduate cum laude but I wasn't certain,’ said Lambert, now pursuing an Honours degree in Biokinetics at UKZN.

‘I’ve always been involved in sport and I love spending time with my friends,’ said Lambert.

She matriculated with Academic and Athletics Colours, as well as Half Colours in Hockey.

Lambert intends to make ‘a huge difference’ in people’s lives one day. ‘Always put in 100 percent effort to ensure that you become the best you can be,’ was her advice to other students.

Lunga Memela


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Father and Twin Daughters Obtain Health Sciences Degrees

Father and Twin Daughters Obtain Health Sciences Degrees
Mr Salem Kharwa and his daughters.

A Durban father and twin daughters all graduated with degrees from the College of Health Sciences (CHS).

The twins, Tasnim and Yasmin Kharwa, were awarded Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology degrees while their dad, Mr Salem Kharwa, who is a UKZN School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences Anatomy staff member, received a Master of Medical Science degree.

They were all excited to share the special occasion together as a family.

The twins were invited to become members of the Golden Key International Honour Society that recognises top achievers at UKZN, while Yasmin’s group won the Best Research Project Award sponsored by A.B Clemons at the CHS final-year Awards Ceremony.

‘Being twins, we shared all the most important moments of our lives together and we still have a very strong bond now as adults,’ said Tasnim. ‘The family’s motivation has been love, close family bonds and dreams of success.

‘Our dad has also been a massive motivation for us.’

Salem’s thesis, supervised by Dr Onyemaechi Azu and co-supervised by Dr Edwin Naidoo, was titled: “Hepatic Histomorphologic Changes Following Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy and the Intervention of Hypoxis Hemerocarlidea in an Experimental Animal Model”.

The twins are currently completing their community service, registered with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa as Speech Therapists and enjoying the experience and work exposure.

‘Our prospects for the future include gaining as much work exposure as possible to become fully skilled clinicians as well as continuing our professional development through workshops and research,’ said Yasmin.

Lunga Memela 


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Grapefruit Juice Researchers Obtain PhDs in Pharmacology

Grapefruit Juice Researchers Obtain PhDs in Pharmacology
Supervisor, Dr Peter Owira seen with his group of students in the Pharmacology laboratory.

A Nigerian couple graduated with PhDs in Pharmacology in the record time of two years after completing novel research on the health benefits of a bioactive flavonoid, known as naringin, found in citrus fruits, mainly grapefruit.

With supervision by Dr Peter Owira, who is a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology and regarded as an expert on the subject, Olubunmi and Oluwafeyisetan Adebiyi explored the effects of naringin on diabetes complications and on individuals treated with Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART).

Olubunmi said the current therapies for diabetic cardiomyopathy (chronic disease of the heart muscle caused by chronic exposure to high blood glucose levels) were inadequate, thus new and effective alternative therapeutic agents were needed. He therefore investigated naringin as a potential new therapy that might be useful in mitigating diabetic complications, particularly diabetic cardiomyopathy.

‘Our findings were very encouraging and suggest that naringin might provide a platform for developing drugs that may be of benefit in preventing or treating diabetic complication. Naringin showed cardio-protective effects by limiting oxidative stress-triggered maladaptive signalling and hyperglycemia-triggered myocardial structural and mitochondrial damage.’

Oluwafeyisetan’s study, also on a rat model, was titled: “The Effects of Naringin on Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors-Induced Metabolic Complications and Mitochondrial Dysfunction”.

She said that Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) incorporated into the HAART regimen had improved treatment outcomes of HIV infection but their use had led to metabolic complications such as loss of subcutaneous fat (lipoatrophy) leading to stigmatising distortion of physical appearance, poor adherence to antiretroviral therapy and increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

‘Currently there are no treatment guidelines for treating these metabolic complications. Effects of naringin, a grapefruit-derived flavonoid, on metabolic complications associated with the use of zidovudine or stavudine were investigated in the study. Naringin reversed NRTI-induced glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, subcutaneous fat loss, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction in the study. These findings therefore suggest that as a dietary supplement, naringin could prevent the adverse metabolic effects of these drugs in patients on HAART containing zidovudine or stavudine.’

Owira said: ‘The two candidates completed their research in a record two years and their findings have now been published in peer-reviewed high impact factor international journals - NutrientsJournal of Cardiovascular PharmacologyPlos One and Human Experimental Toxicology. It was an experience and pleasure to supervise them. On behalf of my team at the Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology Research Laboratory, we wish them well in their future endeavours.’

Lunga Memela


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HIV Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Investigated

HIV Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Investigated
Dr Manimbulu Nlooto.

UKZN Pharmaceutical Sciences Lecturer, Dr Manimbulu Nlooto, obtained his PhD on 14 April after completing a compelling study on the traditional, complementary and alternative medicines (TCAM) used by HIV infected patients in KwaZulu-Natal.

He said while highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is the mainstay of current therapy for HIV infected patients in South Africa, studies have shown that the use of TCAM alone or with antiretroviral medicines is prevalent amongst HIV infected individuals. ‘The extent, reasons and types of TCAM used, patients’ perceived benefits and the views of healthcare professionals towards TCAM are not well known.’

Nlooto’s study was conducted in eight public sector healthcare facilities situated in the eThekwini Metro and UThukela district of KwaZulu-Natal where findings revealed that healthcare professionals are aware of HIV infected patients that still use TCAM with their HAART regimens one decade after the introduction of free access to ARVs in the public sector health care system.

Nlooto said many types of herbal mixtures have been used by patients either alone or in combination with ARVs and they forwarded reasons for such use. These remedies included mainly Imbiza (traditional herbal leaves, wood barks, and roots), supplied by local African traditional healers, namely Herbalists (Inyanga) and Diviners (Sangoma) prior to and post HAART initiation.

‘In the preliminary observational study, 18 participants took specifically COA herbal medicine® or MercyNtuli® either alone or in combination with ARVs. At baseline half of 14 participants on COA herbal medicine alone had a median CD4 cell count of 330 cells/µl (IQR 84-670). At month 1 of treatment median CD4 cell count was 369.5(IQR 108-749) and 268(IQR 268-681) at month 4. At baseline nine out 14 participants on COA herbal medicine alone had a median viral load (VL) of 6 730 copies/ml which decreased to 1 595 copies/ml at month 1 and 15 copies/ml at month 4.’

There was a noticeable decrease on TCAM use in patients post antiretroviral programme during the study while the prevalence of the use of traditional medicine varied prior to and after HAART initiation, specifically by Black African females both before and after uptake. The search for a cure for HIV infection was the main reason for using traditional medicine.

Nlooto said significantly, herbal mixtures demonstrating an effect on CD4 and VL warrant further postgraduate studies. His thesis, by manuscripts, has opened the door for further postgraduate research to be conducted in the field. The study’s running expenses were funded by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences as well as a year’s support from the IKS Centre of Excellence.

A family man of five children originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nlooto said he has lived in South Africa for the past 12 years and enjoys undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision. ‘UKZN’s African vocation made it my academic institution of choice.’

Obtaining his PhD was not only celebrated by his family but inspired many people around him, Nlooto said. ‘I strongly believe that confidence and conviction in the Will of God always makes a difference in someone’s life,’ he added.

Lunga Memela


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From Humble Beginnings to PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry

From Humble Beginnings to PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Dr Ndumiso Mhlongo.

The Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, applauded Dr Ndumiso Mhlongo of Eshowe who graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Mhlongo matriculated at Mafunda Secondary School and completed UKZN’s Science and Engineering Foundation Programme in 2003.

He attained his bachelor’s and honours degrees  in Biochemistry from the University of Zululand (UniZulu), before returning to UKZN where he completed his Master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry summa cum laude at Soliman’s Molecular Modelling and Drug Design Laboratory.

Mhlongo’s PhD thesis, titled: “Insight into Glycosidases using Bioinformatics and Molecular Modelling Tools”, produced invaluable insight to understanding the dynamics of glycosidase enzymes – catalysts of the hydrolysis of a bond joining a sugar of a glycoside to an alcohol or another sugar unit. ‘This may contribute significantly to the design of potent inhibitors targeting GH enzymes implicated in the orchestration of disease and disorders,’ he explained. 

‘I come from a rural area so to have my work recognised internationally is an ideal example for illustrating to upcoming scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds that, with hard work and dedication, nothing is impossible.

‘I’d like to thank UKZN’s College of Health Sciences for funding my MSc and the NRF for funding my PhD,’ he said.  

Mhlongo, once a Graduate Assistant and part-time Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry at UKZN, says his field of work includes chromatography, gene expression, protein purification, molecular modelling, drug design and bioinformatics software applications.

He was a S2A3 Medal nominee for the highest achieving MSc student in the College of Health Sciences in 2014, presented a research article at a CHPC National Meeting held at Skukuza also in 2014, received a certificate for presenting a research study at a Pharmacy Conference in Cape Town in 2013, and received a certificate for presenting a research study at UniZulu’s 3rd Annual Science and Agriculture Symposium in 2009. Mhlongo has submitted five co-authored papers to international peer-reviewed journals. 

‘He is a dedicated researcher with an ability to impart knowledge and is currently mentoring masters and PhD students in my research laboratory,’ said Soliman. ‘His focus areas are in molecular modelling of drug targets and design of inhibitors against infectious diseases and disorders, including tuberculosis and diabetes, through the application of advanced computational chemistry tools.’

Mhlongo said viral resistance to effective HIV-1 protease inhibitors, coupled with adversities in compliance with laborious treatment protocols, had become a great obstacle which required a unique strategy for the design of new (GH) inhibitors. He has submitted a post-doctoral research proposal to Soliman’s lab examining the potential of Glycoside Hydrolases (GH) as HIV entry inhibitors and a cure for AIDS.

Lunga Memela


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Nigerian Couple Complete Cutting-Edge Research During Postgrad Studies

Nigerian Couple Complete Cutting-Edge Research During Postgrad Studies
Dr Adeola Shobo and his wife, Christiana.

A Nigerian couple, Dr Adeola Shobo and his wife, Christiana, completed cutting-edge research during their postgraduate studies at UKZN.

Adeola was awarded his PhD in mass spectrometry and bioanalytical chemistry while Christiana completed her Master of Medical Science (Medical Microbiology) degree summa cum laude.

UKZN’s Professor Sabiha Essack and Professor Thavi Govender supervised their research.

Adeola, a Chartered Chemist of the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria, moved to South Africa with his wife after being accepted to read for his PhD at UKZN’s Catalysis and Peptide Research Unit (CPRU) headed by Govender.

Using the two mass spectrometry techniques, Adeola’s study, titled: “Mass Spectrometric Investigation and Drug Distribution Studies of Selected Anti-Tubercular Drugs”, showed - for the first time - the time-dependent distribution of anti-tubercular drugs in the anatomical features of the brain.

‘The study has further given insight to reasons why some pulmonary TB drugs might not be effective for the treatment of this form of extrapulmonary TB,’ said Adeola. ‘While other imaging techniques rely on radiolabeling of the drug, mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) is a label free approach that does not modify the structure of the parent drug for purpose of imaging.’

Currently collaborating with Govender and Professor Gert Kruger on a strategy for nano-formulation of TB drugs and appropriate route of administration, the recently appointed post-doctoral fellow has heightened awareness in Africa of the MSI technique, and further proves the need for the duo techniques to be complementary tools in drug distribution studies.

Adeola is Govender’s first PhD student in mass spectrometry and bioanalytical chemistry to achieve nine publications in peer-reviewed ISI rated journals since 2013.

Christiana said the increasing incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria which causes intestinal infections, Campylobacter spp, was a major challenge in developed and developing countries. ‘Although it generally causes self-limiting gastro-enteritis in humans, antibiotic interventions are required in children, the elderly, pregnant and immunocompromised people.’

Her study found evidence of increasing resistance to antibiotics used for the empirical treatment of campylobacteriosis when she investigated clinical isolates of Campylobacter spp. from a private clinical laboratory in KwaZulu-Natal. This suggested that susceptibility-informed antibiotic therapy and vigorous surveillance must be established to decrease the incidence and spread of antibiotic- resistant Campylobacter spp.

‘My family is “super-excited”,’ said Adeola. ‘My mother said there had been joy in her heart since the completion of the degree, while my wife and son act as if the doctoral degree is theirs.’

Lunga Memela


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Top Speech-Language Pathology Student Graduates Cum Laude

Top Speech-Language Pathology Student Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Janelle Bricknell.

Ms Janelle Bricknell (22) graduated as the Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology’s Best Academic, Clinical and Community Practicals final-year student.

The 2011 Dux of Danville Park Girl’s High School said she did her best in tests and practicals but never with the specific goal of graduating cum laude, so the achievements had come as ‘a pleasant surprise’.

‘I am happy that the hard work paid off. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family, the amazing friends I studied with, and dedicated lecturers,’ she said.

It was her Grade 11 work experience in the profession that inspired her to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. ‘I enjoyed it so much that I did more experience on my own during matric.’

‘The most important thing is to study something that is going to allow you to do what makes you happy,’ said Bricknell.

‘It’s now my goal to earn both my masters and a PhD.  I’m enjoying working, especially in the area of childhood development.’

A devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who loves reading and spending time with family, Bricknell said it was important for young people to realise they had the opportunity to earn a degree and contribute something to the world.

‘I really enjoyed my student experience. My lecturers were so diligent and I’m grateful to the department for their dedication to us as students,’ she said.

Lunga Memela


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PhD Informs Strategy to Address Near Vision Anomalies in High School Children

PhD Informs Strategy to Address Near Vision Anomalies in High School Children
Dr Samuel Otabor Wajuihian.

Dr Samuel Otabor Wajuihian of Nigeria obtained a PhD in Optometry after performing vision screening on over 1 200 students in the uThungulu District to identify quantity and develop strategies to address near vision anomalies in high school children.

Previous studies on school children in South Africa focused mainly on refractive errors. Near vision anomalies were found to be more prevalent in his study population.

Wajuihian said near vision anomalies affected clarity, binocularity, and impaired comfort and efficiency of visual performance of an individual when near tasks such as reading and working on the computer were performed.

His study investigated refractive errors (errors of focusing of light on the eye), accommodation (the ability of the eye to focus and adjust its muscles which enables it to obtain clear images at different distances) and the vergence system which relates to the ability of the two eyes to work as a team and co-ordinate what is seen so that a person sees a single object with two eyes at a time. He then developed a programme on how these anomalies can be identified at school level.

‘For the school-aged child and especially high school students, near vision anomalies and associated symptoms tend to increase as the child progresses through school when demand increases on the visual system for sustained clear vision due to prolonged reading and increased information processing.’

The strategy document developed from Wajuihian’s study facilitates screening for these anomalies at school settings. It determines the characteristics of near vision anomalies and symptoms in order to develop a strategy to identify and treat them before students register for tertiary education. It also fills a gap in the ophthalmic literature by providing data for near vision anomalies in high school students  ‘which has not been addressed in any racial group in South Africa or elsewhere in Africa’.

Wajuihian was attracted to UKZN because of its research excellence and obtained his master’s degree and latest accolade partly funded by the College of Health Sciences.

Married with children and a lover of music, reading and research-writing, Wajuihian has been self-employed in a private practice optometry business for 25 years.

Wajuihian, who boasts about 20 research articles in local and international journals, said he looked forward to venturing into academia and research because mentoring young researchers was his passion.

‘Dr Wajuihian is congratulated on his well-deserved accomplishment,’ said his supervisor, Dr Rekha Hansraj. ‘He has worked conscientiously and tirelessly throughout the degree and his work has been of a highly commendable standard. I wish him well in all future endeavours.’

Lunga Memela


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Elderly to Benefit from Study by Master’s Saliva Researcher

Elderly to Benefit from Study by Master’s Saliva Researcher
Ms Prathna Dudhrajh.

UKZN staff member, Ms Prathna Dudhrajh, obtained her Master’s degree in Sport Science after completing a novel study on saliva, which will help improve the lives of senior citizens.

Supervised by Sport Science and Physiotherapy experts, Professor Andrew McKune and Dr Serela Ramklass, her study was titled: “Effects of Group Exercise on Salivary Biomarkers of Mucosal Immunity and Hypothalamic-Pituitary Adrenal Axis Activation in Older Persons Living in Aged Care Facilities”.

‘My friends and family are extremely pleased and proud of my achievements,’ said the ecstatic College of Health Sciences (CHS) Postgraduate, Research, Ethics and Higher Degrees Officer.

Her experimental study measured salivary biomarkers in 95 elderly folk aged between 60 and 86, 40 of whom did physical exercise twice a week, and 45 who exercised three times a week.

It was the first time mucosal immunity (secretory IgA), salivary cortisol and salivary DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) were tested in South Africa’s elderly population living in aged care facilities.

The study found that training two or three times a week helped increase mucosal immunity among the participants and this was significant because it enhanced their immune defence in the upper respiratory tract (URT).

‘Secretory IgA is the first line of defence against URT infections such as the common cold, corona viruses and rhinoviruses,’ Dudhrajh explained. ‘The increase in DHEA shows promise that long term exercise has the potential to increase DHEA levels in the elderly further enhancing their mucosal immunity. This programme can be adapted to become part of the daily activity in aged care facilities. Such a programme may lead to increased quality of life, decrease in chronic and URTI diseases, better mobility and a decrease in frailty.’

Dudhrajh said the number of elderly people in South Africa was on the up and there was increased incidence of chronic diseases, stress and disability among that population group. ‘Increased physical activity or exercise play an important role in reducing the negative effects of ageing. However, there is no research examining the effects of exercise on markers of immunity and stress in older persons residing in aged care facilities in South Africa.’

Dudhrajh’s study was conducted as part of a CHS intervention to improve quality of life for residents of old age homes. ‘I would like to continue with the saliva research as it is still a new field in South Africa and I may consider pursuing a PhD in a similar field’.

Dudhrajh thanked her supervisors and Mr Sonny Govender for his ‘invaluable assistance and advice during the lab work’.

She is currently doing a three-year course in Vedic Studies run by the Arya Samaj South Africa, which she will complete in June next year. ‘It is very different from my master’s work and I would like to focus my attention on this for a while as it brings me closer to my spiritual life,’ she said.

Dudhrajh is involved in a number of religious and cultural activities, a regular gym goer, enjoys knitting and baking, and is an active member of the Arya Samaj South Africa.

‘I enjoy spending time with my family and friends as well as my dogs. My faith in God keeps me going and my parents are my greatest pillar of strength.’ She said she was grateful to them for allowing her to follow her various passions in life and letting her become the individual she is.

Lunga Memela


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Compassionate Audiology Student Graduates Top of Her Class

Compassionate Audiology Student Graduates Top of Her Class
Ms Minette Lister.

Ms Minette Lister (22) graduated as UKZN’s top Audiology student.

Among her many achievements are being awarded Colours for Academics and Dramatic Arts at Durban Girls’ College, being invited to become a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society at UKZN, and receiving Dean’s Commendations for every semester throughout her studies.

Lister scooped the SASLHA Prize and Susan M Swart Award for the Best Final Year Student for her outstanding academic performance as well as the South African Association for Audiologists’ award for Best Student in Practical Audiology.

‘It was overwhelming to be told that I was the top student in my Discipline. I feel incredibly overjoyed to know that all the hard work over these four years has paid off.’

‘My family were very supporting during my degree. I could not have got through the four years without my supportive parents and loving husband. Needless to say, they are thrilled for me and are very proud of my hard work.’

Lister says she has always been interested in health care and helping people so that passion, combined with her interest in Deaf culture, made studying Audiology at UKZN an obvious choice.  ‘I was lucky enough to be among very intelligent and talented individuals in my class, who worked just as hard as I did, so I was surprised about this achievement,’ she said.

An event that stood out during her studies was Deaf Awareness Day which their fourth-year class hosted in 2015. ‘It was a fun day involving a talent show, planting a tree, dancing and lots of fun and games. The day was aimed at recognising the Deaf culture and raising awareness about it.’

She is also passionate about singing and has been receiving vocal training for 10 years.

Currently completing a year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre, Lister said she feels the future holds many opportunities - ‘the most exciting one being a charity organisation, Hear is Hope, which aims to raise funds for hearing impaired individuals who cannot afford hearing aids. I am hoping to take this further to help a wider population’.

Grateful to God, Lister advised younger students to keep their eyes on the end goal and see everything in perspective. ‘There are so many things during your studies and in life in general that can seem like the end of the world, but turn out to be valuable lessons that will stand you in good stead later in life. Learn from your mistakes, consistently work hard and it will all be worth it,’ she said.

Lunga Memela


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Best Friends and “Small Town Girls” Top UKZN’s Physiotherapy Class of 2015

Best Friends and “Small Town Girls” Top UKZN’s Physiotherapy Class of 2015
Ms Melody Fitch and Ms Chante’ Sander.

UKZN’s Best Overall Physiotherapy students are cum laude graduates and best friends, Ms Melody Fitch and Ms Chante’ Sander.

They received their Bachelor of Physiotherapy degrees amid much applause from their peers and supportive family members.

Fitch and Sander are both “small-town girls” who made a huge success of their studies at UKZN. They grew up within 20km from each other, Fitch in Swartberg - a farming community in the Drakensberg - and Sander in Franklin, a small town between Kokstad and Underberg.

‘I saw the positive impact physiotherapy had on the lives of my grandfather and father who both suffered terrible illnesses so I  decided  that I  would  like to be able to help people in a similar way,’ said Sander.

‘My highlights at varsity were definitely the amazing group of friends I met, living and studying with my best friend Melody, working at different events  as a student physiotherapist and just being able to  help such a diverse group of patients in different hospitals,’ Sander said.

‘I feel good and really happy about graduating cum laude; it definitely wasn't something I was expecting. Getting my degree means that I can be independent and help others,’ said Sander.

She intends to pursue her master’s degree while working at a hospital.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Fitch a former St Patrick’s College Head Prefect and senior Dux, who excelled in sports such as the athletics, swimming, running, and hockey.

Fitch, now learning to play the guitar, said obtaining her degree was a big achievement because it meant ‘I can stand on my own two feet while growing in the profession and pursing my personal interests.

‘One of the main highlights of being a student was at the beginning of third-year when I took on a cervical spinal cord patient. The patient was extremely determined to get her function back and pushed herself in therapy. When I left the block she was managing to sit for a few minutes unsupported. Later in the year the same patient asked one of the other students in the block to let me know that she had stood up for the first time and that she was very grateful for all we had done.’

Physiotherapy Academic Leader, Dr Thayananthee Nadasan said, ‘On behalf of the Physiotherapy Discipline, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to both students on their excellent achievements. We wish them everything of the best in their future endeavours.’

Lunga Memela


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23 High-Achievers in Pharmaceutical Sciences

23 High-Achievers in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Top Pharmacy students celebrate success.

UKZN’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Discipline produced an impressive set of 23 top achievers - 12 graduated summa cum laude and 11 cum laude.

The Discipline named Mr Sashen Naidoo of Bakerville Gardens and Ms Naeema Bayat of Mayville as its Best Overall Students, with Bayat, whose parents are both pharmacists, scooping the Best Pharmacology Student and Best Pharmaceutics Student awards.

‘It’s truly a great yet humbling feeling, my class was an extremely brilliant bunch and I'm so fortunate to have studied amongst them,’ she said.

The Best Pharmaceutical Chemistry Student award went to Naidoo who said: ‘There is a sense of pride, honour and accomplishment, as well as a sense of relief, knowing that all of those long nights of hard work have paid off. Words do not adequately describe these feelings.

‘Sadly, my dad passed away in 2014, but I know that he was and still is always guiding me. My mum has to be the strongest person I know. Besides being our pillar of strength, she is my biggest critic and an even greater fan. My brother is very proud of me and I hope that I can continue to be an excellent role model for him,’ said Naidoo who enjoyed and excelled in Biology, Chemistry and Physics in school.

‘Logging onto Student Central and seeing that “Degree Complete” sign above your results, trust me, it is one of the best feelings in the world,’ said cum laude graduate, Ms Yuthika Prahladh. ‘In a way, I did expect to do well, but more than that I put in the time and effort because I enjoyed what I was studying.’

‘I definitely want to further my studies,’ said Ms Abigail Mukaro of Zimbabwe whose family moved to South Africa in 2008. ‘The health sector is always expanding so I want to learn more and continue my professional development in the pharmaceutical field. I am mostly interested in clinical pharmacy so that’s where I see myself in future.’

‘I would like pursue my master’s degree after community service next year,’ said Ms Shamera Bridglall who is currently doing her internship at King Dinuzulu Hospital. ‘When my results were released, I think my parents were more excited about it than me! Coming from an academically inclined background where both my parents are teachers, I know that they are proud of this achievement.’

Pharmaceutical Sciences Academic Leader, Professor Thirumala Govender said: ‘The impressive performance can be attributed to the high performing matriculants we recruit at UKZN and the hard work of both students and staff. We wish them every success and trust that they will translate their outstanding academic results into being the best practising pharmacists serving their communities.’

The Dean and Head of School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman said this was indeed an impressive achievement for the discipline, congratulated and wished all the students the very best of luck in the future.

Lunga Memela


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Top Honours for Sport Science Graduate

Top Honours for Sport Science Graduate
Ms Tayla Henry.

Hard work and a passion for people and sport helped Ms Tayla Henry (22) graduate with a summa cum laude Bachelor of Sport Science degree.

Henry topped her class at UKZN after receiving Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Scholarships in 2014 and 2015 respectively for academic excellence.

‘I have always had a keen interest in sport and how the body works and Sport Science combined those two fields perfectly,’ said Henry.

She received Dean’s commendations every semester at UKZN, became a member of the Golden Key International Honours Society and served as a College of Health Science Peer Wellness Mentor, which she found very rewarding.

At school, Henry played netball, first-team soccer and was a member of the gymnastics team. She said she still enjoyed coaching gymnastics as well as socialising with friends, spending time with family and traveling and exploring new places.

‘It is an honour to be graduating as a top student and I am proud of my achievements,’ said Henry. ‘I have worked hard throughout my degree but I did not expect to perform as well as I have. My family are proud of my achievements and have fully supported me throughout my years at varsity.’

Henry, who is currently completing her Biokinetics Honours degree, intends serving a year’s internship at a registered Biokinetics practice before entering the working world.

She has enjoyed her lectures as well as supporting the UKZN Impi in Varsity Shield rugby games.

Henry advised students entering tertiary education to do a bit of work every day because it helped in the long run. ‘You also need to ensure time for non-academic activities to achieve a healthy balance.’ 

Lunga Memela


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Eastern Cape Nurse Graduates Cum Laude

Eastern Cape Nurse Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Khululwa Jakuja.

Eastern Cape nurse Ms Khululwa Jakuja, was awarded her Bachelor of Nursing (Advanced Practice) degree cum laude.

‘I knew I put in a lot of work but it was never about being a top student; just giving my best to a commitment I had made to advance my career,’ she said.

‘This degree is a stepping stone to bigger achievements. I hope to integrate what I have learned and become a better professional and a credit to my field,’ she said.

Prayer keeps Jakuja going, ‘Sometimes when the going gets tough it’s not the worldly aspirations we have that keep us focused but rather it is the ability and willingness to kneel down and pray.’

She advised those who were still studying to persevere, saying there was a great sense of achievement in perseverance.

According to Jakuja (36), who is from Mount Ayliff, her family is very excited about her success. ‘I come from a very supportive family so of course they are excited for me. My mother and siblings are proud of my achievements and I cannot imagine life without their support.’

Jakuja, who has a daughter in matric, said her drive and ambition came from within. ‘If there is anything anyone should strive for it is to always look from within when seeking validation for achievements.’

 Nombuso Dlamini


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Lecturer Develops Evidence-Based Clinical Algorithm to Assess Children with Hypotonia

Lecturer Develops Evidence-Based Clinical Algorithm to Assess Children with Hypotonia
Dr Pragashnie Govender.

UKZN Occupational Therapy Lecturer, Dr Pragashnie Govender, was awarded her PhD after developing a new evidence-based clinical algorithm to assess children presenting with decreased muscle tone that results in hypotonia (floppiness).

Her study was published in eight journals, some of them high impact and positioned within the greater goal of child health and presented in Spain, Japan, the USA and Africa. The study, focused on ‘early detection for early intervention’ in children who present with a symptom of hypotonia, also found in a number of neurological and genetic conditions.

The clinical assessment of hypotonia remains contentious and continues to pose dilemmas for clinicians in the field, given that the initial assessment is often subjective in nature and that the presentation of hypotonia can be either a benign or malignant sign, Govender observed.

‘Currently, there are no standardised assessment tools for children and the incidence is difficult, given that it is a symptom of a number of conditions or disorders. There is a need for the scientific community to establish a level of consensus on the initial clinical assessment of hypotonia and move towards more accurate assessment and diagnosis to implement appropriate management.’

Govender said following a qualitative critique, and revisions, the evidence-based clinical algorithm was constructed prior to being exposed to an appraisal process to assess the quality of the algorithm. ‘Accurate assessment for early detection and intervention in childhood diagnoses remain a priority for all clinicians involved in the field of paediatrics with findings of this study responding to the need for more evidenced-based assessment, thus advancing goals related to child health with respect to early detection and intervention.’

‘I was fortunate enough to have had opportunity to present at a roundtable session at a Mixed Methods Conference in San Antonio in 2015, and to engage with leaders in the field such as John W Creswell, David Morgan, A Onwuegbuzie and M Sandelowski to name a few,’ said Govender – the second UKZN staffer to graduate with a PhD in OT since the Discipline’s operation.

Govender has been accepted onto a two-year medical education fellowship with the sub-Saharan Africa FAIMER Regional Institute; is actively involved in postgraduate supervision of both master’s and PhD candidates within and across disciplines, and continues with interdisciplinary research initiatives in the School of Health Sciences. 

Govender received numerous scholarships and grants which helped her complete her PhD and early dissemination of research findings. She is the first generation graduate in her family. She gave special thanks to her supportive husband saying their union coincided with the beginning of the PhD journey.

‘I am actively engaged in my community and church activities especially working with young adults. I was groomed by a grandmother with no formal education and a mother who did not have the opportunity to complete secondary education due to the family’s socio-economic status at the time and historical systems that prevailed,’ Govender shared.

She was thrilled to graduate with her an OT Masters student and staff member that she supervised while doing her PhD, Ms Lauren Hepworth, whose study was titled: “Current Trends in Splinting the Hand for Children with Neurological Impairments”.

‘I look forward to developing a research portfolio and engaging in research that can be translated to the communities that we work with whilst simultaneously advancing health professions education in order to improve global health,’ said Govender.

Lunga Memela


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PhD for Researcher Looking to Help Improve Management and Care of Mental Health Sufferers

PhD for Researcher Looking to Help Improve Management and Care of Mental Health Sufferers
Dr Faith Nana Dube.

A UKZN PhD study conducted by Dr Faith Nana Dube explored strategies to improve the management and care of people suffering mental health conditions.

Titled: “The Outcomes of Implementing the Department of Health Mental Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Psychiatric Patients at Primary Health Care Clinics”, the study examined the practice adopted and implemented by primary health care (PHC) nurses when managing people with mental health conditions.

It also focused on PHC nurses behaviour while attending to people with mental health conditions at PHC clinics.

Dube conducted the research while she was working as Mental Health Co-ordinator at the District Office in the uThungulu Health District from January 2006 to December 2013. She visited the clinics to monitor the delivery of mental health care services and to provide support.

‘During these support visits, I identified a lot of gaps in the management of people with mental health conditions. I then decided to embark on this study by involving local PHC nurses through action research in defining the problem and finding ways of implementing solutions for the problem,’ she said.

She said her thesis used mixed methods, qualitative and quantitative. ‘Using mixed methods is time consuming and it drains you emotionally and physically because you have to triangulate the data from different sources and come up with one theme. It is even worse when you are working full-time and you are expected to meet deadlines for the employer. But at the end of it all, you gain a lot of experience,’ she said.

When she was nearing the completion of her PhD thesis, her supervisor, Professor Uys, passed away. ‘It was a very depressing time for me.’

Dube is a Nurse Manager for the Department of Health, ‘My interest is still with people with mental health conditions. I am working with the hospital Mental Health team to improve the conditions and management of people with mental health conditions.’

Dube is keen to support PHC nurses in Region 4 (Uthungulu, UMkhanyakude and Zululand districts) to improve the care and management of people with mental health conditions by implementing her findings.

She said her family was very excited as she is the first person in the family to be awarded a doctorate.

Nombuso Dlamini


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