Antibiotic Resistance of Concern Amongst Veterinarians in South Africa

Antibiotic Resistance of Concern Amongst Veterinarians in South Africa
Mr Simbai Allen Maruve highlighted antibiotic resistance as a concern amongst vets in South Africa.

Mr Simbai Allen Maruve was awarded a Master’s in Medical Sciences (Pharmacology) with distinction for his study on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of veterinarians on antibiotic resistance.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics in the veterinary sector has contributed to antibiotic resistance (ABR), negatively impacting animal health and indirectly, human health which is of global concern.

Maruve is a member of UKZN’s Antimicrobial Research Unit and was supervised by the South African Chair of Antibiotic Resistance and One Health, Professor Sabiha Essack. The study was conducted with members of professional veterinary associations and assessed their knowledge, attitudes, and practices with regard to antibiotic use and ABR. Maruve said: ‘My prior degree was a Bachelor of Veterinary Science. Through my work, I realised that the effects of antibiotic resistance are already evident in animals and human beings as seen in non-healing infections with prolonged treatment and high treatment costs. I hope that my work will be of assistance in curbing the global problem of antibiotic resistance.’

The study found that the respondents’ knowledge of the pharmacology of the drugs, antibiotic stewardship and antibiotic resistance mechanisms was excellent. More than half the respondents were confident that the veterinary training they received adequately prepared them for rational antibiotic use. Most believed that antibiotics were sometimes prescribed for suspected but not confirmed infections. The study also found that the majority of the respondents were very concerned about antibiotic resistant infections.

Maruve’s study was conducted amongst veterinarians based in both rural and urban settings. The uniqueness of the various settings produced varying results in terms of knowledge and discussions held on ABR. Veterinarians in urban practice were more knowledgeable about ABR than those in rural practice. More veterinarians in rural practice frequently carried out discussions on ABR with their clients as opposed to their urban counterparts.

Recommendations from the study include the need for education and training to address gaps in knowledge and practice. ‘There is also a need to develop and implement antibiotic stewardship programmes in veterinary practice. This would cover the approaches necessary to ensure antibiotics' efficacy by optimising antibiotic use, antibiotic choice, and administration route while reducing the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Cost-effective diagnostic tests with shorter turnaround time will assist in achieving this. The programmes will encourage microbiology informed therapy and the use of guidelines for appropriate antibiotic use,’ said Maruve.

Maruve who enjoys watching medical documentaries and playing soccer plans to pursue a PhD in Pharmacology. Essack congratulated Maruve, saying: ‘His study is particularly important as it will help optimise the use of antibiotics and resistance containment in the South African veterinary sector.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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“Big Brain” Achieves Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences Summa Cum Laude

“Big Brain” Achieves Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Graduating with a Master’s in Medical Sciences summa cum laude is Mr Mikyle David.

Life has not been easy for Pietermaritzburg resident, Mr Mikyle David.

Twenty-three years ago, he was diagnosed with bilateral femoral dysplasia. His parents were faced with the choice of amputating both his legs or placing him in a wheelchair for life.

‘I’m glad they chose amputation, as it gave me a chance to walk, albeit with the use of two prosthetic limbs,’ said David who graduated with a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences summa cum laude, much to the delight of his family.

‘Despite my condition presenting a monumental challenge, I was dedicated, worked hard and with the help of my parents, persevered to overcome it. School (Heather Secondary School) came with its own adversity and challenges as educators and students alike saw me as “different”, whilst this was “normal” for me. There was something my mother once said to encourage me: “God may have taken away your legs but he gave you a big brain instead”, words that have stuck with me to this day. I used my so-called “big brain” to excel academically in school and at university,’ said David.

Supervised by Professor Anita Naicker, David investigated the concentration of adipsin and C9 in HIV-associated preeclampsia (PE). The study identified a strong correlation between the up-regulation of adipsin and PE and found that adipsin is a promising biomarker as a diagnostic tool for PE (a pregnancy-related hypertensive disorder that usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation). It is a significant public health threat in both developed and developing countries that contributes to maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality.

David, who describes himself as quite a “foodie”, enjoys eating out, spending time with family and friends and playing cricket. He is currently pursuing a PhD and is determined to achieve his goal of becoming a lecturer and great researcher.

He said: ‘This may sound very cliché, but it’s true: Life can be tough at times and there will always be obstacles in your way, but good old-fashioned hard work and determination are key.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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PhD Study Investigates Toxic Effects of a Food Borne Fungal Toxin on Liver Cells

PhD Study Investigates Toxic Effects of a Food Borne Fungal Toxin on Liver Cells
PhD graduate in Health Sciences (Medical Biochemistry), Dr Thilona Arumugam.

Dr Thilona Arumugam’s PhD in Health Sciences (Medical Biochemistry) evaluated the effect of the food borne mycotoxin, Fumonisin B1, on epigenetic changes such as methylation, micro RNA and long non-coding RNA expression.

The study demonstrated that changes to one’s epigenetic profile through exposure to Fumonisin B1 may affect cellular stress response pathways such as DNA damage responses, oxidative stress pathways and cell death, leading to hepatotoxicity and possibly carcinogenesis. This highlights the importance of good food quality.

‘I have a thirst for knowledge and a curious mind. I have dreamt of becoming a medical researcher since I was a kid and obtaining my PhD is the first step in making that dream a reality. I am humbled by the unwavering support of my family, friends and supervisors. It was also great training in perseverance and understanding myself and what I am capable of.’

She hopes to continue to contribute to the field of epigenetics and its association with diseases and use as potential therapeutic interventions. She aspires to run her own research laboratory, conducting innovative research that not only contributes to the scientific community, but society at large.

Arumugam is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Virology at UKZN and volunteers at the University’s COVID-19 testing facility.

‘My experience at UKZN was a pleasant one that gave me the opportunity to grow as a scientist and opened doors to several new experiences. I am grateful for the support and mentorship I received from my supervisor, Professor Anil Chuturgoon and co-supervisor, Dr Terisha Ghazi.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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Passion for Sport Inspires PhD Study

Passion for Sport Inspires PhD Study
Dr Osifeko Olalekan’s PhD study explores: The Development of a Professional Development Programme for Physical Activity Promotion in Adolescents’ Physical Education Classes, Nigeria.

Dr Osifeko Olalekan’s PhD study found that teachers need regular training on the promotion of physical activity (PA) and the wellness of adolescents, to reduce physical inactivity and the risk of developing various diseases.

Titled: The Development of a Professional Development Programme for Physical Activity Promotion in Adolescents’ Physical Education Classes, Nigeria, the study was supervised by Professors Rowena Naidoo and Verusia Chetty. It aimed to develop a professional development programme for physical education teachers and to evaluate its impact on students’ PA. It will empower teachers to update their expertise in, and knowledge of the subject.

The literature points to widespread physical inactivity and its harmful effect on health. Olalekan’s study proposes innovative teaching methodologies to promote PA in schools and communities. Adolescence is the gateway to adulthood and improving attitudes to PA during adolescence will improve health later in life.

Olalekan is currently writing articles with his supervisors in order to become an independent researcher.

‘I would like to obtain apostdoctoral fellowship or an opportunity to work in an academic environment to utilise my knowledge to assist African governments in the education and sports sectors,’ he said.

Olalekan grew up with a strong sense of community engagement, teamwork and an interest in sport. ‘This sparked my interest in furthering my education to serve the community that built me,’ he said.

He enjoys playing soccer, tennis, and volleyball and participating in athletics events.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Study Indicates Antibiotic Resistance to Carbapenem in an Intensive Care Unit

Study Indicates Antibiotic Resistance to Carbapenem in an Intensive Care Unit
Mr Osama Madni graduates with a Master of Pharmacy cum laude.

Mr Osama Madni graduated with a Master of Pharmacy cum laude for his study entitled, Molecular Epidemiology of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacterales Colonization in an Intensive Care Unit. A member of the UKZN Antimicrobial Research Unit headed by the South African Research Chair in Antibiotic Resistance and One Health, Professor Sabiha Essack, Madni conducted his study in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a public hospital in the uMgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal.

Cabapenems are a class of highly effective antibiotic agents commonly used to treat severe or high-risk bacterial infections. This class of antibiotics is usually reserved for known or suspected multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections.

Madni’s study found that all isolates (100%) were resistant to ertapenem and meropenem, and 71.4% were resistant to imipenem. All isolates harboured the blaOXA-181 carbapenemase (100%) and carried other ß-lactamase genes such as OXA-1, CTX-M-15, TEM-1B and SHV-1.

‘OXA-181-producing K. pneumoniae belonging to ST307 was found to be potentially endemic in the hospital ICU environment. The presence of a myriad of antibiotic-resistant genes and selected mobile genetic elements in different permutations and combinations presents challenges to clinical management and infection prevention and control measures.

‘Hence, it is recommended that a carbapenem resistance screening programme, and strict infection prevention and control measures, are implemented in ICUs. In this way, one would be able to detect and eliminate this endemic clone to prevent its spread,’ he said.

Madni was born in Sudan, north-east Africa, where he trained as a pharmacist. He graduated from the University of Khartoum - the oldest and most prestigious university in Sudan and the second to be founded in Africa. ‘I excelled through every stage of my education, and I have consistently ranked first or second in my class. I am an ambitious and confident individual who wants to make tangible change in my community. This started earlier in my undergraduate years through participation in numerous health campaigns, such as, breast cancer awareness, diabetes, hypertension, HIV, and blood donation campaigns. In addition, I participated in various medical missions and outreach convoys to rural areas around Sudan.

‘In the wake of rising inflation and poverty, expensive basic medications are a concern amongst increasingly impoverished low-income earners in Sudan. The irrational use of medications, especially antibiotics, to treat infectious diseases spreading across big geographical areas is mainly based on people’s beliefs and the similarity of their symptoms. This has given rise to the excessive use of over-the-counter drugs and antibiotics. Observing this trend inspired me to pursue postgraduate studies and gain first-hand knowledge and professional skills in antibiotic resistance in order to create awareness of antibiotic resistance.’

‘Osama is an exceptional student whose commitment to hard work and excellence makes him a young emerging researcher who can become a leading scientist in the future. The findings of his study are not only significant for the South African public health sector, but will contribute enormously to the fight against antimicrobial resistance in Africa,’ said co-supervisor of the study, Dr Luther King Abia Akebe, Leader: Molecular and Environmental Surveillance of Antibiotic Resistance based in the UKZN Antimicrobial Research Unit.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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KZN Hospital Managers Possess a Wealth of Managerial Knowledge and Experience

KZN Hospital Managers Possess a Wealth of Managerial Knowledge and Experience
Former staff member, Ms Nonnie Mabuza, graduated with a Master of Medical Science in Public Health.

Ms Nonhlakanipho (Nonnie) Mabuza was awarded a Master of Medical Science in Public Health for her study titled: Leadership Development Practices among Public Sector Hospital Managers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

The study focused on public hospital Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and their self-perception of the various management competencies required in the public health sector. It concluded that KZN hospital managers possess a wealth of managerial knowledge and experience.

Resource-constrained public health facilities in South Africa require competent and effective leadership in order to deliver quality health services to the communities they serve. Various leadership development strategies have been implemented in order to capacitate hospital CEOs for their high-level managerial functions.

According to Mabuza: ‘The CEOs in my study believed they have good leadership skills. Over half (58.8%) of the participants held a postgraduate degree. Of all the participants with postgraduate qualifications, 17.6% held a master’s degree as their highest qualification, and 11.8% a doctorate. The rest held different types of postgraduate qualifications. The majority of the participants had been in a senior management post for at least 10 years and none reported having less than two years’ experience as CEO.’

The CEOs who participated in the study felt confident in performing their duties and much of this is due to the National Department of Health implementing Project Khaedu designed as an action learning programme to empower managers, through various processes of learning reinforcement and practice, to bring about change within their own area of operational control. Most of the participants took part in programmes to upskill and also formed networks with senior managers for mentoring purposes. Mabuza found that most of the participants believed they could perform key leadership competencies such as time management, financial management, financial analysis, service delivery innovation, negotiation, strategic capability and leadership, programme and project management, as well as communication. ‘Competencies that fewer CEOs felt confident completing are change management, community engagement, resource management, and being a team player,’ she said.

Mabuza arrived at UKZN as a research assistant funded by the National Research Foundation. She applied for the Master’s in Public Health degree and secured a scholarship from the South African Medical Research Council. In order to supplement her income, she worked as a part-time Clinical Placement Officer within the Physiotherapy Discipline.

Recalling her time at UKZN, Mabuza said: ‘During my first year of work, I remember that our academic leader, Professor Saul Cobbing (supervisor of my study) shared an article on giving and sharing in the workplace; and the importance of being a giver has been continuously highlighted and emphasised in the office. I have seen the staff in this discipline continuously sharing skills and information with others. They always say if one of us shines, the whole discipline shines. I was always valued and encouraged to share input on academic matters. The conversations we had on various life matters have shifted my outlook on life. I now approach it as a braver and more courageous person.’

Mabuza, who was raised in a single parent household, is currently serving a pre-PhD internship within the South African Research Chair: Research on the Health Workforce for Equity and Quality, based at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Doctoral Degree for Study on a Therapeutic Strategy to end Tuberculosis

Doctoral Degree for Study on a Therapeutic Strategy to end Tuberculosis
Dr Adeniyi Thompson Adewumi graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Dr Adeniyi Thompson Adewumi - who describes himself as an unrelenting person, a goal getter, and a dream achiever who never entertains fear in difficult times - was awarded a PhD for his study titled: Therapeutic Strategy to end Tuberculosis (TB) World: Structural and Functional Characterization of Potential Weak Hotspots of Mycobacterium tuberculosis Molecular Targets from Combinatorial in silico Perspective.

The study was conducted under the auspices of UKZN’s Molecular Bio-Computation and Drug Design Laboratory and supervised by Professor Mahmoud Soliman who is one of UKZN’s top researchers.

Adewumi has co-authored 11 scientific research publications in renowned peer-reviewed journals. Some of the research outputs led to the discovery of specific structures such as the Thompson loop in a Mycobacterium tuberculosis protein critical to designing a new antitubercular agent. He used computational techniques to understand the chromosomal mutations associated in selected genes of drug resistant TB.

Said Adewumi: ‘Recently, the critical roles of demethylmenaquinone methyltransferase (menG), secreted antigen 85C (Ag85C), and N-acetylglucosamine-6-phosphate deacetylase (NagA) proteins were reported in the survival, pathogenesis, virulence, and drug resistance of Mtb. These targets have gained considerable attention in drug discovery pipelines, but little is known about menG due to the lack of crystal structure and active site regions. Through the use of computational methods, we sought to understand the structural and functional features at the atomistic level of the three-dimensional structure of the menG.’

He believes that the findings of his study will provide the structural silhouette for pharmaceutical scientists and molecular biologists to identify and design novel antimycobacterial drugs, especially for TB.

Adewumi, who is married with a daughter, holds two masters degrees - one in Analytical and Environmental Chemistry from Redeemer’s University in Nigeria, and another in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Ibadan, also in Nigeria. On hearing the news of his graduation, he commented: ‘Really! I am still shocked I made it at last. Indeed, I have completed my PhD degree by God’s grace. Professor Mahmoud Soliman accepted me to join his laboratory and gave me so much confidence, one of the things that helped me to succeed.

Despite almost two years of revolving, I had three required publications that qualified me to graduate in a year. Moreover, I produced five other published articles as collaborative work. Awesome! I never thought I would complete my PhD, but I did. All thanks to Almighty God.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Audiology Student Graduates Cum Laude

Audiology Student Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Nazeera Peerbhay.

‘Nothing brings more joy than knowing my hard work has paid off,’ said UKZN’s top Bachelor of Audiology graduate, Ms Nazeera Peerbhay.

‘It was not expected, especially since we faced many challenges in our final-year due to COVID-19,’ she added.

Peerbhay aims to complete her community service at the Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre, and thereafter, pursue a Master’s in Audiology at UKZN.

She commented that she enjoys building a relationship with the deaf community and learning to communicate on a different level. ‘This profession has allowed me to meet and interact with incredible people. I am a people’s person and I love being able to interact with patients and make a difference in their lives.’

While Peerbhay encountered challenges with regard to time management as the degree can be quite demanding, perseverance and determination paid off, alongside support from her family and God.

‘COVID-19 hindered Audiology students in obtaining clinical practice in the field. Furthermore, we were forced to adapt to the new normal of studying online, which I initially struggled with. Not being in a classroom/lecture room environment affected concentration abilities as we were expected to look at a screen for hours at a time. However, I pictured my goal to achieve cum laude and knew that if I work hard, nothing could stop me from achieving it.’

Peerbhay describes herself as a creative person who enjoys traveling, painting, and baking. ‘I love trying new dishes and cuisine but my all-time favourite will always be pasta.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Top Dental Therapy Student

Top Dental Therapy Student
Ms Nokuphila Sangweni graduates cum laude.

Ms Nokuphila Sangweni was delighted to be awarded her Bachelor of Dental Therapy cum laude despite confronting the challenges caused by COVID-19 in her final year.

‘I am so happy,’ said the 20-year-old who is currently in her first year of Medicine at UKZN.

She said Dental Therapy was her second choice after Medicine: ‘I've always wanted to work with people and be able to help them.’

While the COVID-19 pandemic limited clinical training, she thanked her lecturers for their support.

‘Whenever I felt like things were not going as planned, my family helped in terms of support, and we had great lecturers who were patient with us and easy to talk to,’ said Sangweni, who hails from KwaMaphumulo and has four siblings.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Audiology Master’s Student Graduates Summa Cum Laude

Audiology Master’s Student Graduates <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Ms Michaela Sewpersad master’s study explored whether the trend in public health to rationally redistribute tasks to lower cadres could address human resources shortages.

Ms Michaela Sewpersad was awarded her Master’s in Audiology summa cum laude.

Supervised by Ms Nasim Banu Khan, Sewpersad’s study was titled: A Mixed Methods Systematic Scoping Review on Task-Shifting in Audiology: Training and Experiences of Community Healthcare Workers. It examined whether the trend in public health to rationally redistribute tasks to lower cadres could address human resources shortages.

‘This is pertinent for audiology where access to hearing health services in low to middle-income countries is either limited or completely absent, yet these are the countries with the highest prevalence of hearing loss,’ said Sewpersad.

This study investigated the extent to which community healthcare workers (CHW) have been trained to provide hearing health services. ‘This research is particularly important for policy-makers looking to implement a CHW model of service delivery in terms of what training is most effective and CHW responsiveness to such training,’ she said.

In the midst of COVID-19, Sewpersad had to reconceptualise her study and towards the tail-end of her study, she was working full-time; was involved in an accident; and had a very close encounter with nature. ‘Don’t feed wild animals, they bite!’ she quipped.

Sewpersad’s interest in audiology was ignited when her mother was diagnosed with a vestibular schwannoma, a tumour infringing primarily on the vestibulo-cochlear nerve that is responsible for equilibrium maintenance and hearing. ‘I grew up witnessing the impact of a loss of hearing and balance in my mom’s life, and how she strived to ensure her difficulties did not affect her outlook on life or impede her professional growth,’ she said.

She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Audiology cum laude in 2018 and was the top performing audiology student in clinical practice, theory, and community outreach. She obtained Dean’s Commendations every semester and was admitted to the Golden Key International Honour Society.

Sewpersad thanked God, her parents for their encouragement, her partner for his unwavering support and Khan for her guidance and commitment. ‘This project reflects her passion for public health and her skilfulness as a researcher with great foresight and grounding.’

She is currently anaudiologist in the Department of Health and plans to pursue a PhD in Audiology.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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First Class Bachelor of Physiotherapy Awarded Posthumously

First Class Bachelor of Physiotherapy Awarded Posthumously
Gone too soon: The late Ms Charlotte Dube who was described as a “gem”.

Ms Charlotte Dube will graduate with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy despite being tragically killed in a violent taxi incident on 10 April 2021, a month before her graduation ceremony.

Staff from the Discipline of Physiotherapy paid an emotional tribute to Dube - who was to be awarded her degree first class.

Dube grew up in rural Nquthu and was raised by her grandmother. Her best friend, Ms Anza Magadani recalled her childhood reflections: ‘She often mentioned to me that her grandmother shaped who she was which is to be passionate about education. She used to tell me that her grandmother would literally drag her to school when she didn't want to go, especially when it was raining or if it was too cold. She pushed her to be her very best. Unfortunately, her grandmother died in 2018 before she could see the success she groomed, but Charlotte continued to work hard in order to make her (grandmother) happy and proud.’

Dube attended Ezichole Secondary School where she participated in poetry and storytelling. After completing Grade 12, she joined UKZN where she studied towards a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biological Sciences and was later nominated for a Golden Key International award. In 2017, she applied for a Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree.

Staff in the Discipline of Physiotherapy said in their email notice to the UKZN community: ‘Charlotte came to our Department from another academic discipline, which is an exceptionally hard route to take into the profession, as very few students are selected this way. This demonstrated her love for physiotherapy which she continued to show throughout her four years in our department. She was always the first student to volunteer for extra-curricular events and always encouraged and motivated her fellow classmates. She left her mark on qualified physiotherapists as well, with a number of staff from the hospitals where our students did their clinical placement contacting us with their memories of Charlotte. She was always near the top of her class and would have been graduating next week, with her degree to be awarded in first class (above 75%), a very rare achievement in the Discipline of Physiotherapy. Her excellent academic ability resulted in her being offered a scholarship to return to UKZN to do her master’s and she was already in discussions with us regarding her chosen topic.’

Dube participated in many events at UKZN and also assisted the College of Health Science’s Public Relations team in Open Days where she promoted the Discipline of Physiotherapy to high school learners.

‘I would say she was an entertainer,’ said Magadani. ‘There was never a moment where you could be angry or sad around Charlotte. She made sure that everyone is smiling and laughing. She was the one responsible for organising trips and catch-up sessions amongst her friends. She made jokes about anything and everything. She made friends in almost all the health departments in UKZN (something which is very rare) because she was someone you could easily talk to. Her greatest talent that even the Physiotherapy department got to experience, was her ability to imitate every lecturer - their tone, facial expressions and body movements when lecturing. She was a gem. Her motto in life was “Invest in yourself, invest in your mind, life owes you nothing. In the meantime, never stop having fun (ungazincishi i-nice life)”.’

At Dube’s funeral, staff from the Discipline said: ‘Her passing is a huge loss to our profession as we have absolutely no doubt that she would have gone on to be an inspirational leader and mentor in the field of South African physiotherapy. She was so dear to us and leaves a huge gap in our hearts. We send our deep and sincere condolences to her family and want to thank you for letting your daughter be part of our family for four years. Thank you to Charlotte for gracing our lives with her presence. We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to have known you. Lala ngoxolo Charlotte, you will be greatly missed.’

In honour of Dube, the Discipline has created a ‘Charlotte Dube Award’ for the student that best exemplifies the Physiotherapy Profession. This year’s recipient of the award is Mr Thabang Ratopola.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Research Investigates Intimate Partner Violence Against HIV Positive Women

Research Investigates Intimate Partner Violence Against HIV Positive Women
PhD in Nursing graduate, Dr Felix Apiribu.

Dr Felix Apiribu was awarded a PhD in Nursing for his research on Perpetration of Intimate Partner Violence against HIV Positive Women Following Status Disclosure: A Phenomenological Study in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

Supervised by Professors Busisiwe Ncama and Sinegugu Evidence Duma, the study explored and described men’s perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV) against their female heterosexual partners following the disclosure of an HIV positive status by a female partner.

‘In recognition of the fact that HIV and IPV are complex and intertwined public health problems, I sought to explore and describe men’s lived experiences of perpetrating IPV following disclosure of a seropositive HIV status and the meaning attached to the experiences to inform the development of culturally appropriate assessment guidelines for IPV following disclosure of seropositive HIV status in Ghana,’ explained Apiribu.

He used an exploratory qualitative research design and a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to collect data from male participants who perpetrated IPV against HIV positive women.

Eighteen participants were recruited from HIV clinics in two hospitals subsequent to their female partners disclosing their HIV status. Potential participants were screened for recent perpetration of IPV and excluded if their partners stated that they had a weapon, if they were incarcerated or too ill to speak for themselves or if they were mentally ill.

The study found that men’s perpetration of IPV against HIV seropositive women impacted both the perpetrator and the victim. It recommends that all HIV patients, male and female, be screened for intimate partner abuse. Further studies should also be conducted on the views of female victims of IPV.

Apiribu is currently a senior lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He aims to establish research collaborations to conduct further research on violence in intimate partner relationships as well as partner relationships as well as Gender-Based Violence in Ghana and the world as a whole. ‘It would be interesting to establish why most men who also tested positive for HIV thought that it was their partners who brought shame and the disease to the family and never considered themselves responsible.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Wastewater Treatment Plants are a Reservoir for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Wastewater Treatment Plants are a Reservoir for Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Mr Siyabonga Gumede graduated with a Master of Medical Sciences in Medical Microbiology.

Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) have long been recognised as reservoirs for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes.

This could pose a public health threat should they be spread to receiving surface waters because of sub-optimal water treatment. Mr Siyabonga Gumede, a member of UKZN’s Antimicrobial Research Unit, conducted a study titled: Phenotypic and Genotypic Characterisation of Extended-Spectrum ß-Lactamase-Producing E. coli Isolated From Wastewater Treatment Plants in the uMgungundlovu District, Kwazulu-Natal, which earned him a Master of Medical Sciences in Medical Microbiology.

Gumede’s study aimed to phenotypically and genotypically characterise extended-spectrum ß-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli from the influent and effluent of WWTPs in the uMgungundlovu District. ESBLs are enzymes that break down the broad spectrum 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins that are categorised as “watch” and “reserve” antibiotics on the World Health Organization’s essentials medicine list.

The study found that ESBL prevalence was phenotypically evident in the isolates, 77% of which were confirmed to carry ß-lactamase genes. Alarmingly, 73% of the isolates were multidrug-resistant (MDR), displaying resistance to one or more antibiotics from three different antibiotic classes, and only two isolates were susceptible to all antibiotics. Resistance to ampicillin (94%), amoxicillin (88%), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (79%), and tetracycline (70%) was the highest.

Gumede, who grew up in rural Mandeni said: ‘The results of the study are alarming and raise public health concerns due to the high risk of exposure to contaminated surface waters used for domestic purposes by impoverished communities. Substantial quantities of ESBL-producers are received by WWTPs and are subsequently released along with effluent discharge into surrounding surface waters. This represents a potential dispersion route of ARB into multiple ecological niches.’

‘Siya’s work is exceptional as it provides evidence for the need to improve wastewater treatment networks within South Africa to avoid pollution of water bodies. His findings are also a call for measures to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance through polluted water, especially in resource-poor settings in South Africa,’ said Dr Akebe Luther King Abia, Gumede’s supervisor.

Gumede plans to register for a PhD. He enjoys playing soccer, listening to music, and reading books and is keen to learn to play musical instruments.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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Graduate Explores Violent Hand Amputation and Replantation in the South African Context

Graduate Explores Violent Hand Amputation and Replantation in the South African Context
Ms Wendy Young graduated with a Master of Occupational Therapy for her study on violent hand amputation and replantation.

Ms Wendy Young graduated with a Master of Occupational Therapy for her study on violent hand amputation and replantation in the South African context.

The study resulted in a manuscript which Young titled: It Was Like a Bad Dream: Making Sense of Violent Hand Amputation and Replantation in South Africa which explores a brutal case of an individual, Bongani, who sustained a violent hand amputation in what he perceived to be the result of a wicked southern African ritual of dark spiritual origin using human body parts to make umuthi (in this case, what would be considered a dark form of African traditional medicine or witchcraft to obtain wealth, fame, etc).

The aim of the study was to describe and interpret the meaning of his lived experience and the impact it had on occupational adaptation, as well as to reflect on therapeutic intervention. It followed a narrative style from moments before his assault at work, through the injury, replantation, living among violence, difficulties returning to work, his therapy and lastly, his goals and hopes for the future. Young’s work also resulted in an opinion piece titled: Prevention and Intervention for Victims of Violence in Occupational Therapy which encourages South African occupational therapists to consider violence as a topic for continuing education and to face the challenge of becoming leaders in the field of violence in occupational therapy. Her article has been submitted to the South Journal of Occupational Therapy.

Said said: ‘There are many motives for violent injuries and amputations. This research took into consideration the violent removal of body parts for the purpose of making (dark) traditional African medicine or muti (umuthi), which is referred to as witchcraft by some. This muti is usually to fulfil another person’s egocentric goals and usually results in the death of the victim. Hence, there have been very few reported survivors of muti crime. In this unique case, the victim sustained a violent hand amputation which was followed by replantation. Replantation or surgical reattachment has become the standard approach to treating traumatic upper limb amputation around the world.’

Following replantation, the hand therapist plays an essential role in rehabilitating the patient to achieve the best possible functional outcome. When interviewing Bongani, he described his ordeal as what is commonly known as a “muti crime”. Young’s literature review found that perpetrators of muti crimes are often wealthy, educated businessmen, those wishing to succeed in politics, traditional healers, pastors, or other leaders and contemporary motives are said to be an excessive love of money, power and greed.

The surgical process that followed for Bongani included wound debridement, ulna and radius bone shortening followed by bony fixation, repair of all flexor tendons, repair of all extensor tendons, repair of arteries, and repair of median, radial and ulnar nerves, veins and lastly skin. Bongani was able to receive this private care as it was covered by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.

Described as an extremely resilient man, Bongani likely suffered a great deal of emotional stress and underwent 123 sessions of occupational therapy over two years. According to Young: ‘He was fitted with 12 orthoses and participated in more than 17 different goal-directed meaningful activities in a client-centred programme which included work hardening. Therapy included other biomechanical intervention such as strengthening, therapeutic exercises and sensory re-education.’

She added: ‘It is the responsibility of the occupational therapist to ensure hand therapy is occupation-based since “competency through occupation” is a core principle of the profession. Despite Bongani’s work challenges of fear, reminders of violence and constant danger, an emphasis on meaningful participation and an early return to work had the long-term beneficial result of stress relief, sustaining mental resilience and an improved outcome.’

Young completed a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy degree at UKZN and thereafter worked as a therapist in the United States for two years. She returned to Durban and worked in the clinical field of hand therapy and adult neurological rehabilitation in the private health sector. Over that 20-year period, she directed an occupational therapy practice, managed and supervised 11 occupational therapists, was awarded a Post-Graduate Diploma in Hand Therapy at the University of Pretoria and became a Certified Hand Therapist through the Hand Therapy Certification Commission.

She said: ‘I would like to give God the glory. Secondly, I would like to acknowledge my supervisors, Professor Pragashnie Govender and Dr Deshini Naidoo, who exceeded all my expectations in terms of the encouragement and guidance they provided. I would also like to acknowledge the College of Health Sciences for the master’s scholarship. My husband and daughter deserve special thanks for their patience, encouragement and technical support. Dr Mahendra Daya deserves special acknowledgment for his incredible expertise and unwavering willingness to share and mentor. Lastly, I wish to thank all my participants, without whom there would have been no research.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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Doctoral Study Evaluates the Impact of Adverse Obstetrics Events on Healthcare Professionals’ Psychological Wellbeing

Doctoral Study Evaluates the Impact of Adverse Obstetrics Events on Healthcare Professionals’ Psychological Wellbeing
PhD in Medicine (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) graduate Dr Puvashnee Nydoo.

Dr Puvashnee Nydoo was awarded a PhD in Medicine (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) for her evaluation of the impact of adverse obstetrics events on the psychological wellbeing of healthcare professionals in KwaZulu-Natal.

Healthcare professionals are regarded as the secondary victims of adverse medical events as they can be deeply affected and traumatised.

While there is a rich body of literature on the impact of adverse events on these professionals in other health specialities, few studies have focused on obstetrics care. For example, in South Africa, a country with a high number of adverse obstetrics events, there are no published reports on their impact on healthcare professionals.

The study demonstrated that individual, situational, and organisational factors influence the severity of secondary victim responses. Support for healthcare professionals helps to alleviate these responses. However, a lack of organisational support in public sector hospitals in South Africa, coupled with the stigma associated with seeking support, impedes this.

Twenty-eight-year-old Nydoo has always been passionate about research. After completing her master’s degree, she felt that pursuing a doctorate would provide her the opportunity to conduct research more independently and combine her background in psychology with her interest in obstetrics and gynaecology.

She said recruiting participants was more difficult than she anticipated given the sensitive nature of her research. Many felt uncomfortable recounting their experiences of adverse obstetrics events and as a result, data collection was prolonged, hindering the completion of her degree at an earlier date. She thanked her supervisors, Professors J Moodley (Women’s Health and HIV Research Unit) and BJ Pillay (Behavioural Medicine) for their support and assistance.

Nydoo is a study coordinator at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa. She previously served as a study coordinator for the TSHEPPO study, a Trial of sFlt-1/PlGF for Hypertension in Pregnancy Prediction and Outcome which investigates the clinical effectiveness of using the ratio of antiangiogenic and angiogenic factors sFlt-1 and PlGF in the triage of patients with suspected preeclampsia in South Africa.

‘I had the privilege of doing my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at UKZN. My experience at the institution has been enjoyable. I have had some amazing lecturers and supervisors who have assisted me in achieving my goals. I have also made some lifelong friends that I treasure.’

Born and bred in Durban, Nydoo comes from a family that values education. She was involved in sports from a young age and competed in swimming and surfing at provincial level throughout her school years. Her family has always been supportive and ensured that she struck a healthy balance between work and sport.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

Photograph: Supplied


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PhD Research Focuses on Resource Use in Healthcare Systems

PhD Research Focuses on Resource Use in Healthcare Systems
Nigerian-born academic, Dr Tesleem Babalola.

Dr Tesleem Babalola’s PhD study aimed to provide information to assist policy formulation that promotes more efficient resource allocation.

Titled: Investigating the Health Systems Performance: Technical Efficiency of District Hospitals in the Public Health Sector of KwaZulu-Natal Province, the study was supervised by the late Professor Indres Moodley of the Department of Public Health.

‘My late supervisor was one of the greatest mentors anyone could have, and his demise was a great loss to me and my colleagues under his supervision,’ said Babalola. ‘The memory of his humility, selflessness, and willingness to assist lives with me forever.’ 

Nigerian-born Babalola was encouraged to study at UKZN by his friend and respected colleague, Isa Elegbede. ‘The choice was easy due to the University’s high global and regional ranking as well as support for international students,’ he said.

‘The study assessed the technical efficiency and productivity of all the public district hospitals in the province from the fiscal year 2014/15 to 2016/17. Factors influencing delivery of care within the hospitals were also investigated. The research was funded by the National Research Foundation of South Africa,’ explained Babalola. The findings were presented at local and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) accredited journals.

‘Since the introduction of the national district hospital service package in 2002 to support improved health services delivery, the study was the first to investigate technical efficiency, productivity, and associated factors among district hospitals,’ said Babalola.

He is currently a research fellow under the supervision of Dr Emily Wong and epidemiological researchers based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), South Africa, as well as modelling researchers based in Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in the United States, where he is involved in research on methods in clinical epidemiology, simulation modelling, and cost-effectiveness analysis to project the clinical and economic outcomes of tobacco use and the cost-effectiveness of integrating tobacco treatment into HIV and tuberculosis (TB) programmes. He hopes to establish a research institute that will support and train young and upcoming researchers.

Babalola likes spending his free time with family, watching documentaries/news, and playing games. He dedicates his success to his late mother and supervisor and appreciates the support of his father, wife and children, siblings, in-laws, and well-wishers.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Research Investigates the Effects of “Sugars” on the Brain and Behaviour

Research Investigates the Effects of “Sugars” on the Brain and Behaviour
Newly capped Dr Yvette Yolanda Chetty.

Dr Yvette Yolanda Chetty’s PhD study (Physiology) investigated the effects of the illicit drug cocktail known as “Sugars” on the brain and behaviour of animals.

The study revealed interesting findings with regard to memory and hippocampal mass following drug administration as well as the effects of these drugs on hematological factors and anhedonic behaviour. It also noted that in some cases, withdrawal of the drug led to partial reversal of these effects. Since the cocktail was variable in composition, the results were diverse, but ultimately promote understanding of how it exerts its effects and re-enforces addictive behaviour.

Chetty’s master’s supervisor suggested this topic as she had experience in behavioural physiology from her honours degree. Her interest grew after reading more on the topic and meeting with relevant stakeholders. It is also an issue that is close to her heart as the use of “Sugars” is rife in her community of Chatsworth.

‘My goal was to finish my PhD before I turned 30, and I am ecstatic that I did so at 28. My future aspirations are to become a professor and establish a research niche,’ she said.

Like most researchers, Chetty encountered a few hiccups along the way with regard to sourcing samples or research equipment, but together with her supportive supervisors, she handled the challenges as they occurred. 

‘Since I studied at UKZN from undergrad level, I developed meaningful relationships with both staff and students and it was almost like working within a family. I am indebted to my supervisors, Dr Anand Nadar and Professor Vassie Naidoo for their expert guidance on my research project as well as helping me to grow as a young academic. They are exceptionally qualified individuals who strive for the best for their students and always go the extra mile to assist.’

Chetty is currently registered for a postgraduate diploma in Higher Education with the IIE which she intends completing in 2022 and is teaching physiology courses to Health Science, Bachelor of Science and Medical students, and supervising an honours’ student at the University of Limpopo.

She thanked her family for their support and was thrilled to be graduating at the same time as her younger twin sisters, Odell (Bachelor of Occupational Health Honours) and Odette (B Comm Accounting Honours) Chetty.

The newly capped Dr Chetty enjoys reading, listening to music, watching series and spending time with her fiancé and family.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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Physiotherapy Student Exemplifies the Profession

Physiotherapy Student Exemplifies the Profession
Charlotte Dube Award winner, Mr Thabang Ratopola.

Bachelor of Physiotherapy student, Mr Thabang Ratopola received the inaugural Charlotte Dube award for the student that best exemplifies the Physiotherapy profession.

The Discipline established the award to honour the memory of Ms Charlotte Dube, a graduate who was tragically killed earlier this year.

‘This accomplishment means a lot to me and my family,’ said Ratopola.

Ratopola intends to continue working hard. ‘I am not really a clinical kind of a student, but am theoretically inclined. I would love to carry the title of professor.’

He said that initially he was not sure what to pursue at university. ‘My heart was divided between Engineering and Health Sciences. Eventually, I went for Physiotherapy.’

Ratopola become a committed Christian at UKZN. ‘I had to divide my time wisely between ministry and my academics and also acquired some skills. The one I am most proud of second to my academics is in theology.

In his Bushbuckridge community, he was exposed to people who suffered fractures. He aims to make a significant contribution towards the management of this condition in particular.

‘I faced lot of demons I must confess,’ he said while laughing. ‘Financial, health problems, and academic pressure caused by imbalance with the ministry. Prayer and faith were my strength and the solution to all my problems. My lecturers also counselled me.’

Ratopola was raised by his maternal grandmother in Bushbuckridge. ‘She instilled in me virtue, ethics and good social skills. I enjoy reading my Bible and listening to renowned Christian theologians. My favourite dish is “chicken dust” and pap from the streets.’

A devout Christian, he engages in intensive study of the scriptures. ‘My friends in University use to call me Rabbi,’ he laughs.

‘Academically, I was always a top student from crèche. In high school, I was always number one to the extent that when they were calling out positions they would say “position number one is obvious, it’s Thabang”.’

He is currently doing his community service in Kgapane Hospital in Limpopo.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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UKZN Study Contributes to Lesotho’s Road Safety Plans

UKZN Study Contributes to Lesotho’s Road Safety Plans
Ms Zubeta Moledi graduated with a Master of Optometry.

Ms Zubeta Moledi graduated with a Master of Optometry degree for her study tilted: Assessment of Visual Function Amongst Motor Vehicle Drivers in Maseru, Lesotho.

According to her supervisor, Professor Diane Wallace: ‘The intention of the research was to influence policy in Lesotho since there are currently no specific visual requirements for licenced drivers. Therefore this study (and her planned PhD research) will impact Lesotho’s Road Safety plans through appropriate vision screening policies and practices.’

The study was conducted at the Lesotho Traffic Department and participants consisted of 460 active licenced drivers, both men and women, aged 22 to 76. It found that one in five participants did not undergo an eye examination prior to obtaining their driving licence. The majority, around 70%, had normal vision whilst 29% has subnormal vision. More than a third (39%) of the participants had some form of refractive error, with myopia showing the highest distribution, followed by astigmatism and hyperopia. Of those with hyperopia, the majority (98%) were classified as having mild hyperopia.

Moledi said: ‘Most participants did not wear spectacles when driving, with 37% having previously been advised to wear them based on identified need. Almost half (44%) of the participants reported being involved in road accidents. If drivers are advised to have their eyes examined regularly, many visual function anomalies could be detected early and their vision corrected. The lack of effective screening methods for drivers in Lesotho could contribute to the incidence of road traffic accidents in the country with resultant negative socio-economic impacts.’

Moledi - who intends to pursue a PhD in Optometry at UKZN which she describes as ‘her home’- has prior qualifications in Nursing. She currently serves as the president of the Lesotho Optometric Association and is married with three children. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling together. She also enjoys cooking and watching movies. Moledi is a keen church goer and serves in her local church.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied


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Improving the Uptake of HIV Self-testing Among Rwandan Men

Improving the Uptake of HIV Self-testing Among Rwandan Men
Dr Tafadzwa Dzinamarira.

Dr Tafadzwa Dzinamarira’s PhD in Public Health aimed to enhance men’s engagement in HIV services, specifically, HIV self-testing (HIVST) among men in Rwanda.

Supervised by Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson, the study employed a multi-phase mixed-method approach.

‘In Phase 1, we conducted a systematic review to map the available evidence on health education programmes for men in low and middle-income countries. In Phase 2, we conducted in-depth interviews with stakeholders in Rwandan HIV response and healthcare providers to determine their perspectives on the implementation of HIVST in Rwanda. In Phase 3, we conducted a cross-sectional survey to assess HIVST awareness and acceptability among men in Kigali, Rwanda,’ he explained.

Guided by the findings from Phases 1, 2, and 3, with the assistance of colleagues, Dzinamarira employed the nominal group technique to develop and optimise a health education programme to improve the uptake of HIVST among men in the country.

‘In Phase 4, we employed a pragmatic pilot randomised controlled trial to assess the impact of the intervention,’ he said.

Dzinamarira’s thesis contains six published papers and two manuscripts under review.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered new research avenues. ‘I have been engaged in writing scientific manuscripts with co-authors from within UKZN, ministries of health and non-governmental organisations to inform the COVID-19 response in Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Africa at large. I am also involved in studies measuring the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the provision of HIV services to inform strategies to put high HIV burden countries back on track to meet the end AIDS 2030 goal.’

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic ignited his interest in the role of telemedicine in ensuring continued healthcare delivery in the context of restrictions such as those employed to control COVID-19.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied


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Pharmaceutical Chemist Graduates Cum Laude

Pharmaceutical Chemist Graduates <em>Cum Laude</em>
Ms Sanelisiwe Xhakaza received her Master of Medical Sciences in Pharmaceutical Chemistry cum laude.

Ms Sanelisiwe Xhakaza graduated cum laude with a Master of Medical Sciences in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

A member of UKZN’s Catalysis and Peptides Research Unit (CPRU), her study focused on alterations in neurotransmitter levels and transcription factor expression following intranasal buprenorphine (BUP) administration. Due to a lack of information on how BUP alters pathways in the management of opioid addiction, Xhakaza investigated the functional (neurotransmitter) and molecular pharmacodynamic changes associated with BUP administration in a rodent model.

BUP is a semisynthetic opioid used to treat opioid addiction (such as heroin) and moderate to severe pain. It can be used under the tongue (sublingual), in the cheek (buccal), by injection (intravenous), as a skin patch (transdermal), or as an implant. Unlike other opioids, mainly methadone and morphine, BUP is preferred to manage opioid addiction due to its lower risk of toxicity at higher doses, lower abuse potential, accessibility for office-based treatment and limited physical dependence.

Xhakaza’s study contributed to a better understanding of the pharmacodynamic effects of BUP in the treatment and management of opioid addiction. The results showed that BUP significantly influences neurotransmitters (NTs) (?-aminobutyric acid, Glutamate, Norepinephrine and Dopamine) and the gene expression of important transcription factors, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and response element binding protein.

Xhakaza grew up in Clermont, Durban. Her first degree was a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Chemistry and Biochemistry. She went on to specialise in Chemistry for her honours degree leading her to pursue a Master’s in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. She commented: ‘For my honours degree in Sciences, I continued with a Chemistry major where I was doing a research project in catalysis synthesis and testing. This did not feel enough for me. I wanted to do something more meaningful that will contribute to human wellbeing in the field of chemistry so I started researching what I could do and that is how I discovered the CPRU. I spoke to Dr Sooraj (my supervisor) who proposed the project that I did for my master's.’

Currently taking a well-deserved break from studying, Xhakaza spends her time drawing, reading, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. She said: ‘Like any other Black child, my journey in academia has not been easy. There were seasons where I struggled financially due to the lack of funding. I thank God for all that I have achieved academically, especially for my master’s. I believe that was all Him. I also appreciate my family, especially my mom for her endless support.’

Words: MaryAnn Francis

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Summa Cum Laude Graduate is Passionate about Microbiology

<em>Summa Cum Laude</em> Graduate is Passionate about Microbiology
Ms Teniel Ramkhelawan.

Top achiever in Medical Science Honours (Microbiology), Miss Teniel Ramkhelawan’s interest in microbiology, biology and infectious diseases inspired her to engage in research on infectious diseases.

She aims to become a researcher at an academic institution where her knowledge and technical skills can benefit science and humankind by testing hypotheses on the factors that drive human disease.

Ramkhelawan who received her degree summa cum laude is currently exploring her options and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in infectious diseases.

‘(The year) 2020 was more challenging than usual due to the pandemic which put a strain on the mental health, well-being and livelihoods of everyone, including myself. I handled the challenges as they came - one at a time, and I relied on my amazing support structure made up of my family and friends,’ she said.

The proud Durbanite enjoys adventures and outdoor life but given COVID-19, she prefers to socialise virtually. She believes that through science and God’s grace, a solution to the pandemic will be found.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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Bachelor of Dental Therapy Awarded Summa Cum Laude

Bachelor of Dental Therapy Awarded <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
Ms Zainub Shaik.

‘I am truly honoured and elated to have completed my degree as one of the top students in the Discipline,’ said Dental Therapy graduate, Ms Zainub Shaik who graduated summa cum laude.

‘This accomplishment was not expected; however, I always tried to excel and work hard.’

Shaik regards herself as an independent working woman who applies her knowledge in the best possible way. Noting that a smile is a warm and welcoming gesture, she remarks that, ‘being a dental practitioner enables you to create those beautiful smiles.’

During her first year of study, Shaik experienced working with cadavers as part of the anatomy module. At first, it was quite challenging, but she eventually adapted.

She added that her study experience at UKZN was pleasant with amazing lecturers and colleagues.

She was always interested in health sciences and felt that Dental Therapy was a good option as it suits her personality of being an excellent communicator, who is compassionate and hands on.

‘COVID-19 challenged everyone in one way or another. As a student, I had to adapt to a new way of learning as well as a new approach and protocol with regard to clinical sessions. Being disciplined, prayers and my family were my strengths,’ she said.

Shaik comes from a supportive and caring family. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, watching series and outdoor activities. Her favourite dish is pizza.

She received several accolades during her schooling and merit awards and Dean’s Commendations at UKZN.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Top Biokinetics Student

Top Biokinetics Student
Top achiever, Ms Leah Jamie Sim.

Ms Leah Jamie Sim was named UKZN’s Top Biokinetics Honours student and Best Overall Achiever.

Sim is passionate about sport, and learnt the importance and value of rehabilitation through individualised exercise programmes while playing at provincial level. She aims to work as a Biokineticist so as to improve other people’s lives.

‘Studying during COVID-19 was a challenge as we all had to adapt to online lectures (and) staying disciplined while learning from home. I had to stay focused on my studies and isolate myself from my family to avoid distraction. I also kept myself on track by making timetables for lecture time, study time and leisure time to separate my day,’ she added.

She said she enjoyed her experience at UKZN from undergrad to honours level. ‘The lecturers were knowledgeable and gave it their all to ensure we were able to achieve. The facilities were functional and we always had access to new learning material. Although many tough times came hand on hand with the good, I can definitely say I am glad I studied at UKZN,’ said Sim.

‘Unfortunately in honours, our lab burnt down which placed huge limitations on our course, but we overcame this and although equipment was minimal, we made it work. We came together, worked together and strove to complete our degree.’

Sim describes herself as determined and dedicated. ‘Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted with my matric results but I didn't let this get me down and was still determined to study Biokinetics. After some hard work, I was accepted and slowly started to succeed.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

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Optometry Student Shines

Optometry Student Shines
Ms Zaakirah Moola in the Optometry classroom at UKZN’s Westville campus.

'This is a dream come true,’ said Ms Zaakirah Moola who was awarded a Bachelor of Optometry summa cum laude.

Moola believes that anyone can achieve good results with hard work and dedication and hopes to expand her knowledge in the field of low vision and eye care for the elderly.

‘My goal is to set up eye clinics for the less privileged so that they can receive the best eye care possible,’ she said.

‘My family members were challenged with extremely weak eyesight. Witnessing their struggles while being unable to understand why sparked my interest in studying Optometry.’

The COVID-19 pandemic, which hit during her final year of study, caused major disruptions as she could not attend lectures. ‘However I remained positive and spent more time self-studying and researching the more difficult concepts.’

She said it took some time and mental strength to adapt from a high school environment to university. ‘Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UKZN. My lecturers were helpful and I had a wonderful group of friends.’

Moola believes it is inevitable that every student will be challenged during the course of their studies. ‘During trying moments, I prayed and constantly reminded myself that God (Allah) will help me get through it. My motto is “Always let your faith be stronger than your fear”. My parents’ support helped me overcome my obstacles. They always motivated me to do the best I can in any situation.’

Moola comes from a family of five, with two older siblings. ‘We are an adventurous family who love traveling and exploring. My hobbies include painting which I find really therapeutic especially when I’m under stress.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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Cum Laude for Dental Therapy Graduate

<em>Cum Laude</em> for Dental Therapy Graduate
Mr Fanele Mthethwa in the dentistry lab on UKZN’s Westville campus.

‘I am so happy to have graduated cum laude,’ said Bachelor of Dental Therapy graduate, Mr Fanele Mthethwa.

‘I was not really expecting it, I guess it was all brought by hard work, dedication and tremendous support from my family, lecturers, classmates and friends,’ he added.

Mthethwa is the youngest of four siblings and the first to graduate in his family. He hopes to open a practice to make dental care more accessible to his community.

‘People from my community have to travel far to access dental care. They thus lack advice and neglect oral care,’ he said. ‘I want to make it more accessible to people from rural areas, including my area, Ongoye in Empangeni.’

He said his final year was challenging as COVID-19 brought about online learning and delayed clinical practicals. ‘However, as a class, together with our lecturers, we were able to emerge triumphant. We will be forever grateful to our lecturers for their endless patience and support.’

Mthethwa described his journey at UKZN as fantastic. ‘I really relished my time there. I enjoyed myself as the class representative, interacting with people from different backgrounds. I am proud and humbled to have been part and parcel of this wonderful institution.’

He is a qualified South African Breweries (SAB) Regional League eThekwini Region Referee and is currently a dental therapist in a private practice in Umlazi, Durban.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Rogan Ward


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