Hearing Impairment – a Blessing in Disguise for Graduate!

Hearing Impairment – a Blessing in Disguise for Graduate!
Hearing impaired Mr Mlungisi Dlamini graduates with a Masters degree in Medical Sciences.

Masters in Medical Science (Medical Microbiology) graduate, Mr Mlungisi Thabiso Dlamini says his hearing impairment has been a blessing in disguise as it forced him to be attentive in class and maintain a 110% focus at all times!

Dlamini lost hearing partially in his right ear after an infection in primary school. The hearing loss has made studying difficult to some extent but he has come out of the university experience very motivated.

The 26-year-old is currently a PhD Research Fellow at UKZN’s Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), under the mentorship of Professor Tulio de Oliveira. With South Africa having such a high HIV and TB prevalence, he aspires to be one of the contributors and a researcher in the field of HIV/TB treatment and prevention in the future.

‘I don’t have words to explain my excitement about this accomplishment. It was not easy at all, research is very challenging and requires your entire commitment and focus,’ said Dlamini. ‘With that said, all the sacrifices I made paid off at the end and I would not have done it without the Almighty God and the support from my family, my supervisor, colleagues and friends.

‘The reason I went for a Master’s degree in Medical Science was mainly because of the high prevalence of HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths and TB infections in South Africa, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. I feel like our people, especially in rural areas, are not educated enough about these diseases. I strongly believe that through education, we’ll be able to generate and impart more knowledge to our communities about these two diseases and thus save more lives.’

He says his study experience at UKZN has been very good. ‘The transition from a high school setting to a university environment is always a huge challenge, especially to someone like me who grew up in rural areas. Everything moves at a very fast pace at the beginning but you eventually get used to it, thanks to UKZN’s friendly environment.’ 

Dlamini says he draws his strength from God through prayer, and from his family, friends and colleagues.

Born and raised in Esikhawini and Ingwavuma, he later moved to Durban where he started university and currently stays with his mother, stepfather and two siblings in KwaMashu, Durban. Dlamini loves music, soccer and enjoys any chicken dish.

Lihle Sosibo

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Belief in Ancestors Makes Black Africans Reluctant to Donate their Bodies for Research – Doctoral Study Finding

Belief in Ancestors Makes Black Africans Reluctant to Donate their Bodies for Research – Doctoral Study Finding
An ecstatic staff member graduates with a PhD in Anatomy, Dr Brenda Zola De Gama.

Culture, religion and belief in ancestors are major factors causing Black African people to be unwilling to donate their bodies for medical research.

This is according to a PhD thesis completed by Dr Brenda Zola De Gama titled: “Cultural and Religious Attitudes of Black African Citizens on Body Donation”.

Her study, which investigated attitudes in a predominantly isiZulu-speaking Black African population, stemmed from recognising the low levels of participation by the population group in body donation programmes.

De Gama received her Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Health Sciences at a Graduation ceremony held on the UKZN Westville campus.

The findings from the quantitative component of the study reflected that age, education, belief in ancestors and observance of cultural practice were associated with willingness to donate. The findings from the qualitative component of the study involving traditional leaders and healers reflected that in KwaZulu-Natal, strongly-held beliefs in ancestors were a major barrier to receiving body donations.

The study was the first of its kind to clarify reasons behind culture and religion being factors that result in unwillingness to donate - similar reasons have been reported in other population groups world-wide.

A desire to make her mark as an academic and serve the community are what motivated De Gama- a Lecturer in Clinical Anatomy at UKZN – to conduct the study.

 After a five-year journey of hard work and endurance, de Gama is happy to be among only a handful of young women who have obtained a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree in Health Sciences.

‘My future aspirations are to grow as a young academic - both in teaching and research. Studying in this programme was among my academic goals and plans, so it aligned well with the University’s drive to ensure that all the academics employed in the University have their doctorates.’

De Gama plans to take the findings of her research back to the community that participated in the study so that they are fully aware they have contributed to the world of science.  She believes that without their contribution, a phase of this study would have not been possible.

‘There is still more to be done in this area research. I overcame many challenges thanks to my supervisors, Professor Kapil Satyapal and Dr Thamsanqa Bhengu. Our College really supported me through this study and I’d like to express my deepest gratitude for its contribution.’

De Gama is married with two daughters Kayla (7) and Nia (4). She loves baking, reading, watching movies and playing games.

Her favourite dishes are traditional meals like sugar beans and rice, isitambu, ujeqe and chicken. 

Lihle Sosibo

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“Unique” Pharmaceutical Chemistry Thesis Results in Doctorate for Egyptian Researcher

“Unique” Pharmaceutical Chemistry Thesis Results in Doctorate for Egyptian Researcher
Dr Yahya El-Sayed Jad graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

With a thesis said to be the first of its kind, Dr Yahya El-Sayed Jad graduated with a PhD (Pharmaceutical Chemistry) from the College of Health Sciences.

His thesis was titled: “Advanced Strategies for Peptide Synthesis and the study was supervised by Professor F. Alberico, Professor T. Govender and Professor G Kruger”.

The outputs of the study have been published in nine papers, journals of high impact and one book chapter.

Jad is currently doing post-doctoral studies at UKZN with the same research group. ‘Since I was young, I was interested in sciences and in particularly, Chemistry.  I studied Chemistry and Biochemistry during my undergraduate period in Alexandria University in Egypt.  Once I earned my BSc in 2009, I decided to continue with my postgraduate studies since it would help me discover new things about science and life.’

After achieving his MSc at Alexandria University, he joined UKZN as PhD student under the supervision of Professor Fernando Albericio, an international leader in peptide chemistry with research interests varying from peptide synthetic aspects to application of peptides as therapeutics and diagnostic agents.  ‘I believe that my PhD training will help me achieve my goals as a scientist in drug discovery,’ said Jad.

His study can be broken up into three topics.  The first is the development of a new set of coupling reagents; the second a green approach to solid phase peptide synthesis, and third the synthesis and biological evaluation of a novel antibiotic derived from teixobactin which is a recently discovered antibiotic.

The main target of his study was to develop coupling reagents that were stable, inexpensive and free of side reactions. ‘So far, one of the coupling reagents that we developed during my PhD is commercially available (Oxyma-B).  Furthermore, we developed a new coupling cocktail based on other well-known coupling reagents (EDC.HCl and K-Oxyma).  This new cocktail has shown a spectacular performance and it can be considered as a green cocktail based on the recently reported guidance from GlaxoSmithKline, a well-known pharmaceutical company, for environmentally friendly reagents.

‘(N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF) is the most used solvent for solid-phase peptide synthesis however it is toxic and finding its replacement is essential according to many reports.  We achieved total green solid-phase peptide synthesis by replacing DMF by 2-methyltetrahydrofuran (2-MeTHF) and ethyl acetate (EtOAc). 2-MeTHF is definitely an eco-friendly solvent derived from renewable resources.  To the best of my knowledge biomass solvents have recently attracted more attention because of the continuous increase in the price of petroleum while they also offer a promising approach for decreasing waste disposal cost,’ said Jad.

‘With respect to teixobactin’s analogue, the development of new antimicrobial drugs has become essential and crucial due to the dramatic increase of bacterial resistance to traditional antibiotics. Our group was the first group in the world who reported on the synthesis and analogue derived from it and with a similar antibacterial activity,’ said Jad.

‘The scientific life is a real challenge by itself.  Scientists always find themselves in front of problems and they have to find a solution or solutions.  During my PhD, I had to deal with a broad number of challenges but at the end of the day this is part of the game and I am happy that I am trying to improve the life of others.’

Sinenhlanhla Ngubane

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Quadriplegic Optometry Academic Graduates with a Doctorate

Quadriplegic Optometry Academic Graduates with a Doctorate
Optometry academic, Dr Khathutshelo Percy Mashige, achieves his PhD.

Left a quadriplegic after a motor vehicle accident, Dr Khathutshelo Percy Mashige did not let his serious handicap floor him.

Instead he rose up and continued with his studies being awarded a Master’s degree in Optometry (MOptom) and then a PhD of Philosophy in Health Sciences from UKZN following a clinical study which provided additional diagnostic and therapeutic tools for glaucoma in Black South Africans.

Mashige’s dissertation - titled:  “A Comparative Study of Ocular Structural Dimensions that are Associated with Glaucoma in a Black South African population with healthy eyes” - measured and compared these dimensions to establish whether they can be used as additional diagnostic and therapeutic tools.  

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. The most common type of glaucoma is most frequently found in patients of African ancestry.

The study found that the intra-session repeatability and inter-session reproducibility of the three main instruments used for data collection - Oculus Keratograph, Nidek and iVue OCT - were all within acceptable limits. Normative values for corneal and retinal parameters and their associations were established. These parameters and their associations provide information about the healthy eye and possible changes associated with ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, and may assist in developing locally relevant diagnostic and therapeutic interventions applicable to this population group.

Mashige started his academic career as a resident Optometrist at the former University of Durban-Westville and became a lecturer in 2009. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Bachelor of Optometry (BOptom) degree from the former University of Durban-Westville. He completed the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Ocular Diseases (CAS) at the New England College of Optometry.

He has completed the University Education Induction (UEIP) and Leadership Development Programmes (LDP) at UKZN Extended Learning and the coursework in Ocular Therapeutics offered by the State University of New York (SUNY) and UKZN.

Mashige was the Head of the Optometry Department from 2007 to 2013, and has served in many leadership roles at UKZN. He is a Research Director at the African Vision Research Institute (AVRI) and serves on the board of the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI).

The Limpopo-born achiever received several grants and has successfully supervised many honours, masters and PhD students. He is a regular reviewer for many national and international journals and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Ophthalmology and Optometry Research. He has presented at various conferences, and has published more than 50 articles in national and international journals.

Mashige says although he has already published nine articles nationally and internationally from his PhD, there are still some more articles he is preparing.

The determined doctor plans to register for post-doctoral studies. 

Mashige was an avid sportsman prior to his accident and continues to enjoy sports and spending time with friends and family. He is proud to have a extremely supportive family who are also excited about his academic achievements.

Lihle Sosibo

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Three PhD Graduates Supervised by Head of School of Health Sciences

Three PhD Graduates Supervised by Head of School of Health Sciences
Dr Hezekiel Khumalo and Dr Lara McGillewie.

The Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Mahmoud Soliman, supervised three students - Dr Ashona Singh, Dr Hezekiel Khumalo and Dr Lara McGillewie - who graduated with PhDs.

‘I am proud of their accomplishments. All their hard work and dedication paid off. Their studies were novel and innovative and I look forward to hearing about their future successes in the field of Pharmaceutical Chemistry,’ said Soliman.

Singh met Soliman five years ago while doing her Master’s degree in Chemistry and he introduced her to Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

‘I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by the National Research Foundation, the College of Health Sciences and Professor Soliman, to learn the technique of Pharmaceutical Chemistry as it has helped further develop my skill as a scientist,’ said Singh.

Singh received a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry for her thesis titled: “A Computational Perspective of Influenza Virus Targets: Neuraminidase and Endonuclease”.

Her research provides a unique perspective at an atomistic level of identified mutations in neuraminidase of the H1N1 and H5N1 influenza viruses, with subsequent identification of potentially new and novel inhibitors.

The influenza virus is well documented in existing literature, however, Singh’s research of the H1N1 and H5N1 systems resulted in novel findings. The findings highlight the unique and elegant mechanism in which the viral protein, neuraminidase, adapts and builds resistance via point mutations which is not the same for each strain.

McGillewie, who also thanked Soliman for his input and guidance, graduated with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her thesis was titled: “Investigating Plasmepsin Flexibility as a Function of the Flap Region – a Unique Structural and Dynamic Feature of Aspartic Protease”. The findings of the study exposed the flap motions and dynamics of the plasmepsin enzyme, which could potentially help in the design of novel antimalarial compounds.

‘I chose to conduct this particular study because I wanted to complete my PhD without the hassle of laboratory work yet still remain in the medical  and biological field,’ said McGillewie.

Khumalo, who received his Doctorate in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, conducted his study on Alzheimer’s disease. According to Khumalo, Alzheimer’s is one of the most understudied diseases in South Africa yet more and more people die from it every year. ‘I felt the need to contribute towards finding an inhibitor to this illness.’

After losing his grandmother, who died from Alzheimer’s disease, Khumalo says he wanted to know more about the disease and gain a deeper understanding of it.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and involves memory loss and other intellectual disabilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.

‘Everybody is focusing on finding a cure for HIV and AIDS and cancer,’ said Khumalo. ‘I chose a different path, wanting to create increased awareness about this disease and find a cure for it.’

His study, published in a variety of international journals, discovered 10 new compounds which could be potential inhibitors for Alzheimer’s.

Sinenhlanhla Ngubane

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Doctoral Researcher Finds Academic Monitoring and Support Essential in Nursing Education

Doctoral Researcher Finds Academic Monitoring and Support Essential in Nursing Education
Dr Prenola Mudaly graduated with a PhD in Nursing.

Academic Monitoring and Support (AMS) significantly contributes towards successful throughput in nursing, a study conducted by UKZN PhD graduate, Dr Prenola Mudaly, has revealed.

Titled: “A Classical Ethnographic Study on Academic Monitoring and Support Services of Undergraduate Nursing Students in Higher Education in KwaZulu-Natal”, the study analysed the implementation of AMS in an undergraduate programme to generate a comprehensive, context-informed AMS middle-range theory.

‘I analysed the whole process of supporting students; from the pre-enrolment phase, to integration phase, engagement phase up to transition phase where students are prepared for the world of work at fourth year,’ said Mudaly.

‘My interest in the topic was triggered by the transformation that is taking place in the country where opportunities are created for all students who meet entry requirements to have access to tertiary institutions irrespective of their backgrounds.’

Mudaly’s study culminated in a student support model that might be adapted or adopted by other nursing education institutions to ensure that students are well supported to reduce high attrition rates that influence projected numbers of graduating nurses to feed into the healthcare system.

The study revealed the importance of monitoring the academic performance of the students as early as possible in the programme and related factors that might affect the student’s academic performance.

It also revealed that structured academic monitoring and support focuses more on learning that takes place within the University.

‘With nursing having a strong clinical/practical component which the students have to pass, the Nursing Discipline needs to invest some resources to ensure that there is structured peer mentorship in the clinical settings, with senior students mentoring the junior students,’ she said.

Mudaly plans to publish more articles from her thesis. She has published two in peer-reviewed journals and the third draft is ready for submission.

After completing her Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2003, she never stopped studying. ‘My wildest dream has become a reality, thanks to this culture of working hard and striving to influence change in society. I am the first PhD graduate from my BN Group.’

Mudaly’s family is proud of her achievements. 

Nombuso Dlamini

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Degrees Conferred on Four Optometry Staff

Degrees Conferred on Four Optometry Staff
Discipline of Optometry achieve success at Graduation.

Four staff members in the Discipline of Optometry completed their degrees over the past year.

Three are full-time staffers who attained their doctorates and the fourth is a contract worker who was awarded her Master of Optometry degree.

Dr Vanessa Moodley and Dr Diane van Staden, graduated with PhDs through the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland.

Moodley’s thesis was titled: “The Development of a Social Accountability and Quality Assurance in Optometric Education”, while van Staden’s was headed: “A Systems Framework for Development Projects and Partnerships in Eye Health Training”.

Dr Khathutshelo Percy Mashige graduated with a PhD in Optometry.

His study was titled: “A Comparative Study of Ocular Structural Dimensions that are Associated with Glaucoma in a Black South African Population with Healthy Eyes”.

Mashige conducted a clinical study that provided additional diagnostic and therapeutic tools for glaucoma.

The study aimed to measure and compare aspects of ocular structural dimensions that are associated with glaucoma in Black South Africans with healthy eyes to establish whether the dimensions can be used as additional diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

The study found that the intra-session repeatability and inter-session reproducibility of the three main instruments used for data collection, i.e. Oculus Keratograph, Nidek and iVue OCT, were all within acceptable limits.

‘Normative values for corneal and retinal parameters and their associations were established. These parameters and their associations provide information about the healthy eye and possible changes associated with ocular diseases, such as glaucoma.  The results may assist in developing locally relevant diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that are applicable to this population,’ said Mashige.

Mashige’s thesis resulted in him having nine articles published in national and international journals, ‘I was very fortunate to be awarded the South African Medical Research Council Scholarship which assisted me in completing this study. There were setbacks during my studies as I fell ill and had to be hospitalised for a long period of time.’ 

This brings the total number of full-time PhD-qualified staff within the Discipline of Optometry at UKZN to five. The other two academics with doctorates are Professor Kovin Naidoo and Dr Rekha Hansraj.

Nombuso Dlamini

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Blended e-Learning Possible for Nursing Students in Nigeria – Study Finding

Blended e-Learning Possible for Nursing Students in Nigeria – Study Finding
PhD graduate, Dr Emmanuel Olufemi Ayandiran.

A PhD study done through UKZN’s College of Health Sciences shows blended e-learning is possible for nursing education in resource-constrained settings in Nigeria.

The research - conducted by Dr Emmanuel Ayandiran under the supervision of Professor Ntombifikile Mtshali - aimed to improve nurses’ access to university education without lessening the quality of such education using technology (ICT) as a tool for excellence.

The study was titled: “Facilitation of the Development of a Blended E-Learning Model for Nursing Education in a Resource-Constrained Educational Setting in Nigeria”.

It successfully designed, developed and piloted a blended e-learning model that is appropriate for effective delivery and learning of nursing knowledge and skills in a resource-constrained community in Nigeria.

Piloted over four months, the results indicated that the developed model was not only found suitable by both learners and instructors but largely effective in achieving learning objectives.

‘It was noted that its use has facilitated an increase in students’ involvement in their own learning and the use of multiple teaching-learning approaches,’ said Ayandiran. ‘The model is a useful tool for increasing access to Nursing education while not compromising on the quality of learning.’

According to Ayandiran, the developed model provides an opportunity for instructors and tutors to grow and become more proficient in online teaching and learning in Nursing. It also has the potential of facilitating life-long learning among nurses while at the same time lessening the burden associated with pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing in a geographical dispersed population like Nigeria.

Ayandiran encountered a few challenges while conducting his study, including the Boko Haram insurgence and terrorist attacks in the north-eastern part of Nigeria which affected data collection there.

He is currently a Senior Lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, doing research and developing other nurses.

‘Now that my PhD is complete, I want to do a post-doctoral fellowship and build more on my area of research and ultimately become a professor of Nursing,’ said Ayandiran.

Nombuso Dlamini

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Zimbabwe Medical Research Council Official Awarded PhD from UKZN

Zimbabwe Medical Research Council Official Awarded PhD from UKZN
Zimbabwean PhD graduate, Dr Rosemary Musesengwa.

Zimbabwe’s Medical Research Council Principal Compliance Officer, Dr Rosemary Musesengwa, graduated with a PhD in Public Health.

Her study was titled: “Community Engagement (CE) Strategies and Experiences in a Multi-Centre Study in South Africa and Zimbabwe” and was conducted in the uMkhanyakude area of KwaZulu-Natal and in the Gwanda District in Zimbabwe, under the supervision of College of Health Sciences Dean of Research, Professor Moses Chimbari.

‘My study evaluated and compared community engagement (CE) strategies employed by the Malaria and Bilharzia in Southern Africa (MABISA) multicentre research project,’ said Musesengwa. ‘My main outcome was the development of a CE framework for multicentre studies.’

She also conducted a systematic desk review of literature on CE in developing countries.

Musesengwa said the published review revealed evidence of CE being practised in health research in southern Africa but researchers rarely publish their CE work. To study the MABISA project’s CE a case study approach was used with each study site considered as the case to allow for direct comparison and contrast between the cases. She then proceeded to compare CE strategies employed by the MABISA study in their research communities, evaluated the perceptions of the community on the various components of the CE strategies and compared them with perceptions of the researchers.

‘Evaluation of the multicentre study showed that even though the general principles of CE and similar strategies were followed they differed in implementation and CE would not have similar results in different settings,’ said Musesengwa.

The study also revealed divergence between what the community understands of CE and the intentions of the researchers, ‘We concluded that CE in multicentre studies needs meticulous planning, commitment of human and financial resources and flexibility,’ said Musesengwa.‘

There is insufficient evidence to determine which CE strategy is more effective than the other but conducting extensive formative research allows for better engagement of the community,’ she said.

The greatest challenge during her PhD was leaving her family for long periods of time in order to conduct fieldwork, ‘Well, I am making up for the time now,’ said Musesengwa.

She said her family, who were all very proud of her, had been supportive all the way. ‘My mum and sisters made sure that my kids were always with a “mum” even when I was away. My husband was loving and patient and encouraging all the way!’ 

She was very grateful to UKZN – ‘it  provides exactly the right environment for a PhD.’

Musesengwa starts work soon as post-doctoral researcher.

Nombuso Dlamini

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Rwandan National Graduates with PhD in Nursing

Rwandan National Graduates with PhD in Nursing
Rwandan national, Dr Madeleine Mukeshimana graduates with a PhD in Nursing.

Dr Madeleine Mukeshimana of Rwanda graduated from UKZN with a PhD in Nursing following her study on a Collaborative Care Model (CCM) in Rwanda.

Supervised by Nursing Academic Leader, Professor Gugu Mchunu, her thesis was titled: “A Collaborative Care Model (CCM) for Management of Co-Morbid Depression and Selected Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases for Rwandan Health Facilities: Model Adaptation and Justification”.

The study explored the management of co-morbid depression and chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Rwanda, in order to adapt the CCM to the Rwandan healthcare services.

The CCM is a systematic approach to the treatment of depression and anxiety in primary care settings that involves the integration of care managers and consultant psychiatrists, with primary care physician oversight, to more proactively manage mental disorders as chronic diseases, rather than treating acute symptoms.

According to Mukeshimana’s research, Rwanda has no protocol/interventions to manage this co-morbidity.

She first explored the prevalence of depression in patients with chronic NCDs represented by diabetes and hypertension.  ‘I also explored the current situation regarding management of co-morbidity of depression and chronic NCDs and adapted a CCM to the Rwandan context.’

She found high prevalence of depression among diabetic and hypertensive patients. ‘The new adapted model was perceived by participants and implementers to be applicable, acceptable and important for management of this co-morbidity.’

Mukeshimana recommends implementation of CCM in all Rwandan district hospitals in the hope of improving quality of care for patients with this co-morbidity.

‘The model is recommended by the World Health Organization to be implemented in all countries to manage this co-morbidity,’ said Mukeshimana.

Her study used a mixed-methods approach guided by an action research sequential explanatory design.

It was conducted in three cycles. A quantitative method was used in an exploratory cycle and qualitative method was used in analysis and action cycles.

For the quantitative cycle, which explored the prevalence of depression in a random sample of 385 people, 334 volunteers participated in the study with a response rate of 88%.

Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) was used to screen depression. The research team of 14 mental and medical health professionals were involved in the second and third cycles which analysed, adapted and implemented the model.

The model was tested over a period of six weeks with 30 patients. Quantitative data was analysed with Stata 13.0 and qualitative content was analysed using an inductive approach.

The results showed a high prevalence of depression (83.8%) with confidence intervals of 95% among diabetic and hypertensive patients.

Mukeshimana is currently the Head of the Nursing Department and Co-ordinator of Masters of Science in Nursing at the University of Rwanda. She hopes to implement the Adapted Collaborative Care Model in all Rwandan district hospitals.

Mukeshimana completed her undergraduate degree at UKZN, completing her master’s degree in 2010. ‘When I finished my Bachelor’s degree I got financial support because of my good marks to do a masters. From that time, UKZN became my second home. Then when I got the chance to do a PhD with assistance from the Rwandan government I did not hesitate to apply at UKZN.’

Nombuso Dlamini

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e-Learning Platform Examined by Rwandan PhD Nursing Graduate

e-Learning Platform Examined by Rwandan PhD Nursing  Graduate
An elated Dr Alexis Harerimana graduated with a PhD in Nursing.

Dr Alexis Harerimana of Rwanda has graduated with a PhD in Nursing for his study titled: “An Analysis of the Utilisation of an e-Learning Platform at a Selected Nursing School in Rwanda: A Participatory Action Research Study”.

Supervised by Professor Ntombi Mtshali, Harerimana’s study aimed to collaboratively analyse the use of an e-learning platform in selected nursing school campuses at the University of Rwanda (UR) and develop a middle-range theory on the implementation of e-learning in selected nursing school campuses at UR.

‘The study helped develop a middle range theory of e-learning utilisation in nursing education,’ said Harerimana. ‘This e-learning middle range theory in nursing education has been designed to illustrate how the theory developed from grounded theory inquiry.’

He says the study helps conceptualise e-learning as a mechanism to advance a political agenda as a student-centred approach, as blended learning and as a tool to open access to education for working nurses and midwives.

‘The context of e-learning in nursing education is subjected to both internal and external influences in which education, health and technology originate. The catalyst agents and effective hybrid teaching and learning are pivotal to the success of e-learning in nursing education. The use of the developed middle range theory of  e-learning in nursing education is expected to bring about the following improvements: increased quality nursing and midwifery education, fast-track production of a nursing and midwifery workforce, an increased nursing and midwifery workforce, improved quality care and services, collaborative partnership, and lifelong learning.’

Harerimana’s project was conducted on nursing students, nurse educators, ICT managers and campus managers from three campuses of selected nursing schools in Rwanda.

‘I acknowledge the School of Nursing and Public Health (SONPH), the College of Health Sciences (CHS) and UKZN who granted me a scholarship to do the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing. My sincere thanks go to my supervisor Professor Ntombifikile Gloria Mtshali for all the support, guidance and encouragement, and for making time to supervise this thesis; to the Rwandan Ministry of Education who granted a research clearance and permission to conduct the study in Rwanda, and to the University of Rwanda’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and selected campuses for their permission and support during this study. My thanks also to participants and the members of the research team who contributed enormously to this study through interactive/mutual collaboration,’ he said.

Harerimana’s future plans include working in academia where he will promote quality nursing education in technology mediated learning environments such as ‘e-learning’, and to train nurses and midwives to be  locally and globally competitive.

In 2009, he was offered a scholarship by the Government of Rwanda to pursue his studies at UKZN where he graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Nursing Education in 2013, and later a Master’s degree in the field.

Nombuso Dlamini

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PhD Study Investigates Management of Comorbid Diabetes and Hypertension

PhD Study Investigates Management of Comorbid Diabetes and Hypertension
Dr Immaculate Nyaseba Marwa graduated with a PhD in Nursing.

The management of comorbid diabetes and hypertension conditions in primary health care (PHC) settings involves four core specific characteristics which need to be fulfilled for effective management of patients, a PhD in Nursing study revealed.

According to doctoral graduate, Dr Immaculate Nyaseba Marwa, the four characteristics are collaboration, culture-sensitivity, continuity and self-management.

Marwa’s thesis was titled“A Focused Ethnographic Study of the Management of Comorbid Diabetes and Hypertension Among Adults in Primary Health Care Settings in Kenya”.

Supervised by Professor Ntombifikile Mtshali and Professor Gugu Mchunu of the Nursing Discipline, the study aimed to analyse the current management strategies available to comorbid diabetes and hypertension patients in selected PHC settings and further to develop a context-informed model for the management of comorbid conditions in primary care levels in Kenya.

Marwa said this group of patients formed a special set as usually either diabetes or hypertension occured as a single condition, but when they occurred together they complicated the general management, especially at primary care levels. ‘Paying special attention to these comorbid conditions results in improved management, continuity of care and improved quality of life,’ she said.

Her findings bring into practice a new model of managing comorbid chronic conditions which are on the rise among the elderly. ‘It also emphasises continuity of care which incorporates self-management skills. The findings also indicate that with effective leadership skills, chronic care services are bound to succeed. Centralisation and decentralisation of health systems create challenges for the whole process of chronic care,’ said Marwa.

The study findings also revealed that the action and interaction strategies were contextually influenced by strong governance and leadership, together with international initiatives and partnerships towards health systems for the management of chronic comorbid conditions.

Said Marwa: ‘The context of care is based on health policies, legal document strategies, clinical guidelines the international initiatives and partnerships which form the basis for healthcare delivery and management of comorbid conditions.’

The actions and interactions in the study were based on the political commitment to provide and support healthcare organisations with resources for chronic care both at the strategic and operational levels of management.

According to Marwa, the management of chronic comorbid conditions, especially in resource constrained communities and health systems, is based on the integration of healthcare service, while looking at the patients as the most important partner in healthcare.

‘Self-management allows a shift of health promotion and care to the patients and the community for sustainability and continuity along the disease process,’ said Marwa.

The study recommended collaboration between national and regional government should focus on implementation of the already existing policies and strategic plans at the contextual level where chronic care is crucial for effective management of chronic comorbid conditions in PHC settings.

Marwa emphasised team work and collaboration ensured improved quality of care, sustainable chronic care which is person-centred through the implementation and evaluation of the context-specific model to other divisions within the Kenyan health system.

The study also recommends health systems to consider integration and collaboration between traditional herbal medicine, the private sector and public health sector services, to allow for continuity across settings and providers.

Marwa is currently a Lecturer at the University of East Africa, Baraton, in Kenya. She hopes to run awareness and advocacy campaigns for people with comorbid chronic conditions, non-communicable conditions and also wants to start a community home-based care for patients with diabetes and hypertension not excluding other conditions.

Marwa is from a family of 12. Her mother died from diabetes in 2004 and her father is a retired pastor, ‘My siblings keep me going, believing in my abilities to venture into new worlds and fight it out.’

She is married to Gideon and they have a son, Charlton. ‘The two give me more reason to wake up and struggle to touch people’s lives.’

She loves teaching, and researching to find solutions to help people who need assistance in any way.’

Nombuso Dlamini

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Lecturer Awarded Doctorate for Research on Cadaver Procurement Practices

Lecturer Awarded Doctorate for Research on Cadaver Procurement Practices
Anatomist, Dr Pam Pillay graduates with a PhD.

A Lecturer in UKZN’s Discipline of Clinical Anatomy, Dr Pamela Pillay, investigated cadaver procurement practices at Higher Education Institutions in South Africa and examined the ethico-legal frameworks related to the use of human tissue for teaching and research purposes in the country.

Pillay was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences (Anatomy) for her work.

Said Pillay: ‘The impetus for this study arose as a result of the coalface problems encountered by certain South African Higher Education Institutions due to critical cadaver shortages, with no interim or possible solution in sight.’

Pillay said her PhD research was a unique empirical study that explored the legal and ethical framework related to the use of human remains for anatomical teaching and research in South Africa.  The work created an interlink between procurement of human remains, bioethical principles, and the law.

The study recommended the establishment of a national anatomy consultative forum, an online database for cadaver records and institutional guidelines for best practice related to use of human remains.

‘This has been a challenging journey as I straddled research in two different areas. I think my five-year-old, Keolan, is more excited about my PhD than I am. He has been saying to random people: “I waited so long for my mummy’s results and now she has them. I am so excited!”.’

Pillay hopes to start collaborating with international academics and expand her research objectives.

‘The PhD journey was not as lonely as people said it would be. I had a lot of support and encouragement from colleagues within Anatomy and the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences.  I am fortunate to have a very strong family support system.

‘Without God and my family, I would never have been able to complete this journey.’

Lihle Sosibo

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Efficacy of AntiDepressants in Delaying Parkinson’s Explored

Efficacy of AntiDepressants in Delaying Parkinson’s Explored
Dr Ernest Dalle is thrilled about graduating with a PhD.

A study on whether the use of antidepressants delays the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, earned a researcher a PhD degree in Medical Sciences (Neurophysiology) from UKZN.

Researcher Dr Ernest Dalle of Cameroon, a Medical Neuroscientist based at the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences on the Westville campus, says the study is a world first!

Dalle’s areas of specialisation include neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by progressive deterioration of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta resulting in motor deficits.

Dalle says when the symptoms of the disease appear, it is already too late to reverse the situation as the neurodegeneration has reached an advanced stage. ‘However, it is known that at the early onset of the disease, patients display symptoms of depression, anxiety or cognitive deficits which are considered as non-motor symptoms/pre-motor symptoms of the disease. My doctoral research therefore investigated whether addressing the non-motor symptoms early with an antidepressant could delay the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

It was found during the study that the antidepressant Fluvoxamine, when initiated early in a model of Parkinson’s disease, can be neuroprotective to specific neurons (dopaminergic neurons) that degenerate in the course of the disease. A novel treatment strategy for Parkinson’s disease may therefore suggest addressing its non-motor symptoms with Fluvoxamine to protect against dopamine neuron degeneration.

‘This accomplishment would not have been possible without the support of the College of Health Science, Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences staff and the UKZN-Neuroscience Group,’ said Dalle.

Studying far from home was very difficult but knowing he had his family’s full support kept him going. ‘My supervisors Professor Musa Mabandla and Professor Willie Daniels were my strength throughout. They are my role models in the field of neuroscience. I have learned all I know through them and I hope to follow in their footsteps.’

Dalle looks forward to establishing himself as a researcher and contributing to new knowledge in the field of neuroscience whether as an academic or in neuroscience labs around the world. 

Lihle Sosibo

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PhD Study Examines Home-based Rehabilitation for People Living with HIV

PhD Study Examines Home-based Rehabilitation for People Living with HIV
Physiotherapy academic, Dr Saul Cobbing, graduates with a PhD.

UKZN Lecturer, Physiotherapist and Biokineticist, Dr Saul Cobbing, was awarded his PhD in Health Sciences for a study titled: “Home-Based Rehabilitation for People Living with HIV in a Resource-Poor Setting in KwaZulu-Natal”.

‘I hope that my research will ultimately translate into practice, with people living with HIV and other chronic diseases in poor communities being provided with wide-ranging rehabilitation options in or near to their homes,’ said Cobbing.

The work investigated the effects of a novel home-based rehabilitation intervention on the quality of life and functional capacity of people living with HIV in a resource-poor setting in KwaZulu-Natal. He employed a task-shifting approach in training lay community care workers to deliver the study intervention.

Cobbing says his research interest stems from his previous work as a Physiotherapist working with people living with HIV and seeing the value that rehabilitation can bring to their lives, improving both their quality of life and physical functioning. His masters work focused on the challenges these people face in accessing hospital-based rehabilitation and his PhD work was a necessary extension of that work. Cobbing, whose parents are both academics, grew up in Grahamstown and Umtata.

After working and studying in South Africa and the United Kingdom, he took up his current position in UKZN’s Department of Physiotherapy in 2010.

Describing his PhD journey, he said: ‘I was very lucky to have excellent supervision and supportive colleagues so I didn’t face many challenges. That said, a PhD takes a lot of work and I did battle to balance my studies and being able to spend enough time with my family.’

While it was a relief to be finished with his PhD, ‘as an academic, one cannot rest on one’s laurels’. He has thus started on post-doctoral work as a Fellow in the College of Health Sciences’ programme: Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership in South Africa (DRILL), through which he hopes to translate his doctoral work into practice and policy. 

His family were a great support to him throughout his postgraduate studies. ‘My wife Mandy is a qualified Pharmacist, but her first love is piano - she is graduating with a Diploma in Jazz and Popular Music.

‘I have two young children – Lola (3) and Daniel (6) - who keep us very busy. They already show a significant thirst for books and music, so it looks like these things get passed down the generations,’ he said.

Cobbing says both he and his wife are unapologetic sugar addicts so his favourite dish ‘is probably a baked cheesecake served with some very good freshly-ground coffee’.

His love for sugar is why he has to ensure he does regular exercise. In an invitation to UKZN staff, he concluded saying: ‘At any given lunch-break, please join me and my colleagues trying to practice what we preach, by doing various aerobic and resistance exercises in our Department!’

Lihle Sosibo

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Thesis of Masters in Pharmacy Summa Cum Laude Graduate Published in Top-Ranked Journal

Thesis of Masters in Pharmacy <em>Summa Cum Laude</em> Graduate Published in Top-Ranked Journal
Mr Calvin Andeve Omolo graduated summa cum laude in Pharmacy.

The thesis of summa cum laude Masters in Pharmacy graduate Mr Calvin Andeve Omolo of the College of Health Sciences has been published in the top-ranked international journal: European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics 112 (2017), 96–108.

The dissertation was titled: “Synthesis of Oleic acid conjugated Polyethylene Glycol and its Application as an Amphiphilic Polymer for Nano Delivery of Vancomycin”.

‘This is my first summa cum laude degree and it would not have been possible without the support, expert guidance and mentorship from my supervisor Professor Thirumala Govender, my postdoc guides Dr Raul Kalhapure and Dr Chunderika Mocktar and the whole team in our Drug Delivery Group,’ said Omolo.

Omolo got interested in Chemistry in high school and also wanted to play a role in improving the health of his community.

Omolo said he was motivated by a desire to address the current crisis of anti-bacterial resistance. ‘The current dosage forms of antibiotics such as tablets and capsules contribute significantly to the development of resistance. Bacteria will develop resistance even to new drugs being developed if they are administered to patients in these conventional dosage forms,’ said Omolo.

The study synthesised novel material and used nanotechnology to prepare a novel nano delivery system for vancomycin. Nanotechnology can be used to deliver new drugs discovered.

This delivery system was able to target the infection site increasing the antibiotic concentration at the site of bacteria localisation, prolong drug release to achieve sustained activity, and protect healthy sites in the body from drug exposure. ‘In this way, nano systems such as polymersomes can improve the activity of the drug, prolong activity, decrease side effects, decrease frequency of administration, and improve patient compliance,’ said Omolo.

The aim of this study was to synthesize, formulate and evaluate novel vancomycin loaded bio-safe mPEG-OA polymersomes to enhance antibiotic therapy. Omolo and his team were able to use this material to prepare polymersomes with sizes below 150 nm, appropriate surface charge and morphology.

High entrapment of vancomycin, and sustained drug release profiles and cytotoxicity studies showed it was safe to be used on humans.

In addition to in vitro antibacterial studies, the research also tested novel formulation in mice using a skin infection model. This animal study revealed that treatment with vancomycin-loaded polymersomes significantly reduced the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus burden up to 183 and 25 fold when compared with non-treated animals and animals treated with vancomycin alone.  In summary, they developed vancomycin-loaded polymersomes from the novel mPEG-OA polymer and were found to be a promising nanoantibiotic against both sensitive and resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria. 

Omolo said he found it difficult to get used to the concepts and struggled to apply them successfully and meet the project’s deadline. ‘However, I had a strong desire to persevere and complete my degree despite the challenges knowing in the end it would be worth it. In addition, the support I received from my supervisor and the whole team including Dr Chunderika Mocktar and staff in Pharmacy was enormous,’ said Omolo.

He is currently reading for his PhD in Pharmaceutics with Professor Thirumala Govender as his supervisor. ‘I want to continue with research in academia and the pharmaceutical industry. After 10 years, I see myself working with several patents, innovative cost effective novel pharmaceutical materials and new medicine solutions to overcome health challenges we are facing globally.’

Sinenhlanhla Ngubane

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PhD in Physiotherapy Graduate a First for UKZN

PhD in Physiotherapy Graduate a First for UKZN
First PhD Physiotherapy student graduates from UZKN.

Dr Jibril Mohammed Nuhu is the first student to have graduated with a PhD in Physiotherapy at UKZN.

Dr S S Maharaj supervised his thesis which was titled: “Effects of Rebound Exercise on Metabolic Outcomes and Quality of Life in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes”.

Nuhu, who has a BSc in Physiotherapy and a Master’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science, said: ‘I am currently working as a Lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at Bayero University in Kano in Nigeria. I look up to God, the Almighty.’

Married with two daughters, Nuhu said: ‘I am passionate about imparting knowledge to individuals at all levels.

‘Attaining a PhD is a big joy for any graduate, their family members and other well-wishers given the very rough nature of the path trodden. Being the first person at UKZN to graduate with a PhD in Physiotherapy, I feel elated for making history and I am very happy especially because I was also the first international student to enrol for a PhD in the Department and the first member of my family with a PhD. For me, this is the beginning of a voyage of more research and discovery in my chosen field. I feel great!’ said Nuhu.

According to Nuhu, he decided to pursue this particular study in order to encourage the growing number of people with diabetes to undertake regular physical exercise as an essential part of the management for their condition with a view to enhancing their overall quality of life.  ‘This particular study is novel, because it was the first to use rebound exercise as an adjunct in the management of type 2 diabetes,’ said Nuhu.

The exercise was beneficial as it resulted in a decrease in fasting blood sugar and other related parameters with the potential to prevent, reduce or delay associated diabetic complications. The general wellbeing of the participants was enhanced because the apparatus for the exercise does not require electricity to function. It may be an exercise mode of choice for many individuals/exercise specialists in resource-poor settings. One of the challenges encountered was the inadequate funding.

‘My next major project is to use the same exercise for individuals with diabetes of the type 1 variety and other chronic disorders’, said Nuhu.

‘Anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps must be ready for the challenges inherent in a terminal degree and must understand that doing a PhD is a huge enterprise. Hard work with perseverance is the key to a successful PhD. One must always stay focused to avoid veering off as this can negatively affect one’s motivation. Even with adequate funds and serious-minded advisors, dips and peaks in energy or enthusiasm are normal. One must remain tenacious. Take a rest or go on a hiatus when necessary in order to keep enjoying the journey,’ said Nuhu.

‘In the next 10 years I see myself working as a scholar of international repute serving humanity via teaching, research and clinical practice.’

Sinenhlanhla Ngubane

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Masters Degree Completed Within a Year

Masters Degree Completed Within a Year
Ms Louansha Nandlal graduates with a Masters degree summa cum laude.

‘I have completed my Master’s degree within a year - I am ecstatic about my results,’ said Ms Louansha Nandlal, who was awarded a Master’s degree in Medical Science summa cum laude.

Nandlal, currently registered for her PhD degree in the Optics and Imaging Centre at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, plans to go to the NIH laboratory in the United States where she will examine a spectrum of 27 genes in congenital nephrotic syndrome in children. 

Nandlal’s Master’s research focused on HIV-associated paediatric nephrology in a study titled: “The Role of Kidney Injury Molecule-1, Interleukin-18 and Glutathione-s-Transferase (p) in Paediatric Idiopathic and HIV-Associated Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis”.

She said worldwide a significant number of children infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) are at a greater risk of developing kidney diseases. ‘Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a chronic pathological process caused by injury to podocytes in the renal glomeruli. In southern Africa, HIV-associated FSGS remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in children.

‘Early detection of kidney injury is essential in identifying children undergoing the early stages of these kidney diseases as well as the effects of antiretroviral treatment on kidney toxicity. A kidney biopsy provides an accurate diagnosis of kidney injury, however, several factors limit the utility of this invasive approach. Clinical markers that are also being used to monitor kidney function include serum creatinine, proteinuria and blood urea nitrogen, however these are insensitive and non-specific markers for the diagnosis of various kidney diseases, particularly in HIV infected patients,’ said Nandlal.

‘Given the inherent limitations of these non-invasive markers, the need for additional non-invasive biomarkers for early detection of kidney disease, particularly HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN), is urgently warranted. Therefore my study determined urinary concentrations of KIM-1, IL-18 and GST-p in children with idiopathic and HIV-associated FSGS.

‘These analyses have not been examined in HIV associated nephropathy before.  My manuscript has been submitted so my findings will be globally available. The findings of this study revealed that of the urinary biomarkers examined, urinary KIM-1 levels were significantly elevated in children with HIV-associated nephropathy and may be a useful biomarker to detect kidney disease in children,’ she said.

‘I grew up in Isipingo Beach and I have lived here my entire life. I was motivated and driven from a young age to excel academically and make a name for myself in the medical world,’ added Nandlal.

Lihle Sosibo

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Twenty Pharmacy Students Graduate Summa Cum Laude

Twenty Pharmacy Students Graduate <em>Summa Cum Laude</em>
An astounding 20 summa cum laude passes for Pharmacy.

A record number of 18 Bachelor of Pharmacy and two Bachelor of Pharmacy Honours students graduated summa cum laude from UKZN this year.

This is what some of them had to say about their achievements:

Justin Naidoo: ‘It’s an incredible feeling of joy knowing that this journey I embarked on four years ago has finally seen me reach my destination. Reading “Degree complete – summa cum laude” was the fruitful outcome of long nights and gruesome early mornings where I found myself caught up between research, tests and ward rounds but finally the stress has drawn to a close and I can catch up on some much-needed rest. I have faced many challenges over the years - among the many were having to deal with losing a loved one, stress and time management - but I am grateful for amazing people like my grandmother, my parents and friends for being a source of energy from which I drew strength.’ Naidoo hopes to return to do his master’s degree.

Tamika Shah Sewpersadh hopes to become a Medical Doctor. ‘I am currently studying Medicine at UKZN as a first-year Medical student thanks to my achievement in Pharmacy. Due to the strike, lectures were cut down and we had to self-study most of the sections. I had to watch videos to understand concepts and research about various medications and illnesses.’

Laya Arra Nadia: ‘I am humbled by this accomplishment. To have reached the end of my degree with this achievement is a great honour.’

Shrimal Umichand: ‘I always had an interest in the Health Science field. I found it fascinating how a small tablet can affect the body in various ways. So I decided to study in this field. I feel great about my achievement and once I complete my community service, I want to further my studies.’

Tamon Cafun is proud that all her hard work has eventually paid off. ‘This has shown me that whatever I put my mind to can be achieved. I plan to work and earn lots of money. I had to sacrifice my social life to get good grades and complete my degree. Another challenge I faced was when my dad died in my third year but my family and friends helped me get through this difficult time and I remained focused.’ 

Kimera Maniram is very excited and at the same time humbled by the accomplishment. She would like to get more involved in community projects and volunteer work. ‘I’ve always wanted to study in the field of Science but at the same time help those in need, hence Health Sciences and Pharmacy were a good fit for me.’

Sabeehah Imran Tar Mahomed:  ‘The feeling is indescribable; it is a combination of empowerment, satisfaction and extreme gratitude.  My parents have been my pillar of support and my source of emotional strength.  I am also fortunate to be married to someone who supports me not only as a person but who supports my dreams and goals.’

Sadhana Reddy: ‘I am surprised as I wasn’t expecting such an achievement. I now want to focus on my family who have been behind me all the way. There were some positive and negative experiences. On a positive note, some of our lecturers were knowledgeable beyond pharmacy and were awe-inspiring, especially Dr Elizabeth Ojewale -you were the light of inspiration to many of us, we thank you!’

Sandhya Naidoo: ‘Becoming a Pharmacist has been a dream of mine since childhood. Now that I have attained my degree, I want to get more involved in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. I have been privileged to have grown up in a family that has always supported me in everything.  My secret in dealing with work overload was keeping continuous track of deadlines and allocating study sessions that ensured I covered enough work every day and had enough time to revise my study material. Stress was also a major problem for me but through maintaining proper time management, eating healthy and exercising, I was able to resolve this challenge.’

Lason Govender: ‘I did not choose Pharmacy, it chose me. After my first year of studying I was motivated to remain in the field. A motivation and a driving force for me was having to maintain my academic results above 80% every year in order to retain my UKZN scholarship. I have received over R100 000 in campus scholarships and bursaries based solely on my academic performance. I am indeed truly grateful for those aids - without them, studying may not have been possible.’

Revashna Dhanraj: ‘Astonished! There simply isn’t a more precise word to describe the exact emotions attached to achieving my degree in the highest category. The reality is the more effort and sacrifices you put into achieving your goals, the greater the sense of accomplishment and that destiny and hard work go hand in hand.’

Ellisha Francis would like to work for an innovative, leading pharmaceutical company, and be involved with the research and development of new drugs. ‘Time management was a constant problem as was adjusting to the workload. As I approached the final years of study, less time was spent on campus and more time spent in clinical settings. This left me with less time for one-on-one contact time with lecturers. I eventually had to use whatever free periods I had to consult with my lecturers and to adjust to burning the midnight oil in the latter years of my degree.’

Serisha Sanker feels proud that her hard work has paid off and is excited about her new journey. She intends to return to UKZN and do her Masters in Pharmaceutics. ‘I would like to get into industrial pharmacy in the future. I am very grateful for the merit scholarships which I received every year for obtaining an ‘A’ aggregate at UKZN. Graduating summa cum laude for my Honours degree in Pharmacy is my greatest achievement to date. I am eternally grateful and elated to have finally reached this goal, after four years of hard work.’

Leah Benice Andrew hopes to pursue a master’s degree and specialise in clinical pharmacology. She believes this will extend the scope of practice of a pharmacist in the healthcare sector. She also aims to obtain a PhD in Pharmacology one day, become an expert in the field and share her passion with the next generation of scientists.

Nikita Singh is filled with a sense of pride, joy and satisfaction. She is also relieved that all her late nights of studying were worth it.  ‘I hope to one day be a responsible pharmacist and then a regional manager of a renowned retail pharmacy.’ A major challenge she faced was drawing a fine balance between work and leisure. She decided to set herself studying goals and when she achieved them, she would reward herself by going to the movies or having lunch with friends.

Kimisha Parmaswar: ‘This has been my greatest accomplishment in life so far. I want to pursue my Masters in Pharmacoeconomics after my community service.’

Reyna Khoosal: ‘I have always believed that the health science field, specifically pharmacy, would enable me to do what I enjoy and at the same time contribute and help our community. My fascination with Chemistry and Medicine guided me towards Pharmacy.’

 Lihle Sosibo

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Three Students in Occupational Therapy Discipline Graduate with Highest Honours

Three Students in Occupational Therapy Discipline Graduate with Highest Honours
Ms Tarryn Carey, Ms Ilhaam Hoosen and Ms Michaela Stead.

Three students graduated with their Bachelor in Occupational Therapy degrees summa cum laude.

They were Ms Tarryn Carey, Ms Michaela Stead and Ms Ilhaam Hoosen.

Carey is proud and relieved her perseverance and hard work of the past four years have been so richly rewarded. ‘I feel blessed to have been a part of the excellent study process and now a recipient of this fantastic degree.’

Carey says studying Occupational Therapy was challenging. ‘It took serious dedication to make it through all the theory and practical aspects the degree throws at you. I think the only way I survived was ensuring I had time to myself when I needed it and got as much sleep as the degree would allow. Also friends and family were a huge support and motivator when you think you can’t carry on!’

It was not all plain sailing, however. Carey says she was home-schooled and due to unforeseen complications her final examination papers got lost and she was thus unable to obtain her matric. This meant she had to go out and work before rewriting all her exams.

After completing her matric and choosing to study Occupational Therapy, she discovered she needed to improve her maths mark to gain access to university. She then had to spend another year doing that before finally being accepted into the Occupational Therapy programme… with a scholarship which she was so grateful for!

‘My passion for the degree and also for the people I was working with served as a huge source of strength in addition to family, friends and an amazing fiancé who supported me all the way.

‘Four years later I am qualified despite the fact that six years prior I was about to give up on education completely.’

Said Stead: ‘The biggest challenge to overcome was my own self-doubt, thinking that I wasn’t good enough to complete this degree. But through the strength of God and support of others, I was encouraged to never give up and always try my best. I had to believe in myself.’

Stead aims to do her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, but is still unsure what to specialise in. She also wants to spend a few years travelling overseas.

‘I found this degree extremely challenging overall-it took good time management, self-discipline and hard work to get through. The degree involves practical work at various venues - I found this difficult as I was dealing with real people with real problems in real situations. I decided to take it one day at a time and tried to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

‘I found the Occupational Therapy lecturers really knowledgeable and supportive throughout the four years of study,’ said Stead.

Hoosen, who is currently doing her community services at  1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, says she is enjoying her chosen field although spending hours at the hospital with real life cases is emotionally draining at times.

Eternally grateful to her family, peers and her husband, Uzair Ismail, who rally behind her all the time, Hoosen hopes to pursue her master’s degree after completing her community service.

Lihle Sosibo

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Disability is not Inability - Sports Science Degree Graduate

Disability is not Inability - Sports Science Degree Graduate
Overcoming challenges to achieve success is Ms Jordan Lee de Villiers with her proud family.

Ms Jordan-Lee de Villiers (22) has symptoms of both muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy but rose bravely above them to graduate with a Bachelor of Sports Science degree. 

‘Considering the choice of degree and given my physical and mental restraints, I am proud and satisfied that I was not only able to complete my undergrad degree but also did so in the allotted time frame,’ said de Villiers

She said her disability cannot be categorised as she has symptoms of both muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. ‘I have a general muscle weakness, lack of co-ordination and a collapsed core.  My muscle weakness is quite unique in that it is a diagonal weakness - left lower half and right upper half – which causes me to write and absorb information slower than the average person.’ She was unable to fully participate in all practical assessments.

De Villiers, who hopes to work among geriatric and disabled communities, is in the process of obtaining her driver’s licence which will help in terms of her future aspirations.

Among challenges she encountered during her studies was taking her own notes and not being able to fully partake in all practical sessions and meet time constraints during tests and examinations.

‘The Disability Unit helped me a lot arranging for lecturers to supply me with notes and organising a scribe as well as the extra time I needed for tests and examinations. Fortunately, I had very understanding and supportive peers.  The practical lecturers were made aware of my physical limitations and made allowances accordingly,’ said de Villiers.

‘At the start of each semester I produced letters for each lecturer detailing my specific requirements. All lecturers were understanding and accommodating.  I was fortunate to write in a separate exam venue, along with a few other special needs students, and thereby was not disturbed when the allocated exam time ended.’

De Villiers thanked UKZN’s Disability Unit, her lecturers, family and peers.

‘I chose this degree specifically as I encounter daily challenges which highlight my physical strengths and weaknesses. By studying for a Bachelor of Sports Science degree, I became more aware of the functions of muscles and how to address strength and flexibility challenges,’ she said.

De Villiers enjoys horse riding.  ‘I am a competitive rider and compete at national level. I have my KZN colours in able-bodied dressage, and showing and also obtained my colours for para-dressage and achieved Olympic qualifying scores.’

She really enjoys Durban curry and spending time with her family.

Says de Villiers: ‘A disability is not an inability. One can achieve anything when you set your mind to it.’

Lihle Sosibo

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