Doctoral Student Wins Free Registration for Dysphagia Conference
UKZN Speech-Language Therapy doctoral student Ms Tasneem Karani has won free registration for the 2021 Dysphagia Research Society (DRS) virtual conference as well as a one-year student membership to the society.
Tasneem was awarded the prize for her application to the DRS to be a beneficiary of the Sponsor-A-Student Programme at the conference.
The DRS is an international society that encourages novel research in the area of swallowing and dysphagia (swallowing disorders) and promotes interdisciplinary research.
‘To apply for the sponsorship, I was required to submit a letter of recommendation from my supervisor and a two-minute video detailing my current research study and why I felt I deserved to participate in the conference,’ said Karani.
‘The DRS selected me as one of eight prize winners from all over the world. To be selected as a winner provides me with an opportunity to connect with like-minded and passionate individuals and to discuss the prospect of future collaboration to expand my knowledge base and to improve the lives of individuals with dysphagia.
‘Eating is one of the most multisensory experiences, with sounds often regarded as the “forgotten flavour sense”. Why is it that we find crispy foods like snacks so enjoyable, and why is it that we find ourselves salivating when we hear the sizzling sounds of a steak being cooked? I want to understand the body’s physiological response, specifically the swallow response to food acoustic properties.’
She said the study was part of a project known asTHRIVE(Tackling Hunger by Research and Innovation in Vulnerable Environments), developed at the University of Zululand. ‘THRIVE strives to develop ways in which all vulnerable people, including individuals with dysphagia, can access food that they can safely consume (Kathard & Pillay, 2018). My study is motivated by the need to deliver viable solutions to those at risk of dysphagia-related aspiration pneumonias in marginalised contexts such as South Africa.’
Karani says she hopes through her research to merge complex and contemporary concepts from the fields of food science, gastrophysics, cognitive neuropsychology, auditory processing, taste and textural studies, and nutrition and dietetics. ‘The outcome of my PhD will be to propose a conceptual framework to understand food acoustics and their relation to dysphagia management.’
Karani’s supervisor is Professor Mershen Pillay; a dysphagia expert respected both locally and internationally. ‘Tasneem’s work is fascinating and it focuses on the texture of foods and the sounds associated with them. It is related to a broader project under THRIVE,’ said Pillay.
Karani obtained her undergraduate degree cum laude in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Witwatersrand in 2017. She received numerous awards during her studies, including the AB Clemons Research Award, Golden Key awards for four consecutive years, and the Faculty Dean’s Medal Award.
Karani, who has presented her undergraduate and postgraduate research both locally and internationally, completed her community service at Stanger Hospital in 2018 and started work on her masters. She is currently reading for her PhD after being awarded an upgrade from her master’s degree studies.
Upon completing her PhD, Karani aims to expand her clinical work in a university setting, doing research and hopefully becoming involved with student supervision.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini