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UKZN hosts Alabama Students in a thrilling school collaboration

2016/12/15 03:34:27 PM

'We are keen to tackle the major challenges facing healthcare, globally and locally especially regarding health care relative to social challenges. That’s our long term vision also,” said Professor Mershen Pillay who is an Associate Professor in Speech-Language Therapy and the Academic Leader for Research in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN.

Thrilled to learn and serve  South Africa
 A school level collaboration between UKZN’s Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology and the Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology from the University of South Alabama has formally emerged subsequent to UKZN hosting a group of seven doctoral students in Audiology (enrolled as AUD/PhD students).

“This school level collaboration aims at strengthening and cultivating lasting relationship between these two universities. We hope that such collaborations develop into long lasting research relationships. 'We are keen to tackle the major challenges facing healthcare, globally and locally especially regarding health care relative to social challenges. That’s our long term vision also,” said Professor Mershen Pillay who is an Associate Professor in Speech-Language Therapy and an Academic Leader for Research in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN.

During the two week visit, Alabama students embarked on a two week-string of activities that exposed them to the real situation of the South African health care system. The  group first visited and worked at the King Edward VIII Hospital Audiology department and at other sites such as Refugee Social Services in Durban’s Diakonia Centre. At the hospital they were involved in clinical practices like newborn hearing screening and observed ear, nose and throat surgeries that were underway. The group also visited and supported the KwaZulu-Natal Deaf and Blind Society and a non-profit organization (Asiye etafuleni) around Durban. The group also managed to visit and learn about several outreach programmes conducted in Marrianridge near Durban by Chantal Christopher from UKZN’s Occupational Therapy Department.

The student group was thrilled to also participate in the Hearing Conservation Programme that was held in Warwick Avenue, in the Durban CBD where jointly, UKZN and Alabama students encouraged the community members and industrial players to monitor noise exposure levels in a way that accurately identifies and protect communities from excessive noise that can later cause hearing impairment. The group formed part of this historic event, where for the very first time in history, UKZN's Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology  partnered with the public, private and non-profit sectors like  King Edward Hospital  represented by Chief Audiologist Zandile Peter and audiologist Zandile Makhanya; and Addington Hospital’s ENT, represented by  Dr Kerusha Moodley as well as private audiologist, Ms Fathima Timol and the Asiye eTafuleni team.


During this awareness campaign, students provided a full ENT and hearing screening and diagnostic service. This inaugural service was part of a larger project to address street traders engagement with loud music and noise in the Warwick markets. 'What makes this a historical event is the nature of the collaboration between sectors and the fact that a full ENT/audiology service was made possible by relocating it to a community level service delivery platform', explained Professor Pillay.


“South Africans are very warm and welcoming. The South African culture is just exciting for me and I would really love to work in South given an opportunity”, said Peyton Williams, a student from the University of South Alabama. “My personal take is that there is a lot of community health improvement being done in South Africa and globally , however, a lot still needs to done to improve our  health care systems , one thing I have noted about South Africa is the urgent need to advocate for adequate resources in the healthcare and that is a priority” she continued.


Who knows, Perhaps this partnership might become a strong student exchange in the near future. Our goal is to sustain and further strengthen this newly established relationship with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Professor Ishara Ramkissoon who is the accompanying project leader and an Associate Professor in Audiology from the University of South Alabama. Professor Ramkissoon and Professor Mershen Pillay are ecstatic of having been strategic initiators behind realization of this exciting UKZN-University of South Alabama partnership.

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