Dr Sibahle Sithole, a surgical registrar in UKZN’s Discipline of Otorhinolaryngology, has been awarded the Heinz Stammberger Resident Research Award for an oral presentation she made at an international meeting in Dubai on her MMed research titled: Variation of Aerosol Generation in Laryngeal and Oropharyngeal Surgery by Different Surgical Modalities.
‘COVID-19 accounted for the death of an estimated 180 000 healthcare workers by May 2021,’ said Sithole. ‘The world has seen two other global infections in the past two decades – the severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome. Healthcare workers, especially otorhinolaryngologists, have been shown to be at increased risk of infection because of the proximity to high viral loads in the upper aerodigestive tract,’ said Sithole, reflecting on her study.
‘My study was based on finding safer modalities that could potentially save the lives of healthcare workers. It is an important study in view of other potential viral pandemics that can happen in the future. It’s been encouraging to get this recognition after all the hard work that went into the work. It has stimulated me to want to do more research in the otolaryngology field,’ she said.
Thirty candidates with the best research paper abstracts were selected by the Middle East Academy of Otolaryngology (MEAO), to present their work at the meeting where the three most outstanding research papers received the Heinz Stammberger Resident Research Award trophy and a cash prize.
Competing against entrants from across the globe, Sithole’s presentation was judged to be the best registrar research paper in head and neck surgery, and she received the trophy together with a cash prize of US$500.
More than 80 guest speakers from all over the world attended the annual meeting of the Middle East Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery with the scientific programme covering rhinology and anterior skull base surgery, paediatric otolaryngology, cochlear implant and otology and neurotology, rhinoplasty, head and neck surgery, laryngology, sleep surgery and audio vestibular sessions.
The Head of UKZN’s Otorhinolaryngology Discipline, Dr Andile Sibiya, commended Sithole on the ‘well-deserved’ award. ‘Dr Sithole exhibited impressive dedication and resourcefulness in conducting this study, which included sourcing and learning to use specialised aerosol detection equipment. Having recently passed her Fellowship of the College of Otorhinolaryngologists of South Africa (FCORL: SA) finals examination, Dr Sithole is clearly as competent an academic as she is a surgeon and is an asset to the profession.’
Sithole said she was passionate about teaching so she would be doing a lot of teaching and assisting registrars studying for exams. She hopes to pursue a fellowship in paediatric airway surgery.
Words: Lunga Memela