UKZN and University of South Alabama Cement Formal RelationshipsGeneral

UKZN’s Professor Mershen Pillay with Professor Ishara Ramkissoon with doctoral students in Audiology from the University of South Alabama.UKZN’s Professor Mershen Pillay with Professor Ishara Ramkissoon with doctoral students in Audiology from the University of South Alabama.

Formal collaboration has been cemented between UKZN’s Discipline of Speech-Language Pathology and the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of South Alabama in the United States.

This follows the hosting by UKZN of seven doctoral students in Audiology from the US university.

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

‘This School level collaboration aims to strengthen and cultivate a lasting relationship between these two universities,’ said Pillay. ‘We hope that such collaborations develop into long lasting research relationships.’

During the two-week visit, the Alabama students took part in a variety of activities that exposed them to the real situation of the South African healthcare system. The group first visited and worked at the King Edward VIII Hospital’s 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 such as newborn hearing screening and observed ear, nose and throat surgeries. The group also visited and supported the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and deaf Society and a non-profit organisation, Asiye Etafuleni.

The group visited several outreach programmes conducted in Marrianridge near Durban by Ms Chantal Christopher of UKZN’s Occupational Therapy Department.

They also took part in a Hearing Conservation Programme held in Warwick Avenue at which both UKZN and Alabama students encouraged community members and industrial players to monitor noise exposure levels in a way that accurately identified and protected communities from excessive noise, which could cause hearing impairment down the line.

During this awareness campaign, students provided full ENT and hearing screening and diagnostic services. 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 an 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,’ said  Pillay.

‘South Africans are very warm and welcoming. The South African culture is exciting for me and I would really love to work in South Africa,’ said student Ms Peyton Williams of South Alabama University. ‘My personal take is that there is a lot of community health improvement being done in South Africa and globally, however, a lot more needs to be 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 healthcare and that is a priority.’

‘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.

Lihle Sosibo