A Star is Born at UKZN’s Medical SchoolGeneral

Mr Kumeren Govender, UKZN’s shining star.Mr Kumeren Govender, UKZN’s shining star.

With a humble unassuming manner, UKZN’s Mr Kumeren Govender is ready to take the world by storm with his treasure trove of talents and skills.

The final-year student at UKZN’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine has achieved exceptional recognition following the publication of his first-author paper titled: “Clinical Risk Factors for In-Hospital Mortality in Older Adults with HIV Infection – Findings from a South African Hospital Administrative Dataset”.

Having a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal while still an undergraduate is a highly rare achievement.

Govender has co-authored a further two articles published in the Southern African Journal of Infectious Diseases and African Health Science, published letters to the editor of the South African Medical Journal, and also presented a paper at the 6th South African AIDS Conference in June 2013.

An 11th hour change of career choice from Engineering to Medicine saw Govender enrol at UKZN’s Medical School in 2012 after he matriculated at Star College with 12 distinctions in English, Afrikaans, Tamil, Business Studies, Accounting, Biology, Physical Science, Mathematics Probability, Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, Life Science and Information Technology.

Govender later joined the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) where he was given the opportunity to interact with international experts in the field of HIV and TB, including Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who received the Nobel prize in 2008 for the discovery of HIV as well as with Bill Gates, who funds numerous HIV and AIDS trials in sub-Saharan Africa.

His long-term research interests involve reducing high mortality rates in developing nations, including addressing the high HIV and TB disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘My medical training continues to provide me with excellent insight into clinical medicine compounded with research skills that I developed after joining CAPRISA,’ said Govender.  ‘This distinctive combination of clinical medicine and research skills I am acquiring enables a deeper understanding of the clinical context, enhances evidence-based practices in clinical settings and fuels innovation to address challenges faced in limited-resourced settings.

‘My interest in research led me to present a poster on HIV mortality outcomes at the 2013 SAAIDS Conference and further co-publish two peer-reviewed DHET systematic review articles on TB recurrence and short-term perioperative mortality in HIV positive vs negative patients.’

Govender’s recent paper identifies clinical risk factors associated with In-Hospital Mortality (IHM) and their overall contribution towards IHM in older South African adults with HIV infection. Clinical data for 690 older adults with HIV infection at the Hlabisa Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal was reviewed from 2011-2015 and the findings indicated that the cumulative incidence of IHM in the study population was 27.1%.

Men were associated with a 67% higher risk of IHM compared to women and the study also found that tuberculosis and renal failure were important predictors of a higher risk of IHM. The authors recommend that the findings are used to develop interventions aimed at reducing the risk of IHM in older adults, such as risk stratification systems.

Govender, who aims to obtain a PhD and specialise in internal medicine, speaks five languages:

English, Zulu, Afrikaans, Tamil and Turkish.

His achievements and honours include, being placed in the Top  Five ‘intellects’ of the International Science Competition in Abuja, Nigeria 2010; receiving a medal from the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP) Texas, America 2010; receiving awards from SAASTA 2011, ThinkQuest Oracle educational foundation 2009 for website design; being awarded the UKZN Dean’s Commendation for every semester 2012-2017; the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship 2013 - Top Five students in the College of Health Sciences;  and the Golden Key Chapter Award 2014.

Govender started the South African Medical Students Association (SAMSA)-UKZN branch to ensure collaboration and networking among medical schools in the country and also is part of the Golden Key Society executive committee at the Medical School.

Govender, who makes time to pursue his love for classical Indian music, has travelled to Germany to play in a violin concert, has swum the Midmar Mile open water race and is involved with several charity events at King Edward Hospital and Ethelbert Children’s Home.

Govender’s father is a Physics Lecturer at UKZN while his mother teaches in a rural area in KwaZulu-Natal.

Govender commented on his life as a final-year Medical student: ‘Final year Medicine reminds me of matric all over again. You’re expected to reach the pinnacle of knowledge in your training and be ready for a world full of responsibility, where every decision you make on a patient has dire consequences, that may even prevent you from having a good sleep (even when you’re not on call!). Personally, final year means losing the safety net that a Medical student has and becoming a skilled independent practitioner. It was my recently departed gran’s dream to see her grandson qualify as a doctor to help others and now it’s my dream to make her proud.’

MaryAnn Francis