Mr Saul Cobbing and Mrs Gina Rencken.

Two of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences Lecturers have been awarded scholarships by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) to pursue their doctorates.  They are Mr Saul Cobbing and Mrs Gina Rencken.

Cobbing, a Physiotherapist, said it was an honour and a privilege to receive the scholarship because it would allow him time off to do his PhD full time. The MRC will finance the cost for teaching relief allowing Cobbing to concentrate on his research.

Cobbing, whose research interests is the rehabilitation of people living with HIV/AIDS and disabilities, has four years to complete his PhD but is hoping to complete it earlier.

He said his dissertation would look at rehabilitation for people living with HIV, carrying out an intervention programme conducted in people‘s homes in resource-poor communities as opposed to patients having to attend physiotherapy at hospital.

‘I will be looking at various measures of how effective home-based rehabilitation is. This is building on my Masters work, which identified many of the barriers that people living with HIV experience in accessing rehabilitation services.’

Cobbing hopes to begin his field work in July next year, pending acceptance of his PhD proposal. He will work in collaboration with the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD) under the supervision of Dr Jill Hanass-Hancock.

Cobbing was the first to graduate from an online Master of Health Sciences Programme. Designed by Professor Fatima Suleman, Associate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences and a recipient of UKZN’s Distinguished Teacher Award, the interactive online programme enables working professionals unable to study full-time to pursue Masters Qualifications in health sciences.

Rencken, a Lecturer in the School of Health Sciences in the Discipline of Occupational Therapy has been employed at UKZN since July 2012, teaching Occupational Therapy in the paediatric field.

‘I feel very blessed and very excited to be awarded this scholarship, and to get the opportunity to make a difference in the field of neonatal paediatrics. I have always been interested in paediatrics, and am honoured to be able to further this interest,’ she said.

Rencken, who registered for her PhD this year, said: ‘I will commence with the formalisation of the proposal, and hope to start with data collection in 2014, after the birth of my baby.’

She said her PhD would examine the neuro-behavioural functioning of infants born to mothers who are seropositive to HIV, and comparing these to babies born to mothers who are seronegative to HIV.

‘I will use the neonatal behavioural assessment scale (NBAS) as the main tool for data collection.’

Rencken obtained her degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Pretoria in 2001and spent some time specialising in Paediatrics, completing sensory integration and neurodevelopment training. Rencken completed her masters by dissertation through the University of the Free State in 2011, with a thesis titled: “Prevalence of Sensory Integration in the Childhood Cancer Population”.