Final year Health students taking the oath.

UKZN’s School of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing and Public Health recently presented members of South Africa’s next generation of health professionals to proud parents, friends and academics at the annual Oath Taking and Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony was held at the University’s Westville campus where excitement, cheers and ululation erupted in support of the students who recently wrote their final examinations.

Students recited oaths reminding them to always place the patient first.

The young health professionals will graduate next year from the Schools’ variety of degree programmes including Audiology; Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences; Dental Therapy and Oral Health; Nursing; Occupational Therapy; Optometry; Pharmaceutical Sciences; Physiotherapy, and Speech-Language Pathology.

About 50 awards were issued at the ceremony to top academic achievers and student groups who excelled in their final-year research projects.

College of Health Sciences Acting Dean of Teaching and Learning, Dr Frasia Oosthuizen, acknowledged that the ceremony was a milestone for students. She also applauded the parents for supporting their children.

The students were inspired by Guest Speaker, Ms Catherine Koofhethile, who is currently conducting her doctoral research at UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) under the co-supervision of Dr Christina Thobakgale and the Director of the HPP, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u.

Koofhethile recently had a ‘chance of a lifetime’ opportunity to mingle with Nobel Laureates at the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate (Medicine and Physiology) meeting in Germany. 

Sharing her personal journey from a young girl who grew up in Botswana to becoming an eminent scientist in HIV research, Koofhethile said while the students should celebrate completing their undergraduate degrees this was only the beginning of prosperous futures in the health sciences if they stepped up to the challenge.

Koofhethile encouraged them to not be afraid to go online and identify mentors and opportunities that would unlock their potential. ‘Do not wait for someone to tell you to apply for something. You have to keep looking and don’t be shy to introduce yourself wherever you go. Do everything with passion!’

Koofhethile said it was essential for each and every student to consider returning to UKZN to enrol for postgraduate studies. ‘Coming to UKZN as a young researcher was one of the best decisions I ever made – we conduct research to answer unanswered questions.’

Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, said UKZN’s College of Health Sciences, which boasts cutting edge discipline-specific and multi-disciplinary research relevant to the South African and international contexts, had entrenched research partnerships at national and international level and enjoyed large grants from national and international funders.   It was up to the students to seize such opportunities.