The Faculty of Health Sciences is proud to have Kayshia Deepnarain graduating with the generic Masters in Health Sciences Degree. (This is a new qualification that DUT had started offering and she is the first student to graduate with this degree), at the 2019 September graduation ceremony.
Speaking to the bubbly Kayshia Deepnarain, she could not contain her excitement. “I feel proud of my accomplishments and I definitely feel proud being the first person at DUT to graduate with a generic Master’s in Health Sciences degree. After all, who would not feel proud being the first to achieve something great. It is truly a momentous experience,” she said excitedly.
Delving more on her topic, Deepnarain said her dissertation directly related to maternal and child health. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and child birth on a daily basis. She said that it is estimated that 99% of these deaths occur in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) like South Africa. “Every year thousands of mothers die from pregnancy related causes and millions suffer from complications related to pregnancy or child birth. Moreover, the unprecedented increase in HIV prevalence coupled with inadequate antenatal care has contributed to the poorer uptake of HIV testing further complicating maternal and birth outcomes in LMICs. In SA, HIV is responsible for approximately 40% of maternal deaths with KwaZulu-Natal having the highest antenatal prevalence,” she stressed.
She said that after understanding the extent of this crisis and being astounded by the fact that despite major efforts to reduce this problem around the world LMICs like SA are still burdened with this issue, it was an easy decision in choosing to be a part of a research team that were committed to finding new approaches to help alleviate this problem through easy, reliable and cost effective ways such as the use of biomarkers which is exactly what her study aimed to do.
Deepnarain said that her academic journey has not been an easy one. At the tender age of 16 she had lost her sight on her right eye. According to the doctors her eyes were severely inflamed with excessive internal bleeding which was causing the loss of vision. After years of treatment that included oral and intravenous steroids, immunosuppressants, Kenalog injections to her eyes, two surgeries, and a trip to the Ayodhya Eye Hospital in Mumbai, India, her sight has been restored to a certain extent. “My condition is currently referred to as Bilateral Idiopathic Panuveitis. Thanks to the decisions and actions taken by her doctor, Dr Anthony Zaborowski she still has her sight today.
During the 11 years it has been a struggle and had impacted on the lives of her family and her every step of the way. “Unfortunately, it has also negatively impacted my secondary school experience and results. I was bullied in school due to side effects from the medication, I missed many days of school to undergo medical treatment and many more days being sick from all the medication. Through all of that I managed to successfully complete matric but, not with the results I hoped to achieve,” she said.
After completing matric in 2010, getting accepted into University in the science field was difficult because her results were not as great as other matriculants. She did not get accepted in 2011 and that brought her self-esteem to the ground, and during that year she was the most depressed. “I was disheartened. I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity and disappointment for a while, but then I got back up and started applying to universities again because I decided that I wasn’t going to let anyone decide what my future should be. I eventually received an acceptance letter from DUT to be accepted into the Environmental Health programme, however, I was denied registration because it turned out that the letter was incorrectly phrased and I wasn’t really accepted because I didn’t meet the requirements. I got turned away again,” she stressed.
She never gave up and eventually got accepted into the Environmental Health programme under the condition that she would complete an additional NSC subject at an FET college to meet all acceptance requirements. This was made possible with the assistance of Prof Reddy who was the HOD at the time. “I was extremely grateful to her and excited to start a new chapter in my life. I accepted the conditions and met the requirements,” she said happily.
By this time, she was responding well to her treatment and had good vision on her left eye to continue studying. “One of my proudest moments was graduating for my Diploma in Environmental Health with a Cum Laude and receiving the deans merit award for academic excellence in 2016. I then registered to complete my BTech degree full time and graduated with a Cum Laude once again in 2017,” she said. Things were going great again and she was ready to register for my Master’s degree when her life crumbled to the ground again.
Not long after graduation she lost her dad. In memory of her loving dad she registered for her Master’s in Health Sciences degree and completed her dissertation in January 2019. “I have dedicated it to my dad who I love and miss dearly. He keeps me focused and is my guardian angel. I graduated this September but, not having my dad with me to share the moment breaks my heart,” she said sadly.
Despite all her obstacles, DUT has been an excellent platform in helping her attain her academic goals and achievements. “Many of the staff at DUT have been role players in my success and have contributed to my growth and development as an academic. Through their teachings, I have learned to value time management, respect education and appreciate the power of wisdom and knowledge,” said Deepnarain.
Her advice to future students wishing to study in the same field is to never give up. “We all have the ability to overcome obstacles and make the most of an opportunity. If Health Sciences is something you take interest to then it is definitely worth exploring. Decide your own future and do not doubt your decisions,” she said.
Pictured: Kayshia Deepnarain