CAPRISA Staff Member Completes a PhD in Record Time

Dr Buyisile Chibi, a Research Associate at the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), graduated with a doctoral degree in Public Health within two-and-a-half years whilst also publishing six papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and one scientific report.

Her study encourages the KwaZulu-Natal health authorities to invest more effort in protecting vulnerable groups if it is to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets to end AIDS.

Chibi was supervised by Public Health specialist, Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson who was ecstatic to receive the news of her graduation. She commented, ‘This is a story of a South African Black female who completed her PhD within two-and-a-half years whilst holding a full-time job. I feel very blessed to have supervised her.’

Chibi’s study focused on Public Health Pharmacy and aimed to determine the factors that contribute to prescription drug diversion, misuse and abuse among people living with HIV (PLWH) in eThekwini district, KwaZulu-Natal. Substance use, mental health problems, homelessness, lower educational levels, past experience with diversion, misuse or abuse practices, being in possession of addictive prescriptions drugs, unemployment and residing in disordered neighborhoods were some of the risk factors identified.

Chibi holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences (Pharmaceutical Chemistry). She has always had a passion for health and medicine. ‘From a young age, the impact of medicines on humankind had always drawn my attention. During my master’s degree, I was introduced to drug design mainly in relation to HIV-1 protease inhibitors and drug-substrate interactions through computational studies. Following my MSc, I joined the Research and Development Lab at Buckman Laboratories, where I was exposed to synthesis and quality control of polymers. Here, my interest was instilled in health and medicines,’ said Chibi.

Whilst working at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Chibi was introduced to Public Health research, which presented her with the opportunity to focus on research impacting on people’s lives in local communities. It was this interest that persuaded her to pursue her PhD in Public Health at UKZN.

‘Pharmaceutical research has always had a special place in my heart and being at CAPRISA is a great opportunity for learning and developing new skills,’ said Chibi who works with Professor Quarraisha Abdool-Karim, Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA and a global expert epidemiologist who has made pioneering contributions to the understanding of the HIV epidemic among young people, especially young women.

Words: MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Supplied