Meet SANTHE’s first graduate: Patience Shumba

Friday, 31 March, 2017

SANTHE is proud to announce that Patience Shumba has graduated from our programme with a Master of Medical Science (Medical Microbiology) degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Supervised by Dr Alex Pym from the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban, South Africa, Shumba’s project aimed at using fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) to isolate antibiotic survivors in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Understanding the characteristics of antibiotic survivors will lead to the development of better antibiotics or improve the efficiency of the existing TB chemotherapy. Asked what interesting results emerged, she said, “Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the results as we have not yet published the data. But, I can tell you that working with the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) was interesting because it is not a predictable pathogen in terms of its ability to evade antibiotic treatment.”

Commenting on what she enjoyed most whilst studying for her Masters, she said, “I enjoyed the support and independence that I had while I was working under the supervision of Dr Pym. This allowed me to plan my work and do things at a pace I could handle. I worked with a very supportive team in our lab, they contributed a lot in making my days enjoyable. They were more like friends than colleagues. I also got to do my work while listening to some background music (my favourite).”

Asked how she approached her studies, she explained, “I was willing to learn what I did not know. When I started my Masters, I did not know much about flow cytometry so I was taught how to use the flow cytometer, using the software for data analysis. I was not ashamed to ask when I didn’t know and I consulted the right people most of the times. Planning and working with deadlines made me an organised person because I had to be disciplined in managing time.”

Shumba is a Zimbabwean who did her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Microbiology and then her Honours in Biochemistry at UKZN. She is still looking at options for the immediate future but she plans to do her PhD “very soon”.

For fun she likes, listening to music, singing, watching movies and sight-seeing. Her brother is a goalkeeper in a team in the Zimbabwe Premier Soccer League, her mother is a small-scale trader and her father is a retired policeman. Looking back on her life so far, she says she experienced her fair share of challenges, “Especially when my parents separated when I was in high school. I experienced depression, financial issues, and a change of lifestyle.” However, Shumba says her Christian faith helped her to overcome her problems and today, she stands as a shining example to the those who might follow in her footsteps.