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Graduate with disability achieves a master’s degree in medical sciences summa cum laude

Life has not been easy for Pietermaritzburg resident, Mikyle David. Twenty-three years ago, he was diagnosed with a condition that caused an abnormality in the formation of his tibia and fibia. He was also born with a cleft hand – without two fingers on his right hand. His parents were faced with the choice of amputating both his legs or placing him in a wheelchair for life.

David said: “I’m glad they chose amputation, as it gave me a chance to walk, albeit with the use of two prosthetic limbs.” He is now graduating with a master’s degree in medical sciences summa cum laude, much to the delight of his family.

“Despite my condition presenting a monumental challenge, I was dedicated, worked hard and, with the help of my parents, persevered to overcome it. School came with its own adversity and challenges, as educators and students alike saw me as 'different', while this was 'normal' for me. There was something that my mother once said to encourage me: 'God may have taken away your legs, but he gave you a big brain instead' – words that have stuck with me to this day. I used my so-called 'big brain' to excel academically in school and at university,” said David.

With his prosthetic limbs, David drives from his home in Pietermaritzburg to the Medical School in Durban on a daily basis and also arranged a lift club for others. His car was modified to accommodate his disability. Once at Medical School, he walks up two flights of stairs to get to the laboratory.

David’s supervisor, Professor Anita Naicker, describes him as an exceptional student: “He’s dedicated and diligent, never complains and does everything possible to keep up with the class. He works twice as hard as the average student and, for his efforts, he has graduated a year ahead of time (the master's programme is normally completed over two years). And in addition, his research paper has been accepted by international journal – Archives of gynaecology and obstetrics ( .” Naicker says it is also impressive that he managed all this in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

David investigated the concentration of adipsin and C9 in HIV-associated preeclampsia (PE). The study identified a strong correlation between the up-regulation of adipsin and PE and found that adipsin is a promising biomarker as a diagnostic tool for PE. PE is a pregnancy-related hypertensive disorder that usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation. It is a significant public health threat in both developed and developing countries that contributes to maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality.

He has now registered for a PhD to continue his research on preeclampsia and is keen to include aspects related to COVID-19 in his work. His supervisor has cautioned against this due to the risk involved, but David insists he is not afraid and wants to work in this area to help make a difference.

David, who describes himself as quite a “foodie”, enjoys eating out, spending time with family and friends and playing cricket.

He said: “This may sound very clichéd, but it’s true – life can be tough at times and there will always be obstacles in your way, but good old-fashioned hard work and determination are key.”

David graduated on 26 May.

Issued by:
Corporate Relations
University of KwaZulu-Natal

To interview the graduate contact him on (084) 744 9606 / [email protected]

Editorial contacts
Media Liaison Officer Sejal Desai (083) 284 9333 [email protected]