Thursday, 18 April was a day of unfiltered happiness for friends and family of Dr Linda Bester and Lieutenant Colonel Deidré Horn, sisters who graduated with PhD and Masters degrees respectively from the College of Health Sciences at UKZN.

Joining them in their celebrations was husband of Dr Linda Bester, Dr Willem Bester, who also graduated with a PhD from UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

Willem’s PhD investigated the management style, emotional and mental state of re-employed managers who had been retrenched, while Horn’s Masters research, supervised by Professor Petra Brysiewicz from the School of Nursing and Public Health, was praised for developing a seven-step checklist to guide the development and implementation of a community empowerment programme (CEP) after she explored the lived experiences of HIV/AIDS community empowerment programme workers in Ladysmith.

Supervised by Professor Sabiha Essack, Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, Bester’s doctoral research, “Antibiotic resistance in the food chain: a case study of Campylobacter spp. in poultry”, investigated the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics for growth promotion in food animal production, specifically the probability of antibiotic use in food production creating a reservoir of resistant bacteria and/or resistance genes that may spread to humans, thereby limiting the therapeutic value of antimicrobial drugs.

The study recommended that the consequences of the use of antimicrobial growth promoters in South Africa receive more attention.  Bester said veterinarians and food animal producers need to be trained with respect to prophylactic treatment and possible human health issues related to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Essack described Bester as a pleasure to supervise.  ‘She is an independent researcher whose lateral and critical thinking abilities resulted in four journal articles and two conference presentations from her PhD. She will no doubt excel in her postdoctoral career.’

Bester said she had a great supporting boss, supervisor and group of colleagues. ‘Thus, I learned that the PhD graduate walks to that podium, and although the degree is conferred on the individual, it entails a multitude of unseen people who supported and carried that student to that point’.

‘Except for family and friends who had to listen tirelessly to “ups” and “downs” there were the colleagues and students who assisted and supported unselfishly for that PhD student to reach his/her various deadlines. For that reason the title should be carried with humility, as you never did it on your own.’

Asked about the process of working towards her PhD simultaneously with her husband, Bester said it made things easier.

‘We had the same goals so working until late at night or on weekends was never a problem. The roles of who’s playing the “frustrated one” or the “motivator” would constantly be switched. I am exceedingly proud of Willem. It was also an enjoyable experience being on this journey with my sister. She is a great role model and I am often amazed by her level of compassion towards her patients.’

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