Surviving Six Surgeries Ignites Derek Tshiabuila's Passion for Medicine: A Journey of Discovery to Transform Disease Prevention and Treatment

In the pursuit of preventing and treating deadly diseases, Derek Tshiabuila, a PhD researcher at the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI), is delving into the enigmatic realm of viral recombination. With a focus on three highly prevalent viruses in South Africa, Derek's groundbreaking work aims to unravel the secrets of viral evolution, providing invaluable insights into the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies.

'I had 6 surgeries in 2008 and was brought back after my heart had stopped. That's what drove me to fall in love with medicine,' said Derek Tshiabuila. Derek's indomitable spirit and unwavering love for medicine were ignited by a life-altering experience in 2008. Emerging from six surgeries and narrowly escaping death as his heart momentarily ceased to beat, he found a profound purpose. Driven by his own journey, Derek embarked on a mission to make a tangible difference in the lives of others, propelled by a passion to understand the intricate workings of the human body.

Initially faced with barriers due to restrictions on non-South African applicants to study Medicine, Derek adapted his path and pursued genetics and microbiology during his undergraduate studies. It was there that he discovered his innate fascination with bioinformatics—a discipline that blends biology, computer science, and statistics to unlock the potential of biological data, providing a gateway to understanding the secrets of life itself.

Building upon this solid foundation, Derek commenced his postgraduate studies in 2020 at the renowned KwaZulu Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform (KRISP). Under the expert guidance of his mentor, Prof Tulio de Oliveira, Derek's passion found its true calling in the field of bioinformatics, where he could explore the intricate dance between genetics, viruses, and human health.

Derek's unwavering commitment and exceptional talent garnered the attention of CERI, a leading institution in epidemiological research and innovation, in 2023. Recognizing his immense potential, CERI bestowed upon him the prestigious position of a PhD research fellow. Guided by his supervisor, Prof Tulio de Oliveira, alongside co-supervisors Prof Darren Martin and Dr. San Emmanuel James, Derek embarks on a groundbreaking exploration of bioinformatics and computational biology.

At the heart of Derek's research lies the profound objective of unraveling the mysteries of viral recombination within South Africa's most prevalent viruses, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and Hepatitis C Virus HCV. By decoding the complex patterns of viral evolution, Derek's work carries the potential to revolutionize our understanding of these devastating diseases, laying the groundwork for the development of more effective prevention and treatment strategies.

Derek Tshiabuila's remarkable journey underscores the transformative power of research and mentorship. It serves as a testament to the resilience and passion that drives individuals to exceed expectations and make indelible contributions to the world of medicine.

News date: 2023-06-25