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UKZN stalwart professor dies

By Witness Reporter

Professor Yacoob Coovadia's death comes just a few weeks after his brother, renowned paediatrician Professor Jerry Coovadia's death.

UKZN Stalwart, Dr Yacoob Coovadia. Photo: UKZN

Professor Yacoob Coovadia, a stalwart from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has died.

His death comes just a few weeks after his brother, renowned paediatrician Professor Jerry Coovadia died in october.

  • “This is a double blow to UKZN as his death follows only a few weeks after that of his legendary brother, Professor Jerry Coovadia,” the Department of Medical Microbiology at UKZN said in a statement.

Coovadia matriculated from Sastri College, Durban, and then went on to study medicine at the University of Cape Town, completing his MBChB in 1975.

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Coovadia also had a brief stint as a medical officer at King Edward VIII hospital, after which he proceeded to specialise in Medical Microbiology in Durban, obtaining FC Path (Microbiology) via the College of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) in 1981.

After qualifying in medical microbiology, he held a joint post as a senior lecturer at UKZN and medical microbiologist for the Department of Health.

Coovadia had a deep passion for teaching. He was an outstanding teacher who had his undergraduate students thoroughly entertained with hilarious stories, making the most difficult concepts-notably immunology, easy to grasp.

“His lectures were always filled to capacity as nobody would ever want to miss any of them. It was a sheer joy to be in his class which provided a temporary respite from the stresses and gravity of life as a medical student,” the statement read.

It added that despite Prof Coovadia having a rather reserved and shy personality, when he stood on the lecture podium, he transformed into a “riotous stand-up comedian, rivalling Trevor Noah!”

Apart from the thousands of undergraduate students that Professor Coovadia taught, he was responsible for the training of numerous medical microbiologists at UKZN, many of whom he supervised to Masters Level.

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“His ward rounds, like his lectures, were spirited and engaging, which many clinical colleagues can attest to. His registrars gained invaluable knowledge from him during these rounds and during interactions with him in the laboratory. He had a gift on taking complex problems and breaking them down into simple and practical solutions, much to the awe of his registrars,” said the statement.

Professor Coovadia was a prolific researcher. Due to extensive collaborations, he has published over 100 journal articles and spoken at both local and international congresses. He has also examined many Masters theses and served as a long-standing examiner for the CMSA.

The department added that one of Professor Coovadia’s admirable traits was his deep humility.

“He always downplayed the significant contribution he made to service work, teaching and research. Despite being promoted to principal specialist and associate professor in 2004, he always introduced himself as a doctor.”

Coovadia retired in 2016, however, he continued to take up academic positions across the country.

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“We offer our heartfelt condolences to his dear wife, Mrs Farida Coovadia, his daughters Drs Shafiya and Somayya Coovadia, his grandchildren and the rest of his family. Professor Coovadia left a void when he retired from UKZN/NHLS, which could never be filled. He is sadly missed, but his legacy – the wealth of knowledge that he imparted – will live on through the people he has trained, who are now training the next generation.

“We have been blessed to have him as a teacher and mentor in our department – a warm, kind and humorous colleague with immense intelligence and commitment to his field,” said the statement.