Twenty-seven-year-old audiology lecturer and researcher Vera-Genevey Hlayisi understands the value of hearing. She’s won multiple awards in the field and is a voice worth hearing to patients, students and international forums alike, but it was not the obvious choice for her.
When she finished school in Limpopo, she was accepted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) to study medicine. Yet, when she arrived at UCT, she was told the university had sent out too many acceptance letters believing not everyone would choose to study there. Hlayisi was told to choose another stream in the health sciences faculty.
She’d never heard of audiology. “My dad said to me, ‘this is an institution of higher learning, you might as well go study what you know nothing about’,” she remembers.
Six months into her first year, she was offered a place in medical school, but she turned it down because she was enjoying what she was learning in audiology. She has not looked back.
“I’m an eager-beaver and I have a can-do spirit I got from my grandmother,” she says. This pragmatism led her to an award from the future leaders in health initiative for her leadership and contribution to UCT’s health sciences student council.
Hlayisi qualified as an audiologist by the time she was 20; she has practised in both the public and private sector. She also teaches in the field at UCT and is an international contributor with the renowned Ida Institute in Denmark as well as the leader of the academic development portfolio of the South African Association of Audiologists. Most recently, Hlayisi’s doctoral research was awarded a research grant by the South African National Research Foundation.
Hlayisi also strives to educate ordinary people on how to care for their ears.
“Your hearing is not something that you can just get back once you’ve lost it,” she says. She was one of three audiologists selected by the Western Cape province to provide training and content for screening guidelines for the school health campaign in 2014 and 2015; she hosted the first International Ear Care Day celebration at Pietersburg Academic Hospital; and was invited to guest lecture and create curriculum content on the massive open online courses with the Teacher Empowerment in Disability Inclusion under UCT’s umbrella on hearing health and learning for children with hearing disabilities.
Another area of research that interests Hlayisi is person-centred health-care.
“The one-size-fits-all sales-focused approach currently practised in medicine is not working,” she says. “We need to start focusing on people’s individual needs and customising our treatments to them.”
She added that this approach is yielding great results in other parts of the world and South Africa needs to follow suit. – Itumeleng Molefe
LinkedIn: Vera-Genevey Hlayisi