Constantia surgeon named a fellow of science group

Dr Rushdi Hendricks of Constantia was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa last week.

The honour was bestowed on Dr Hendricks in Observatory by the group’s president, Professor Stephanie Burton.

The organisation is a society of scholars and experts and it stands for the promotion of science in society. The annual award is open to anyone interested in science, according to executive officer of the society Dr Carolyn McGibbon.

Dr Hendricks is a maxillofacial surgeon in private practice for 34 years. He is affiliated to the Departments of Medicine and Plastic, Reconstructive and Maxillofacial surgery at UCT.

Over the past decade, he developed a surgical cure for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) by pioneering the concept that tongue base advancement using a mesh tether could reverse OSA. This is a serious debilitating medical condition that affects 22 million people in South Africa.

“This is a bio-degradable device, which not only reverses OSA but after eight months from implantation into an animal model is replaced by a natural collagenous tendon-like-tether derived from the body’s stem cells,” Dr Hendricks said.

He published his findings in the Annals of Maxillofacial Surgery in 2019 and in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research in 2020.

In late July, he delivered a webinar to the Royal Society, of which he has been a member since 1997.

Dr Hendricks told the Bulletin he was “blown away” by the award. “I am very humbled by this award. I have always been in awe of the quality of the lectures that the society presented.

“When I was given the opportunity to address this august group of scientists, it was an honour for me to lecture them. In that lecture, I really didn’t think that they would want me to be a fellow.

“I was so thankful, I was jumping up and down, and I couldn’t believe I was worthy of an award of this calibre. This is the highest honour anyone could ever achieve. Once you have this award, all your other qualifications are second tier. This is the fellowship where you are part of top scientists in your country. I am very grateful and honoured.”

Dr Hendricks is currently conducting a human trial to test his device for safety and efficacy. “I am now going to be conducting a human study using my device, and of course having this fellowship will give me a lot of kudos to collect funds,” he said.

The webinar to the Royal Society of South Africa can be viewed at royalsocietysa.org.za. Dr Hendricks can be contacted at mureeda.samaai@gmail.com, or 021 671 5040.