Great universities and great religions are among the most enduring of human institutions. The first medical school established in sub-Saharan Africa was at the University of Cape Town (UCT). However, the first on the African continent was in Cairo, established in 1827, followed by Algeria in 1879. By the end of the Second World War (WW2) there were 8 medical schools in Africa, 3 of which were in South Africa. Independence of African countries from colonial domination, starting in the 1950s, saw rapid growth of new home-grown medical schools on the continent.
The University of Cape Town's Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) commemorates 100 years of existence on 6 June after the Medical School was founded with the opening of the Anatomical and Physiological Laboratories of the South African College at the Hiddingh Campus in the city. South Africans at the time had to go abroad for medical education and the strong call to establish a national medical school was countered by concerns that no school equal to the standard required by recognised universities of Great Britain could be established in the Cape Colony, which lacked staff and facilities for adequate clinical instruction (Howard Phillips, personal communication).
The contributions of the University of Cape Town's Faculty of Health Sciences to medical science through research over the past 100 years are reviewed. The application of contemporary techniques to common medical problems in the developing world had important implications globally. The Faculty can be proud of its achievements in many areas important to the health of people in South Africa, Africa and beyond.
A relationship has existed between the University of Cape Town's Medical Faculty (MF) and Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) since the MF was established in 1912. However, this was not formalised until the first Joint Staff Agreement was signed in 1951. This close and rewarding association achieved outstanding results and produced significant benefits for both institutions over many years, despite intermittent problems and disputes. More recently, difficulties have been experienced, but it is hoped that these will be overcome.
The University of Cape Town's Faculty of Health Sciences, in its hundredth year, carries a strong current of its development in the inscriptions on its pediments, doorways and notice boards. These names describe the Faculty in each of its stages of evolution, and evoke a rich history. The named look down from their portraits with pride at the passing students, the staff, and the flourishing Faculty.
The Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) is a student-run non-profit community development organisation based at the University of Cape Town (UCT). In 2012 SHAWCO celebrates its 69th anniversary, making it the oldest active student-run free clinic in South Africa. Over the past 7 decades, SHAWCO has become an integral part of UCT's Faculty of Health Sciences. This article reviews its history, current activities, and plans for the future.
The Health Workers Society (HWS), founded in 1980, was one of several progressive health organisations that fought for a democratic health system in South Africa. We document the sociopolitical context within which it operated and some of its achievements. HWS, many of whose members were staff and students of the University of Cape Town, provided a forum for debate on health-related issues, politics and society, and worked closely with other organisations to oppose the apartheid state's health policies and practices. They assisted with the formation of the first dedicated trade union for all healthcare workers and were one of the first to pioneer the primary healthcare approach in an informal settlement in Cape Town.
The history of bioethics in the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Cape Town follows a similar pattern to elsewhere. At first, bioethics received little formal attention, but there has been a flowering of interest over the last few decades. There has also been a shift from a professionally insular view of bioethics to one informed by non-medical disciplines. While this pattern is to be found in many parts of the world, there are some distinctive, but not unique, features of bioethics at South Africa's oldest Medical School.
The Department of Paediatric Surgery at the University of Cape Town has made a remarkable contribution to the academic body of knowledge of Paediatric Surgery both in South Africa and around the world. It has played a key role in the development of the specialty in South Africa and through the South African diaspora has trained many paediatric surgeons who have made their mark internationally. More recently it has become a major focus of teaching and training for African paediatric surgeons. This article traces this legacy through its origins in the early 1920s to its current prominent position in the world paediatric surgical community.
The nature of research has continued to change considerably over the last century. Our Faculty's challenge has been to keep abreast of those changes to remain at the cutting edge, while contributing meaningfully to the scientific literature which informs clinical and public health practice in South Africa and beyond. The Faculty must possess an agreed-on research strategy that is dynamic and responsive. Over the years our Faculty has 'grown' such a strategy document. This article, summarising its main thrusts, is offered because we feel that while it applies specifically to the University of Cape Town, the issues raised surely apply to all similar faculties in our country and on the continent, to varying degrees.
From humble beginnings, the Department of Anaesthesia of the University of Cape Town has played a major role in the development of anaesthesia as a speciality, in South Africa and internationally. We highlight these contributions in clinical service, teaching and research, with particular emphasis on the department's leading role in the evolution of anaesthetic safety in adults and children: from the development of the treatment of malignant hyperthermia, to unique studies in mortality associated with anaesthesia, and modern contributions to improved drug safety. Innovations in anaesthetic techniques have contributed to significant surgical developments, including the first heart transplant. Furthermore, our research has contributed to major advances in obstetric and endocrine anaesthesia, and training in the department is recognised as being among the best in the world.
Under Professor Dennis Davey's leadership, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology recognised the need for subspecialist expertise and training. Thus, the gynaecological subspecialties were developed, the first of which was gynaecological oncology. We review the research, and subsequent clinical application, which has evolved from the subspecialist units.
The porphyrias are a group of disorders resulting from defective haem biosynthesis. One form, variegate porphyria, is common in South Africa as a result of a founder effect. Over the past 50 years, the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Cape Town has built and maintained an international reputation for excellence in the field of porphyria. The porphyria group is respected for its research and for its accumulated experience in the management of these disorders. Equally important has been the comprehensive and holistic care offered to patients with porphyria, and to their families.
Trauma represents a major burden of disease in South Africa. Children are disproportionately affected by trauma; rightly, childhood trauma can be referred to as 'the neglected childhood killer disease'. Unlike the field of infectious diseases, where vaccinations and prevention are the norm, paediatric trauma is usually ignored and prevention strategies are scarce. In this article, we review paediatric trauma and its effect on our society in light of the development of more effective child safety promotion strategies.
The world's first successful human heart transplantation on 2 December 1967 inspired me to study medicine at the University of Cape Town's Faculty of Health Sciences. There I learned 5 key elements for a successful career in either medicine or science or both - perfectionism, passion, compassion, the dispassionate investigation of all the available evidence, and the need to challenge established beliefs for which the scientific evidence appears imperfect. Challenging such beliefs enabled us to prove that hyponatraemic encephalopathy was caused by persistent and heroic over-drinking during prolonged exercise, usually lasting more than 4 hours, and was unrelated to salt losses in sweat and urine; to understand that the brain not the muscles must regulate the exercise performance, and thus develop the Central Governor Model of Exercise; and to reconsider the dietary causes of the obesity and diabetic epidemic.
These brief reflections from 4 University of Cape Town (UCT) medical graduates who chose to make their careers in rural practice are written in narrative style to try to capture something of the lived experience of working in rural areas. Although still the career choice of a minority of UCT graduates, those who have chosen to practise in rural areas have found a solid base of competence and confidence in their clinical skills, that has enabled them to tackle challenges in areas beyond anything that they or their teachers might have anticipated.
The Surgical Society of the University of Cape Town is a student-run society established in 2006 and is affiliated with the Department of Surgery. The aims of the society are to supplement undergraduate training, to promote medical and surgical research, and to motivate students to pursue a career in surgery. Regular monthly lectures and surgical skills courses are offered, as well as weekly anatomy workshops. A recently launched Surgery Shadow Programme enables students to interact with practising surgeons in theatre, thereby gaining insight into the advantages and challenges involved in a future career in surgery.
The vision of the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) (http://www.satvi.uct.ac.za) is 'A World Without TB' and our mission is 'Innovative and high-quality TB vaccine research in Africa, to impact the global epidemic'. Over the last 10 years, our focus has been two-fold: first, clinical trials of BCG and of new candidate vaccines, and second, complementary research that addresses critical questions in tuberculosis (TB) vaccine development. SATVI is now widely regarded as the leading TB vaccine clinical research site in the world.
We explore the history of the School of Public Health at the University of Cape Town and its relationship to changes in the understanding of the role of public health both nationally and internationally. We draw from primary and secondary sources to trace the emergence, growth and development of the School, and to situate these processes within the socio-political, clinical and public health contexts in South Africa and internationally.
The Division of Human Genetics (DHG) of the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town (UCT) - established in 1972 - recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. We review its history, current status and future objectives.
Dr Stuart Saunders, former Professor of Medicine and Vice-Chancellor of UCT, played a pivotal role in initiating the DHG. Dr Peter Beighton served as Professor of Human Genetics from 1972 to 1999. In this period, the initial focus was on medical genetics and the development of cytogenetic, biochemical and molecular laboratories, with the help of Professor Jacquie Greenberg. Fourteen clinical and scientific DHG members obtained doctorates; of these, 8 achieved full professorial status. Current Head of the Department, Professor Raj Ramesar, succeeded to the Chair in 1999. Expansion of the molecular laboratories followed. The DHG now has comprehensive programmes for postgraduate scientific training, research and service.
Publications during the lifetime of the DHG include more than 540 articles in peer-reviewed medical, genetic and scientific journals, 20 books and contributions to over 40 chapters/editorials in scientific and medical genetic books.