UKZN 40th Medicine Update calls for stronger community focus

Professor Nombulelo Magula speaking at the 40th Medicine Update. Photograph: Albert Hirasen

Professor Nombulelo Magula speaking at the 40th Medicine Update. Photograph: Albert Hirasen

Published Dec 20, 2023


By Lunga Memela

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Discipline of Internal Medicine recently hosted its 40th Medicine Update - a dynamic and interactive symposium attended by a combination of postgraduate students, medical experts and seasoned researchers.

The attendees presented cases faced by doctors in South Africa, and called for an increased medical focus on treating patients and preventing disease at the community level.

The event has been held over the past few years under the leadership of Professor Nombulelo Magula, whose passion for walking the journey with her patients and students, and making medicine accessible to all South Africans, is displayed in her role as the UKZN Head of Internal Medicine and the leader of Clairwood Hospital’s clinical team.

In his opening address, Deputy Health Minister and UKZN Medical alumnus, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said he was impressed by the symposium’s theme - “Advancing health education, extending life expectancy, one patient at a time”.

Dhlomo is a staunch advocate of universal health coverage and South Africa’s National Health Insurance (NHI), both of which prioritise patient access to healthcare even in the most remote rural areas. He said it was important to shape-shift access to healthcare; starting from one patient to one household and thereafter one community to beyond. He delivered an impromptu presentation on the envisaged benefits of having the NHI Bill implemented in the country.

Dhlomo cautioned against the imminent pandemic of non-communicable diseases - begging all members of society to encourage each other to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and reduce smoking and alcohol consumption.

He added that health experts continue to fight against the country’s quadruple burden of disease, which is a cocktail of four colliding epidemics: maternal, new-born and child health; HIV/Aids and tuberculosis (TB); non-communicable diseases; and violence and injury – all of which require all members of society to play an active role in prevention.

Dhlomo promoted innovation and compassion among healthcare practitioners, emphasising the constant need for health promotion and disease prevention.

Professor Keertan Dheda, a hospital-based respiratory physician and clinician scientist with professorial appointments at the University of Cape Town and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, lobbied for the proactive finding of TB cases instead of only testing for the disease when patients arrive at healthcare facilities.

He delivered this year’s Vinod Gathiram Memorial Lecture titled: “Diagnosis of tuberculosis: What’s new, What’s Hot, What’s Not?”

Dheda shared TB-testing best practices with attendees; also stressing that healthcare needs to reach the communities where they live.

“Beyond screening for TB and HIV and other primary healthcare services, nothing should stop mobile units from roaming to remote communities (and) adding services that address pertinent challenges such as mental health,” he said.

Dr Zanele Moya, a specialist physician at uMlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, impressed the auditorium with her recently published Master’s research assessing the index CD4 and associated outcomes in one year at a tertiary HIV clinic. She said eight million people were reported to be living with HIV in 2022 in South Africa; 5.1 million of whom were adult females, 2.7 million were adult males, and an alarming 200 000 were children. She presented the study at the Fast-Track Cities 2023 Conference in Amsterdam and shared its findings at the Medicine Update.

Professor Kennedy Nyamande, Head of UKZN’s Pulmonology discipline, presented on the management of pneumococcal disease caused by bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) that can attack different parts of the body, and emphasised the critical role of vaccination against this infection.

Esteemed haematologist, Dr Farah Rahman updated the auditorium about the evolving treatment landscape of multiple myeloma (MM) in South Africa. MM is a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.

Dr Yoliswa Madela, a PhD candidate and dedicated specialist physician and consultant at the Department of Geriatrics at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, sensitised doctors to the nuances involved in administering drugs for older persons.

Dr Bhasela Yalezo, a senior lecturer at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership, shone the spotlight on the medico-legal intersection between advocacy, ethics and healthcare professionals when he presented insightful cases of medical negligence that have recently been litigated.

The Discipline of Internal Medicine at UKZN provides specialist medical care for individuals over the age of 12, which is a continuation of where paediatric medicine ends. It encompasses the fields of cardiology, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, geriatrics, infectious diseases, pulmonology, nephrology, neurology, dermatology, rheumatology and general medicine.