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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.100 no.9 Cape Town Sept. 2010

 

CORRESPONDENCE

 

Clinical haematology training in South Africa

 

 

To the Editor: I read Dr Mlombe's letter on clinical haematology training in South Africa in the June SAMJ1 with interest. Patients with haematological disorders must be treated with a seamless connection between the laboratory and the clinic. The FCPath (SA) (Haem) (Fellowship of the Colleges of Pathologists of South Africa in Haematology) final exam also includes clinical cases.2

I was the secretary of the South African Society for Haematology (SASH) at the time of the inception of the subspecialty of clinical haematology in 1997,3 and would like to sketch the background. Before that time haematologists could either train as haematological pathologists, or as paediatricians or physicians. In the latter two specialties there were no formal qualifications in haematology. During the early 1990s eminent South African haematologists tried to unify the profession of haematology, so that haematologists would be equally comfortable in the laboratory and at the bedside, as recommended by the International Society of Haematology.4,5 A similar model is followed in the UK, where haematologists first complete an MRCP (Membership of the Royal College of Physicians), followed by the FRCPath (Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists in Haematology) by examination, before being eligible for registration as a specialist. The training is regulated by the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians' Training Board (JRCPTB).6

However, in the mid-1990s the then Interim National Medical and Dental Council supported the idea of subspecialties rather than creating new specialties. Thus the subspecialty of clinical haematology came into being, which allows haematological pathologists to gain clinical training, and physicians and paediatricians to gain laboratory training. This is similar to training in the subspecialty of infectious diseases, where there is cross-training in microbiology laboratory and clinical medicine.7 This does not affect the significance of dedicated pathologists. Specialists from various backgrounds train in the subspecialties of intensive care and gastro-enterology.

As mentioned in the letter, clinical haematology is regarded purely as a subspecialty of internal medicine in many parts of the world. The curriculum does not involve significant laboratory training, and this model works well in many countries. In my opinion, however, clinical haematologists must be trained in both laboratory and clinical medicine, which equips clinical haematologists trained in South Africa to be the best professionals to manage haematological conditions. The subspecialty is growing. It is fortuitous that 2010 is the centenary of the publication of the seminal Flexner Report,8 which emphasises the importance of basic medical science in medical education.

 

M J Coetzee
Department of Haematology and Cell biology
University of the Free State
Bloemfontein
coetzeemj@ufs.ac.za

 

1. Mlombe YB. Clinical haematology training in South Africa for fellows with a primary specialty of internal medicine - what's in a name? S Afr Med J 2010; 100(6): 334-336.         [ Links ]

2. The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. Regulations for admission to the Fellowship of the College of Pathologists of South Africa in Haematology, FCPath (SA) Haem. http://www.collegemedsa.ac.za/force_download.asp?Path=Documents\doc_80.pdf& Name=FC%20Path(SA)%20Haem%20Regulations (accessed 25 July 2010).         [ Links ]

3. The Interim National Medical and Dental Council of South Africa: Regulations relating to the registration of the subspecialities of medical practitioners and dentists: amendment. Government Gazette 17 January 1997; Regulation 67[17721], Paragraph 4 (a) (xvi).         [ Links ]

4. Education and Training Committee of the European and African Division of the International Society of Hematology. Model graduate training programme for an accredited haematologist. Newsletter of the European and African Division of the International Society of Hematology 1991; 1: 29-30.         [ Links ]

5. Shinton NK. Organisation of graduate training in haematology. Newsletter of the European and African Division of the International Society of Hematology 1991; 1: 27-28.         [ Links ]

6. Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians' Training Board. Specialty training curriculum for haematology. http://www.jrcptb.org.uk/specialties/ST3-SpR/Pages/Haematology.aspx (accessed 25 July 2010).         [ Links ]

7. The Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. Regulations for admission to the examination for the post-specialisation sub-speciality certificate in infectious diseases, Cert ID (SA). http://www.collegemedsa.ac.za/force_download.asp?Path=Documents\doc_1077.pdf&Name=Cert%20ID(SA)%20Path%20Regulations (accessed 25 July 2010).         [ Links ]

8. Flexner A. Medical Education in the United States and Canada. A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Bulletin Number Four. New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1910.         [ Links ]