A New Chapter In Women’s Dermatology, South Africa

The 1900’s saw Drs E.J. Schultz and Margaret Bayles graduate as the first white female dermatologists.

Dr Jamila Aboobaker and Dr Zubie Hamed were the first Indian dermatologists, while Dr Pholile Mpofu and Dr Ncoza Dlova were the first African dermatologists and Dr Pat Lawrence the first Coloured dermatologist.

Fast forward, roughly two decades later and you will find that to date, South Africa boasts about 110 female dermatologists in the public and private sector.

  • Most of these women have been, and continue to be pioneers in many faculties either as heads of departments, local dermatology societies, dermatology colleges or leaders in groundbreaking research. They contribute daily towards the training of upcoming dermatologists, professors, mothers and outstanding members of the society.
  • The Dermatology Society of South Africa, under the leadership of Dr Dagmar Whittaker as President, has nine female dermatologists with PhD’s, namely: Prof E.J. Schulz, Prof Norma Saxe, Prof Anisa Mosam, Dr Margaret Bayles, Prof Gail Todd, Prof Ncoza Dlova, Prof Jamila Aboobaker, Prof Nonhlanhla Khumalo and Dr Carol Hlela.
  • During the 2015 SA Dermatology College exams, two female dermatologists, namely Drs Sibisi and M. Morrison were awarded the Janssen Foundation Research Award for their sterling performance in the exams.
  • It was therefore fitting that in August 2015, as the country celebrated its National Women’s Month, the dermatology community would launch the African Women’s Dermatologic Society (AWDS), a subsidiary of the International Women’s Dermatologic Society (WDS).
  • Prof Ncoza Dlova and Dr Dagmar Whittaker were instrumental in bringing together several female dermatologists from across the country for a “team building and strategic meeting” in Cape Town during August 2015, to discuss the formation of the society.
  • Together they raised funds and organised the very first meeting, which was kindly hosted by Dr Dagmar Whittaker at her residence in Cape Town.

Founding Members of the AWDS

The society aims to support and develop leadership, scholarship, and inoculate social responsibility:

1. Leadership: Initiating leadership forums for the nurturing of young dermatologists and creating mentorship programmes for future leaders

2. Scholarship: To encourage research and collaboration focusing on, but not restricted to, African skin conditions by:

  • Establishing international exchange programmes
  • Setting up public–private partnerships

3. Social responsibility :

  • Spearheading consumer education programmes vs: skin lighteners, hair loss, skin cancer, aesthetic treatments, etc.
  • Education of primary health care practitioners
  • Establishing support groups

The Founding Members of the AWDS are:

  • Prof Ncoza Dlova – President
  • Dr Dagmar Whitaker – Vice President
  • Prof Anisa Mosam – Treasurer
  • Dr Nokubonga Khoza – Secretary
  • Dr Pholile Mpofu
  • Dr Izolda Heydenrych
  • Dr Antoinette Chateau
  • Dr Suretha Kannenberg
  • Dr Sian van den Handel
  • Dr Carol Hlela

Founding Members of SAEBIG:

  • Dr Carol Hlela – Cape Town (Chairperson)
  • Dr Antoinette Chateau – Durban (Vice-Chairperson)
  • Dr Suretha Kannenburg – Cape Town (Secretary)
  • Dr Nokubonga Khoza – (Committee member)
  • Prof Ncoza Dlova (Committee member)

Achievements to date:

In line with the mission statement, several society members have been very active and instrumental in local community outreach projects and initiatives.
The 2015/2016 period saw the inception of the following:

  • Prof Dlova coordinated the first meeting, which was held in October 2015, Cape Town and was kindly sponsored by Molnlycke. The support group also includes Professional Nurses; patients living with EB as well as family members of sufferers.
  • It promises to be of great support to increase awareness and knowledge in the management of this challenging disease. Dr Khoza has been very instrumental in preparing the educational pamphlets and posters for distribution in various public and private hospitals.
  • AWDS as well as staff from the Department of Dermatology – Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (NRMSM), participated in the teaching of 400 primary healthcare nurses, medical students and doctors in three districts/venues across KwaZulu-Natal over three days.
  • Topics on the diagnosis and management of common skin diseases, as well as practical tips on bedside diagnostic tools and appropriate therapies that can be adopted at local community and home-level were discussed.
  • This was sponsored by Uniliver and the Direct Relief Programme.

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  • UKZN – NRMSM hosted Dr Oluwakemi Onajin, Resident: Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA.
  • They will also be hosting exchange students from Philippines, Nigeria and Iran. In the past, several students from UCSF, Australia, Zambia, Miami and Uganda have visited as AWDS members/mentees.
  • Members of the AWDS conduct annual registrar workshops, mentoring and guiding residents in preparation for their fellowship exams.
  • Members of the AWDS are strong supporters of the Albinism Society and give talks to various workshops organised by the society.

Women Supporting Each Other:

Members of the African’ Women’s Dermatologic Society(A’WDS) at the 1st International Melanoma World Society ( MWS) .

Special Congratulations to Dr Dagmar Whitaker ( President of Dermatology Society of South Africa and President of the Melanoma Society of South Africa) and her team for hosting the 1st International MWS Educational Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa, March 3-4, 2017.

The meeting was well attended by local and international delegates (Dermatologist, Plastic Surgeons and Oncologist) from South Africa, Africa and Europe. Excellent scientific and robust discussions on epidemiology, early detection of melanomas and skin cancers, prevention strategies that are working in other countries as well newer and adjuvant therapies and guidelines.

Take home message : Establishing interdisciplinary skin cancer centres across the world is key to the management of all skin cancers.

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