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Dhiren Govender

Dhiren GovenderProfessor of Anatomical Pathology, University of Cape Town 

Interview location: University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences
Interview date
:16th January, 2008

Key Themes: Autopsy, New Technologies



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This is really the foundation of medicine: in my mind there's no doubt that if you don't have good knowledge of pathology, you don't understand the patient that well.

Dhiren Govender is a “fourth-generation South African of Indian origin”.  He studied medicine during the final years of apartheid, which was a particularly turbulent time politically to be a student.  Graduating from the University of Natal medical school, which was reserved exclusively for non-whites, he already knew he wanted to be a pathologist.

Today he is head of anatomical pathology at the prestigious Groote Schuur hospital and University of Cape Town.  Yet many of his patients come from the surrounding townships and rural hinterland, which means he encounters both first and third world patterns of disease.  In his research he has looked at how socio-economic factors affect the development and outcome of disease.

Govender is very concerned about the low autopsy rates in South Africa today.  Not only does this deprive hospitals of a tool for quality assurance; it also limits their ability to expand knowledge of such conditions as AIDS and alcohol-related disease, both common in South Africa. “Groote Schuur is the premier hospital in South Africa, and not to have a clinical audit or some sort of quality assurance system with regards to deaths is really short-sighted.”

He talks in some detail about the professional conditions for pathologists in South Africa, including the new training curriculum.  He is also an international advisor with the UK’s Royal College of Pathologists, which is supporting the development of pathology throughout Africa.


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