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Richard Hewlett

Richard HewlettAssociate Professor, Departments of Anatomical & Forensic Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, and National Health Laboratory Service, South Africa

Interview location: His home, Cape Town, South Africa
Interview date: 14th January 2008

Key Themes: History of Pathology, International Perspective, Mentors and InfluencesNew Technologies


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It's the same with everybody who loves the brain, you know, it's its mystery.  It's the key to everything – to what we are and how we think.Brought up in East Africa, Richard Hewlett has forged a rather lonely path championing the cause of neuropathology in Africa and the immense value of combining imaging with traditional pathology. Unfortunately, he says, too often “the neuroradiologists do the imaging, and they don't do any pathology so they have no idea what a single brain cell looks like.  And the pathologists do the pathology and they have no idea what the images mean.”

One of the reasons he feels imaging is so important in neurology is that you can observe changes over time. “That's the big difference -- the pathologist gets the brain once [after the patient has died]. The imager can scan the brain repeatedly.”

Hewlett’s abiding fascination with the brain is evident. “It's the same with everybody who loves the brain, you know, it's its mystery.”   He traces the development of neuropathology as a discipline internationally, and gives some of the reasons why, including lack of resources, becoming a specialist within pathology is not encouraged in Africa.

TB of the brain has been a particular interest.  He did his specialist training in Britain and the USA, but had no doubts about returning to Africa “which is really where my heart is.”  Despite the frustrations of working on the continent, he says, “Pathology has been a wonderful intellectual life.”

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