University Free State: First atlas of skin diseases in Africa

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A senior lecturer and specialist in the dermatology department at the University of the Free State (UFS) has published the very first comprehensive African atlas on skin diseases commonly seen in the African setting. The African Atlas, synopsis and practical guide to clinical dermatology also contains more than 1 000 high-resolution images and is intended for medical and nursing students.

Dr Lehlohonolo Makhakhe, dermatologist and the author of the book, says this is the first comprehensive full-colour atlas, with contributions from endocrinologists, haematologists, rheumatologists, psychiatrists, at the pharmacology, dietetics and paediatrics departments.

The project started in 2016, after Makhakhe received formal approval from the UFS Ethics Committee and the provincial Department of Health. It was officially published in July 2020 by African Brilliant Minds Publishers.

Makhakhe was a general practitioner with his own practice before joining the UFS to specialise. He then realised that a comprehensive manual was needed, focusing on common skin conditions in our South African setting. After searching for a long time, he further realised that we lacked such a book and that it would be very beneficial to our doctors and nurses.

“I decided to write this book to encourage unity among doctors in different fields within medicine, particularly at the UFS, and to help promote the culture of writing and producing quality, well-researched, locally brewed content that is relevant to our setting.”

“I also wanted to play a part in providing de-commodified (affordable) books, in the hope of dispensing knowledge and promoting learning for our medical and nursing students to get sound book knowledge, so that they can better manage skin-related pathology,” added Makhakhe. He also aims to create revenue for the university and advance research projects through this book. The book also provides an overview of the management of the conditions included in this user-friendly manual.

Makhakhe highlighted the huge costs for the publisher, time management of the different contributors, as well as gaining the trust of the contributors for a concept that has never been done before. He aimed to change perceptions relating to dermatology as a secluded and isolated discipline, but also for the department to be seen as an integral part of the medical discipline. He is also in talks with many nursing schools across the country to make the book available to nursing students.

Makhakhe says this atlas was by far his biggest project to date, as his first three books were short stories. He is currently working on a national project with contributors including Professor Johann Schneider (head: anatomical pathology, Stellenbosch University), Professor Jacqueline Goedhals (head: anatomical pathology, UFS), Professor Nndweleni Bida (head: anatomical pathology, University of Pretoria), and Professor Wayne Grayson (renowned pathologist in the private sector), which will also be a first of its kind.

“In summary, the publications are aimed at building a good name for our university through locally produced, high-quality books that are affordable. Once production costs to the publisher are settled, a sizable portion of future proceeds will then be directed to the university as per endorsement protocols,” he said.

The book is now fully endorsed by the UFS and will be offered as part of the curriculum for third- to final-year medical students.

Issued by the University of the Free State

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