Welcome to the School of Laboratory Medicine & Medical Sciences

This School, headed by Prof Musa Mabandla, combines the disciplines associated with Pathology and Laboratory Medicine with the basic Medical Sciences of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, which underpin the clinical curricula. In the context of patient care and clinical decision making,  the involvement of the disciplines of Laboratory Medicine are required in more than 80% of clinical decision making at all levels from outpatient care for ambulant patients to inpatient care for the critically ill patient.

Pathology is the medical specialty concerned with the study of the nature and causes of diseases. It underpins every aspect of medicine, from diagnostic testing and monitoring of chronic diseases to cutting-edge genetic research and blood transfusion technologies. Pathology is integral to the diagnosis of every cancer. Pathology plays a vital role across all facets of medicine throughout our lives, from pre-conception to post mortem. In fact it has been said that “Medicine Is Pathology”.

Anatomical Pathology is the branch of pathology that deals with the tissue diagnosis of disease. For this, Anatomical Pathologists need a broad-based knowledge and understanding of the pathological and clinical aspects of many diseases. Research focused in this area centres around the diagnosis and tissue characteristics or malignancies.

Chemical Pathology is another discipline in the field of Pathology which deals with the entire range of disease. It encompasses detecting changes in a wide range of substances in blood and body fluids (electrolytes, enzymes and proteins) in association with many diseases. In addition, it involves detecting and measuring tumour (cancer) markers, hormones, poisons and both therapeutic and illicit drugs. Evaluation of new technology and the development of new tests is an important focus area in this discipline. This applies particularly to emerging areas such as the use of molecular biology techniques in diagnostic tests. Specialist areas of interest include such topics as inherited metabolic diseases, trace metals and environmental monitoring, toxicology and nutrition, metabolic bone disease and disorders of blood lipids.

Microbiology and Virology deal with diseases caused by infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.  Microbiologists and Virologists have roles both in the laboratory and directly in patient care.

Forensic Pathology is the subspecialty of Pathology that focuses on medico-legal investigations of sudden or unexpected death and the identifying of the cause of death and reconstructing the circumstances by which the death occurred. This is performed in a meticulous, painstaking manner. A major component of the role involves the performance of autopsy examinations to both the external and internal body organs to discover cause of death. They also look at tissue sample from bodies under the microscope to assist in establishing the underlying pathological basis for the cause of death.

The School’s Haematology Department, based at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban, forms part of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) to run diagnostic and therapeutic services, bone marrow trephine analysis, and has full responsibility for patients with haematological problems. It is the only department in the country which also oversees clinical immunology and is fully responsible for haematologicalcytogenetics and molecular haematology.

The HIV Pathogenesis Programme, Infection Prevention Control as well as the Optics and Imaging Centre are research units attached to School and based at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine campus. Research in this School has a strong laboratory focus reflecting the intimate role that the laboratory diagnosis of disease across the entire spectrum of medicine has in clinical care with particular emphasis to the predominant diseases seen in this province and country, including TB and HIV. The School is also affiliated with the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) which is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

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