Dermatologist from UFS publishes first-of-its-kind Skin Atlas for SA

Photo by Gabb Tapic

A senior lecturer and specialist in the Department of Dermatology 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, a full-time medical specialist (dermatologist) and the author of the book, says this is the first comprehensive full-colour atlas, with contributions from endocrinologists, haematologists, rheumatologists, psychiatrists, the Departments of Pharmacology, Dietetics and Paediatrics.

The project started in 2016, after Dr 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.

The book will have numerous benefits

Dr 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 Dr Makhakhe.

According to him, 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.

Challenges during the compilation of the book

Dr 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.

According to the author of four books (including this one), he is also in talks with many nursing schools across the country to make the book available to nursing students.

Dr 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 Prof Johann Schneider (Head: Anatomical Pathology, Stellenbosch University), Prof Jacqueline Goedhals (Head: Anatomical Pathology, UFS), Prof Nndweleni Bida (Head: Anatomical Pathology, University of Pretoria), and Prof 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 stated further.

Dr Makhakhe ended by thanking the Head of the Free State Department of Health, Dr David Motau, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof Francis Petersen, the acting Deputy Director-General of Clinical Services, Dr Marcus Molokomme, and also extended a special word of appreciation to the Head of the School of Clinical Medicine at the UFS, Prof Nathaniel Mofolo, for all his assistance and support in making this project a success. He concluded by thanking all the contributors for making time for this historic project.

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

By Dr Lehlohonolo Makhakhe from the Department of Dermatology at the University of the Free State (UFS).

 The cover of Dr Lehlohonolo Makhakhe’s book, African Atlas, synopsis and practical guide to clinical dermatology.