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Head of Division: Professor Graham Fieggen

Divisional Profile

The Division enjoyed an exceptional year in 2009 in terms of professional development, research and academic outputs. The year ended on a high note with Dr Tony Figaji being promoted ad hominem as the third Associate Professor in the Division and the number of full-time specialists increasing to eight with the appointment of the first female consultant neurosurgeon at Groote Schuur Hospital, Dr Sally-Jane Röthemeyer. Two doctoral degrees were conferred as well as the first ever MSc (Neuroscience) in Neurosurgery; Dr Llewellyn Padayachy was awarded the Roland Krynauw medal for the FCNeurosurg (SA) exam, the first recipient nationally for well over a decade.

Associate Professor Allan Taylor and Dr David Le Feuvre continued to provide a world-class Neurovascular service at GSH; both presented at the International Peer Review Meeting in Val d’Iser, the National Peer Review Meeting in Mpumalanga and the World Federation for Interventional and Therapeutic Neuroradiology in Montreal. Their international standing culminated in Cape Town being selected for the next WFITN meeting in 2011. Professor Taylor was again invited to lecture on the Neurovascular Diseases Master’s Course in Thailand and serves on the Executive of the WFITN and also as Secretary of the Society of Neurosurgeons of SA. Dr Le Feuvre received a Travel Award from UCT to present a paper on targeted embolization of AVMs in Montreal.

Associate Professor Patrick Semple was awarded a PhD for his thesis “Pituitary apoplexy: can histopathology, radiological imaging and predisposing factors be used in predicting outcome?” He continued to contribute widely to registrar training, serving as Secretary of the College of Neurosurgeons of South Africa and he was invited to speak at the 14th World Congress of Neurosurgery in Boston.

Dr Tony Figaji, Head of the Paediatric Neurosurgery Unit at Red Cross Children’s Hospital, was awarded a Harry Crossley Fellowship which enabled him to take a two month sabbatical in the United States, visiting centres in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York in order to gain new skills in intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring. He received the Raimondi Award for the best publication in Childs Nervous System and was invited to present his work on Traumatic Brain Injury at the 37th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery in Los Angeles during this time and also presented invited papers at the International Neurotrauma Symposium in Santa Barbara, the University of California at Los Angeles and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in New Orleans. He was elected to the Executive Board of the International Neurotrauma Society and supervised Ms Ursula Rohlwink’s thesis on the topic “The relationship between intracranial pressure and brain oxygenation in children with severe traumatic brain injury.”

Dr Llewellyn Padayachy was appointed to a one year post at RCCH, enabling him to receive further training in Paediatric Neurosurgery. He received a Travel Grant from the Institute for Child Health which enabled him to visit the Paediatric Neurosurgical Unit at Great Ormond Street and present at the International Federation for Neuroendoscopy conference in Athens, Greece.

Dr David Welsh continued to run a very busy Neurospine service at GSH and convened a national symposium entitled “Cervical Spine Masterclass” as well as co-convening the annual UCT Spine Surgery hands-on course. He hosted Professor Jean Destandau who performed endoscopic spinal surgery for a live workshop convened by Karl Storz at GSH. He serves on the executive of the Spine Society of South Africa and also the international faculty of AO Spine.

Professor Graham Fieggen graduated with an MD for a thesis entitled “The Cape Town Stereotactic Pointer: Clinical development and applications”. He was invited to speak at the inaugural meeting of the African Federation of Neurosurgical Societies in Egypt, the 14th World Congress of Neurosurgery in Boston and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in New Orleans. He completed his five-year term on the Executive of the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery and was elected to the Nominating Committee and the International Co-ordinating Committee of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS).

The activities of the full-time staff are enhanced by regular input from both former Chairs and six part-time consultants. Emeritus Professor Jonathan Peter was supported by a DoH grant from the Faculty to help with postgraduate and undergraduate education while also playing a leading role in the development of intraoperative neurophysiology. To this end he visited the Department of Neurosurgery in Verona, Italy, where he also delivered an invited lecture on Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy; he completed his term as Second Vice-President of the WFNS. This year saw the publication of Emeritus Professor Kay de Villiers’s definitive medical history of the Anglo-Boer War, “Healers, Helpers and Hospitals”. Dr Norman Fisher-Jeffes served as President of the Society of Neurosurgeons of SA and Dr Roger Melvill was elected Vice-President of the World Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery.

Research grants were obtained from the MRC (PI: AG Fieggen), the NRF and the Integra Foundation (PI: AA Figaji). Nine papers were published in international peer-reviewed journals and members of the department served on the editorial boards of Neurosurgery, Childs Nervous System, World Neurosurgery and Interventional Neuroradiology.

The Division hosted a very successful national educational workshop, the bienniel Codman Neurosurgery Registrar Update; we had three distinguished visitors, including our first ever official Visiting Professor, Dr Francesco Sala from Verona, Italy, Dr Dachling Pang, one of the world’s foremost Paediatric Neurosurgeons, and Dr Yongjin Hou, a neurophysiologist from San Francisco who taught at the workshop and then spent time in the operating theatre at RCCH, helping us launch the intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring service. The inaugural Baroque Registrar conference on Traumatic Brain Injury was held at Spier, bringing together trainees from UCT and Stellenbosch.

Dr Ntethelelo Mjoli and Dr Johan Malan were appointed as registrars and Dr Edward Mogere joined the Division as a supernumerary registrar funded by the Aga Kahn University in Nairobi, Kenya. Ms Nelleke Langerak, a doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering, was co-supervised by Professors Peter and Fieggen and graduated with a PhD for a thesis entitled “The long-term sequelae of Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy in Patients with Spastic Diplegia”.


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