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What does a Gynaecologist do?

A gynaecologist is firstly a medical doctor, but has studied further in order to assist women with their holistic reproductive health. Gynaecologists generally start examining patients before they become pregnant and perform routine pap smears, diagnose sexually transmitted diseases, cancers of the reproductive organs, and perform serious operations, such as hysterectomies.

They collect, record and maintain patient information, such as medical histories, reports and examination results. They analyse records, reports, test results or examination information to diagnose the medical condition of the patient, and then explain procedures and discuss test results or prescribed treatments with the patients. Gynaecologists may also specialise in one of the following subspecialties: critical care medicine, gynaecologic oncology, maternal-foetal medicine or reproductive endocrinology.


What qualifications do I need?

To become a gynaecologist in South Africa, you will need the following qualifications: a National Senior Certificate or National Certificate (V) with bachelor’s degree pass; a bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Medicine) and a postgraduate degree (Master of Medicine in Obstetrics and Gynaecology). The training encompasses theoretical training (six years), student internship (one year), practical work at a hospital (one year), community service (one year) and postgraduate study for specialisation as a gynaecologist. Before commencing postgraduate study for specialisation, you must be in possession of a MBChB degree for two years and be registered as a medical doctor with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for one year. On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, you must register with the HPCSA as a gynaecologist, which is mandatory for this occupation. 

What subjects do I need?

Physical Sciences
Life Sciences


Where can I study?

Stellenbosch University
MBChB - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

University of Cape Town
MBChB - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

University of KwaZulu-Natal
BMedical Science: Anatomy 
BMedical Science: Physiology

University of the Free State
MBChB - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

University of the Witwatersrand
MBChB - Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery

Where can I get more info?

South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SASOG) - www.sasog.co.za
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) - www.hpcsa.co.za
South African Association of Trainees in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (SAATOG) - www.saatog.co.za/


Interview with a Gynaecologist

Dr Malikah Van Der Schyff | SPECIALIST OBSTETRICIAN AND GYNAECOLOGIST | Private medical practice at Mediclinic Constantiaberg

Dr Malikah Van Der Schyff | SPECIALIST OBSTETRICIAN AND GYNAECOLOGIST | Private medical practice at Mediclinic Constantiaberg


Why did you choose this profession? 
As corny as it sounds, I have always felt the need to help people. My mother claims it’s because my father kept telling her pregnant stomach that I was going to be a doctor. I have always had the idea of becoming a doctor and even wrote this in a Grade 1 book that I found recently. And once I had started my training in medicine, women’s health had always appealed to me as a place where I could make a difference.

Please explain what it is that you do
Being an obstetrician and gynaecologist means that you are still a medical doctor but have specialised in women’s health. Obstetrics concentrates on healthcare for pregnant woman as well as delivering their babies. Gynaecology involves woman’s health for all other conditions that women of all ages may suffer from.

What training did you undergo? 
I obtained my undergraduate medical degree (MBChB) from the University of Cape Town. I then specialised at the University of Cape Town to obtain my fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. This involved working and training at Groote Schuur Hospital and other hospitals like Mowbray Maternity Hospital, New Somerset Hospital, etc.

Describe a typical day
Actively consulting women within my consulting rooms, examining them, doing ultrasound scans, discussing treatment plans and prescribing medications. This may include pregnant and non-pregnant women of all ages. I also do operations, including delivering babies via normal birth or Caesarean section or performing gynaecological surgeries. Doing ward rounds, and attending to any emergencies, day or night. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The delivery of a healthy baby to a happy couple after seeing them through the entire pregnancy. That and knowing that you can improve someone’s pain or suffering through treatment or surgeries. 

What don’t you like?
It is a very hectic time-consuming job, and lately, most patients would rather believe “Dr Google” or their neighbour than your medical expertise, trust and care.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
It was extremely difficult to bridge the gap (during the apartheid years) between school and university. I am the first in my family to acquire a tertiary education and it was a big financial and psychological hurdle to overcome. But my family’s constant support and encouragement (and a lot of hard work) was the key to overcoming all that. 

Is experience as important as formal training?
Absolutely! The formal training is only the framework on which you will build. The answers are not all in the textbook; they are in continuing to learn, practice and be mentored by positive role models. Your experiences will hone your expertise and make you a better healthcare practitioner for your patients’ benefit. 

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
You need to be resilient, have stamina and an excellent support structure. A positive mental attitude is vital, because it is not an easy road at all. The ability to vent or swear silently (occasionally loudly)!!

Advice for new students?
Choose a career in healthcare because you have a passion for it, not for the recognition or the accolades or because someone else wants it for you. None of that matters at 3am when you’re swamped with patients and emergencies and on your own.

Your job in three words
Vital. Hectic. Rewarding  

Interview date: May 2022