Discipline of Chemical Pathology


The Discipline of Chemical Pathology is a joint UKZN- NHLS (National Health Laboratory Service) department and is part of the School of  Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences within the College of Health Sciences. It provides diagnostic laboratory services for the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and the King Edward VIII Hospital as well as several peripheral hospitals. The discipline is proud to have full automation analytical system and services approximately 160000 test/month.  The Discipline is also involved in teaching at undergraduate (MBChB) and postgraduate levels, provides training for the laboratory technicians, technologists and medical scientists. It actively participates in the hospital teaching activities.

Chemical Pathology (also known as Clinical Biochemistry/Clinical Chemistry) is a unique specialty that brings together science and all medical specialties and  applies biochemical and molecular techniques in the diagnosis of a disease. It is the branch of Pathology dealing with the biochemical basis of disease and the use of biochemical tests for diagnosis and management. The discipline originated over a century ago with the use of simple chemical tests for various components of blood and urine. Subsequently other techniques were applied including the use and measurement of enzyme activities, spectrophotometry, electrophoresis and immunoassays.  An allied subspecialty of Chemical Pathology is Metabolic Medicine which deals with metabolic disease in all its manifestations.

The role of Chemical Pathology in health care
Doctors in the specialty have dual responsibilities. Firstly, there is the provision of a reliable analytical service, for example measuring serum electrolytes, indices of liver function, hormones, drugs and tumour markers in hundreds of patient samples every day. Many of these analyses are performed on automated analysers, usually operated by technicians or technologists. The management of the analytical process and the staff, assurance of quality and provision of guidance on the selection of tests and assessment of the significance of the results (particularly with some of the less generally familiar tests) are the domain of the chemical pathologist.  They not only review the quality of the laboratory’s analytical service, but also discuss the introduction of new diagnostic tests with consultant colleagues and manage research projects of trainees.

Secondly, Chemical Pathologists have an important clinical role. They provide advice to healthcare professionals on appropriate tests selection and the management of patients with a variety of metabolic disturbances, and provide clinical interpretation of biochemical, endocrine and metabolic tests results. Chemical Pathologists are frequently consulted about further investigation or management of patients found to have biochemical abnormalities on 'routine' testing. They often have to deal with investigating patients with dyslipidaemias, diabetes, bone disease or hypertension. Moreover, in several countries now, chemical pathologists have increasingly direct responsibility for such patients in out-patient clinics and on the wards. For example, they are running lipid, obesity, diabetes or inborn errors clinics, they are involved in the multidisciplinary nutrition teams and review ward patients receiving parenteral nutrition. Our department is aiming to introduce and establish this patient orientated approach for South African Chemical Pathology. In addition, there is an ample opportunity in the department for conducting variety of research projects and audits that result in scientific publications.

After completion of the primary degree in medicine (e.g. bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery), internship and community service training a prospective trainee can then enter an accredited training programme for chemical pathology. Any additional time spent in any of the medical specialities is also of value, as chemical pathology is a very diverse speciality. The candidate is required to have spent at least 4 years in approved training posts (i.e. at Registrar level in an approved teaching hospital) in the Pathology disciplines, of which 3 years must be in Chemical Pathology. Qualification as a Specialist Chemical Pathologist and admission to the Specialist Register of the Health Professions Council of SA requires the candidate to obtain the degree of Master of Medicine and the Fellowship of the College of Pathologists of South Africa (F.C.PATH SA (Chem Path))





Ms Leezil Peneder
Department Administrator

Tel: +27-31-240 2557
Fax: +27-31-240 2576
E-Mail: peneder@ukzn.ac.za
Physical Address:

Department of Chemical Pathology, 
Level 2 Laboratory Building 
Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital 
800 Bellair Road 
Mayville 4058

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