Otology and neurotology

My main interests are otology and neurotology. It was already clear to me when I was training to become an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon that I wanted to become an otologist and neurotologist. I have done many international courses and worked overseas. I had the opportunity to learn from the best in the world. I can elaborate on this at length. Yet, I still feel that I have learned the most at home.

In recognition of my local mentors

I was privileged to train under Prof Johannes Swart, who pioneered cochlear implantation (CI) in Pretoria. Prof Swart understood ear disease and its effect on the patient’s psychological state. He was a religious man with sound principles, a real example.

After qualifying as an ENT specialist, I worked at 1 Military Hospital. I went through the ranks, eventually becoming the Chief ENT Specialist in ENT at 1 Military Hospital and the Chief ENT Surgeon of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF). During my early years at 1 Military Hospital, I worked under a fantastic mentor and ENT surgeon, Dr Jacob Pietrzak, the Head of ENT. Jacob allowed me to develop and support my interests all the way. I miss our regular tennis games.

J Pietrsak
Dr Jacob Pietrzak, ENT Specialist.

While at 1 Military Hospital, I also worked with Dr Fritz van der Laan, ENT specialist at the Institute of Aviation Medicine (IAM), where he taught me nystagmography. Dr Fritz van der Laan had a PhD from Amsterdam, just like Prof Herman Hamersma. He was an open-minded, openhearted man.

Dr Marcel Groenewald, what a lady, took me under her wing and taught me a lot about basic ethics in medicine, research principles, and allergies. She was the allergologist at the hospital. At the time, we were performing the most skin prick testing and desensitization for allergies in South Africa. In 5 years, we participated in more than ten international-based contract research projects. She successfully diagnosed and treated my daughter Rita for her dairy allergy.

Dr Marcelle Groenewald, allergologist
Dr Marcelle Groenewald, allergologist

The primary influence on my career

My most crucial training during all this time was from Prof Herman Hamersma. I visited him for years weekly during my early years. As an otologist and neurotologist, a previous professor and head of the Department of ENT, University of Pretoria, and PhD student from Amsterdam, he taught me many things! In my first year, we did 36 stapedotomies together. In 2019, he passed away. I dearly miss him.

Vestibular schwannoma surgery

After qualifying as an ENT surgeon and during my time at 1 Military Hospital, I visited Prof Andre Claassen, Professor and Head of ENT at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, to learn vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) surgery. This man was a master, a surgeon of note. He taught me the transtemporal supralabyrinthine approach for vestibular schwannoma. I still owe him a lot of gratitude. I did the first advanced bionics Cochlear Implant(CI) in South Africa at 1 Military Hospital, with Prof Andre Claassen at my side.

What is my responsibility?

After having the privilege to have trained and learned from the best, I have now established myself in the field of otology and neurotology otologist. I have a great responsibility to follow in their footsteps, but an even more critical task of ensuring that their legacies go on is sharing all the knowledge with my peers and our younger, inexperienced colleagues. I will never forget my mentors.

My special interests are: