UKZN Academic Specialises in Blistering Disorders
UKZN’s Specialist Dermatologist, Dr Nokubonga Khoza runs the only Immunobullous disease clinic in the province every Tuesday at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Dermatology clinic.
Khoza’s clinic provides first-class service delivery to patients who are exclusively suffering from blistering disorders. She sees about 15 cases per day and about 50 a month from all over the province.
The specialised clinic started in July 2014, ‘As this is the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal, and to my knowledge in South Africa, the vision is to grow the clinic, especially the patient education and support wing, wherein we can offer comprehensive treatment including, psychological and genetic counselling to affected individuals and their families, as well as a proper wound care segment. Dietician facilities and counselling can be adopted at a local level or at the patient’s living environment, creating a multidisciplinary facility, that can attract international collaborations, donors and sponsors,’ said Khoza.
She is currently involved in the production of educational material on the disease, pamphlets in both English and IsiZulu as well as video material through self-funded sponsorships. ‘We are planning to start a Bullous disease support group which will be driven by patients with the department providing the necessary educational support,’ she said.
The clinic is frequented by patients of all ages from both urban and rural communities, ‘Our patients travel from as far as Manguzi and our referral patterns ensure that we are able to offer optimum support to all.’
Bullous diseases are a group of rare diseases that cause blisters in the skin. She said they are a group of skin diseases which need treatment and can be fatal, if not treated properly. They affect all races, both males and females at equal rates.
The Umlazi-born doctor said some Bullous diseases are curable and others are not, depending on the type of bullous disease one is suffering from.
‘We may be able to control some and sometimes we achieve complete disease remission whilst others resolve spontaneously or are self-limiting,’ she explained.
Khoza developed interest with this subspecialty in her first year of training as a dermatologist after seeing new-borns with lethal forms of congenital Bullous diseases, ‘I was intrigued, somewhat traumatised by the impact this was causing on young hopeful moms. I wanted to clearly understand the molecular basis of the disease and also get to unravel the emotional impact that this may have had on the affected mothers. I needed to know how it affected their quality of life in order to offer a more holistic management which may include complete psychosocial support, education and proper genetic counselling to the families.’
She said the clinic started as a research interest into Immunobullous diseases in KwaZulu-Natal, looking at the epidemiology and prevalence, the clinical types, treatment outcomes.
‘Being able to somehow cause effective change in the medical field on a small but significant scale inspires me.
‘The Department of Dermatology has also been very instrumental in inspiring me to reach for academic excellence by creating links and opening channels of communication with international institutions. The Department has been great in encouraging us to be innovative and super-specialist at any sub- specialties of our choice
‘My Head of Department, Dr Ncoza Dlova played a pivotal role in me pursuing a career in dermatology. I’m currently at the beginning of my academic and research career, and I find the support extended by senior management very humbling. I believe the sky is the limit in the field of medicine and innovative care.’
Khoza’s family keeps her going. Her parents played a significant role in her career and inspired her to become a medical doctor. She said her siblings, and the love and support from her husband are very important.
Domesticated by nature, Khoza enjoys spending time with family and friends. Her other interests include reading, outdoor activities and travel locally and abroad.
Some of Khoza’s accolades include receiving the Janssen - Foundation Research Award Medal from the College of Medicine of South Africa, UKZN CHS Masters and Doctoral Scholarship 2012, The International Society of Dermatology Global Scholarship Award 2013 and the L'Oreal African Hair and Skin Research Grant, 2014.
She has presented a poster at an international congress and published articles in peer reviewed journals as well as contributed chapters in dermatology textbooks on the following topics, permanent hair loss, melasma/pigmentation and autoimmune Bullous disease.
She has also contributed a chapter in a textbook that’s aimed at local undergraduates’ dermatology curriculum 2015.