Top UKZN Rheumatologist Earns PhD from Amsterdam
UKZN academic and internationally renowned Rheumatologist, Dr Ajesh Maharaj, has been awarded a PhD in Rheumatology and Immunology by the University of Amsterdam.
Maharaj, a lecturer and Head of the Department of Internal Medicine at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi, focused his studies on psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a heterogeneous condition that affects both the joints and the skin. It is extremely uncommon in the African population.
‘It is one of the lesser studied types of arthritides, and there are very little epidemiological, genetic, and clinical studies in the published literature from Africa in general and South Africa in particular,’ he explained.
Maharaj said among the outcomes of his research was ‘the fact that we were able to validate international criteria in a single centre South African cohort.
‘We also documented similarities and differences amongst our patients compared to the different international cohorts,’ said Maharaj.
He said his research made international experts aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie in South Africa and Africa, adding that this latest research had opened doors for further investigations.
Maharaj is a member of five international societies which have put him on an international stage, drawing up global guidelines and recommendations for the treatment of rheumatic diseases. Currently he is the only South African rheumatologist on these committees. On four out of the five committees, he is the only African. On the remaining society, he is one of two from Africa, the other rheumatologist being from Egypt.
He said it was challenging trying to divide his time between lecturing students, running his Department and focusing on his clinical work in which he is involved with both treating patients and completing his research. He said another challenge came from being based in Durban while his supervisors were in Amsterdam.
‘I am fortunate that I have great support from my staff in my department - who assisted me in every step of the way along this journey - and the understanding of my supervisors.’
He highlighted the outstanding collaborative efforts by both staff from UKZN and University of Amsterdam who assisted him to accomplish his goals.
‘It gives me immense pleasure that I can now share this knowledge with all students, both undergraduates and postgraduates. It also gives me an opportunity to use the knowledge to improve the quality of care that I offer to patients at the state hospitals,’ said Maharaj.
He thanked Professor PP Tak of the University of Cambridge; his mentor Professor Vinod Chandran of the University of Toronto; UKZN’s Professor A Chuturgoon; and his wife and family for all the support they gave him during his studies.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu