Featured Doctor


South Africa: Family Doctor

What work do you do now?

I am working as a family physician within the Mossel Bay sub-district healthcare team since September 2016. Mossel Bay is located on the coast of one of the rural health districts of the Western Cape Province, South Africa.

I qualified as a family physician by completing the 4-year Master’s degree at Stellenbosch University (graduated in 2010), as well as the Fellowship examination of the South African College of Family Physicians (graduated in 2011).

My weekly routine includes the full spectrum of roles and competencies required of the South African family physician, namely: working as a primary care clinician, supporting the local team as a consultant in both primary care facilities and the district hospital (inpatient service with emergency centre and theatre duties), supporting the management team with clinical governance (such as investigating adverse events, leading quality improving activities, reviewing routine health performance data and leading weekly antibiotic stewardship ward rounds), facilitating in-service capacity building (especially around maternal and childcare), as well as being a clinician educator and mentor to undergraduate students and postgraduate registrars in family medicine, who are allocated to Mossel Bay for distributed workplace-based service learning.

Other interesting things you have done?

During 2014 until 2016, I had the pleasure of working on a national EuropeAid-funded project, “Strengthening primary health care through primary care doctors and family physicians”, which was led by Professor Bob Mash at Stellenbosch University (more here). Dr Zelra Malan and I were tasked to help coordinate the project, which aimed to strengthen primary health care through primary care doctors and family physicians in South Africa. Being part of the project team offered me the opportunity to work more closely with family medicine colleagues across the country, as well as regional (Primafamed, WONCA Africa and AfriWon) and international colleagues (such as the RCGP colleagues who assisted with our project activity aimed at capacitating clinical trainers involved with postgraduate family medicine training).

One of the key activities of the project was an applied research project aimed at evaluating the initial contribution made by family physicians to strengthen South Africa’s district health system (this represented my PhD research under the supervision of Professor Mash). The research output consisted of a number of publications, including a policy brief published by the South African Academy of Family Physicians (SAAFP) – available here, as well as a chapter in the South African Health Review 2018.

It is our hope that these publications will contribute to the growth of our discipline by ensuring consistent policy decisions in support of family physician-containing PHC teams.

Through the EuropeAid-funded project activities, I was also able to attend several of the annual meetings of The Network: Towards Unity for Health, which enabled me to meet like-minded colleagues from across the globe and serve on the organisation’s board of directors for one year.

Your interests at work and privately?

I am passionate about advocating for family medicine and primary care as a discipline. One of the key advocacy platforms include social media, and I help coordinate the social media accounts for Stellenbosch University’s Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care (@SUFammed), SAAFP (@SAAFP1), the South African Family Practice journal (#SAFP, @SAFPjournal), WONCA Africa and the Rural Doctors’ Association of South Africa (RuDASA).

I enjoy attending the SAAFP and WONCA conferences.

Research in family medicine and primary care is another passion, and I enjoy collaborating with colleagues, offering mentorship to my registrars, as well as contributing as a peer reviewer. I also volunteer as an examiner for the South African College of Family Physicians. Since 2014, I have been contributing to a 2-monthly registrar section in the SAFP journal, aimed at helping family medicine registrars prepare for the final FCFP (SA) examination.

Mossel Bay is a wonderful place to raise our daughters and we enjoy the outdoor opportunities offered by this scenic area, such as walking the dogs on the beach, camping with friends, and photographing the beautiful natural surroundings. We also enjoy reading and travelling.

Tell us about your new position?

On 1 March 2019, I was appointed as the new editor-in-chief of the South African Family Practice journal, the official journal of our national academy (SAAFP). I am grateful to the SAAFP’s leadership for entrusting my colleague, Professor Indiran Govender (assistant editor), and me, with the responsibility and opportunity to build on the work done by our predecessors. I am thankful to my previous experience as assistant editor of the African Journal of Primary Health Care and Family Medicine, as well as support of my mentors, colleagues, friends and family to take on this new role.

I look forward to working with the newly appointed editorial board of the SAFP journal, which includes a RuDASA representative, representatives from the nine South African training programmes, as well as international WONCA members who have demonstrated their commitment to growing the discipline within the African region.

You are welcome to engage with me on Twitter (@klausvon).