Specialized capacity in the field of Dermatology, a branch of medicine that deals with the management and treatment of diseases of the skin, hair, and nails has been a gap in the provision of specialized health services in the country.
Previously such specialized service depends on scheduled brief visits of dermatologists overseas for complicated and severe cases while minor cases are seen by general practitioners or medical doctors.
Today, this is now a thing of the past as the country is blessed with its own Son, Dr. Joseph Sangatu, from Guadalcanal and Western Province, who recently completed his Post Graduate Study in Dermatology to become the country’s first Dermatologist.
This means consultations on more severe and complicated cases in the country can be provided including advice, treatment, and management of these cases.
In 2013 Dr. Sangatu obtained his Degree in Medicine from Fiji National University (FNU) and worked at the National Referral Hospital (NRH) as a medical officer from 2013 to 2020 when he returned to FNU for Post Grad Diploma in Dermatology.
His interest in dermatological study was conceived while working as a medical officer at NRH and having to see and treat various types of skin diseases, Dr. Sangatu was eager to learn more about skin diseases hence his pursuit of further study in dermatology.
Having completed his post-grad studies in 2022, he is now back in the country working at the NRH as the hospital dermatologist treating and managing dermatological cases presented to the hospital.
NRH is planning to fully establish dermatology in ten years’ time according to CEO NRH. For now the dermatology services will offer day service under the medical department, and consultations are held only on Tuesdays and Fridays 1pm to 4pm. Appointments can be made at the NRH referral clinic any weekdays from 9am to 4pm.
Dr Sangatu also provides dermatology consultation clinics at Rove clinic on Mondays 9am to 3pm and Wednesdays at Kukum clinic 9am to 3pm. On Tuesdays, 9am to 12pm at Marara clinic and Thursdays, 9am to 3pm at Good Samaritan Hospital. Bookings can be made at any of these centers during working hours,
“Dr Sangatu highlighted that there is likely a high prevalence of dermatological conditions locally ranging from simple conditions such as fungal infections (Tinea corporis – Mbakua and Pityriasis versicolor – White spots) to more serious problems such as Psoriasis, Leprosy, Cutaneous Lupus, Skin Cance, etc. However, seldom do people see them as diseases, and most will only seek medical attention when they develop complications, or when it involves skin sensitive areas such as the face or when it interferes with daily living activities,” explained Dr Sangatu.
While urging people to quickly seek medical attention when encountering abnormal findings on their skin, nails, or hair, Dr. Sangatu advises preventative measures that can be undertaken such as avoiding overcrowding in homes. “Overcrowded homes can easily spread and transmit almost all infections, arthropod infestations, and other communicable diseases. It is also important to maintain and improve personal hygiene as we live in a tropical country with a lot of heat and humidity by ensuring a decent bath on daily basis.”,
“Equally important is to control communal lifestyle where we are used to sharing almost everything from food, clothing, towels, and even beddings. It is important to be selective on what can and should not be shared”, explained Dr Sangatu.
In moving forward, Dr. Sangatu together with the National Referral Hospital (NRH) are planning to send another doctor in 2023 for a similar post-graduate study and upon return in 2024 Dr. Sangatu will return to FNU for 3 years of Master Degree study in Dermatology.
Currently, he is working alone, but work is in progress to establish a set-based clinic at NRH in the near future with its own nursing staff and doctors. The plan with doctors is to have at least five (5) more qualified dermatologists within the next 10 years to decentralize the service across the country.