Stellenbosch University Anatomy Society (SUAS) launch

Hard wooden benches and the smell of formalin dominate my faint recollection of studying anatomy as an undergraduate.  Aah but, that was some time ago.  Here at Stellenbosch, plans are afoot to overcome that perception and last month I attended the inaugural meeting of the Stellenbosch University Anatomy Society (SUAS).

Elsje-Marie Geldenhuys opened proceedings, characterising the society as a new voyage and then extended the metaphor referring to the "unchartered waters of anatomy".
She introduced Dr Karin Baatjes, the head of the division of anatomy, who told us that the society  is at the heart of the division's desire to expand the presence of anatomy in the Health Sciences faculty.  The three pillars of the society are research, clinical application and education. The aim is to inspire, to encourage professional development and to develop new technologies. The society is aimed at students and members of the medical medical professional.  There will be links with related societies, nationally and internationally, and so enthuse this generation and future generations of health care workers.

To make anatomy alive and relevant, a series of vibrant clinical talks have been scheduled.  Prof Vlok (neurosurgeon) and Prof Dempers (forensic pathology) gave talks at the inaugural meeting.  Prof Vlok detailed the relevant anatomy underpinning the management of a young women with a head injury and a dilated pupil.  He described the brainstem as being equivalent to the motherboard. Whilst his team used their anatomical knowledge to successfully treat the young woman, the example of the importance of anatomy used by Prof Dempers was in a different context. The case he presented is best summed up by the quote he used from Sherlock Holmes:  " Look at all the facts, eliminate impossible and you are left with the answer."

The department is also hosting a number of weekly lectures and I was privileged enough to be invited. I chose to speak about reclassification of the axilla based on functional anatomy.  As it was Friday afternoon, I thought we should have a little fun as well.  I then argued that the most clinically used aspect of breast anatomy is nothing to do with underlying structure but size and shape.  Utilising the statistics from the American society of plastic surgeon, making the assumption that 20% of the worlds plastic surgery is done in America and using the average price per procedure as quoted on the Internet, I estimated that in 2018 a staggering $30 546 306 750 was spent on 5 plastic surgery breast procedures.

The SU anatomy society is taking us away from wooden benches and the smell of formalin and making anatomy a living subject.  Well done to them. If you are interested in joining, please contact them:  SUAnatomySociety@gmail.com.


  1. Thank you Dr. Edge for the kind words and introduction to our (new) journey! We were delighted to have you at our inaugural event and looking forward to seeing at our future events.

    Kind regards
    Elsje-Márie Geldenhuys
    SUAS Chairperson


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