Internal Medicine

Geriatrics Home

Department of Geriatrics

Head of Department

Prof Bilkish Cassim MBCHB, FCP(SA), MD

Prof B CassimThe Department of Geriatrics was established in 2000 in recognition of the need for undergraduate and postgraduate training in the care of the elderly. It was founded through the generosity of the Aaron Beare Foundation and is one of only 4 such departments/units in the country.

In keeping with world-wide trends the number of older persons in South Africa is increasing and is projected to reach 6.4 million by 2050. Yet training and research in this area has largely been neglected. The aims of the department is to provide training for undergraduate and postgraduate medical students and other allied health care workers, provide a centre of excellence for the assessment and management of the older person with multi-system disease, undertake research in the area of ageing and perform an advocacy role for the older person. Our clinical service is based at King Edward VIII Hospital and consists of inpatient beds for the acute care of the older person with multisystem disease and a weekly outpatient clinic. In addition we plan to develop a specialized rehabilitation unit. A primary goal of the Department is to support and develop district and regional services for the care of the elderly with clear referral pathways between the different levels of the provincial health service, vertically and horizontally. Thus in our outreach programme we have developed a working relationship with the local and provincial Departments of Health and will be organizing a series of training workshops for medical and nursing practitioners and other allied health workers in the field of ageing The department has established the Active Ageing Research Network (AARN) which is a multidisciplinary and inter-sectoral group that will undertake research that is relevant to the ageing population of KwaZulu Natal and South Africa. AARN will also provide a forum for postgraduate training and development and capacity building.

The department has three consultant posts, two registrars rotating from the general medical pool and a research officer. All service duties (clinics and ward) are currently undertaken at King Edward VIII Hospital.

Clinical Activities 

The Department serves as a tertiary referral centre for older patients requiring tertiary care in KwaZulu-Natal and this includes an out-patients clinic and in-patients facilities. The department works in close liaison with general medicine and other specialty departments within internal medicine and allied health professionals especially physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The unit runs an out-patient clinic weekly on Thursdays at King Edward VIII Hospital. A “Grand round” is held every Friday morning – and includes medical and nursing staff and physiotherapists where possible. A monthly unit meeting is held with nursing and medical staff.


The unit is actively involved in both undergraduate and post graduate teaching as well as continuing medical education.


1. Large group resource sessions: 3rd and 4th year
2. Bedside tutorials: 3rd, 4th and final year students
3. Teaching ward rounds: at King Edward hospital on intake days.


We participate fully in the educational activities of the Division of Medicine and arrange our own in-house teaching as necessary.

Outreach Programmes

The first Geriatric Update was held in October 2006 and subsequent workshops will be held for the nurses and allied health professionals working in geriatric clinics and old age homes in conjunction with eThekwini Health and the provincial department of Health

International Collaboration

The department is a partner in the International Collaboration for the Care of the Elderly (I.C.C.E.) with the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE), Canada. The aim of this initiative is knowledge transfer. The department has chosen the field of dementia and will work in conjunction with Dr Suvira Ramlall in establishing culturally sensitive and appropriate tools for the assessment of cognition.


1. Profile on geriatric patient admissions to King Edward VIII Hospital medical wards in 2005
2. The impact of HIV/AIDS in the older population
3. A retrospective file review of psychogeriatric mental health service users (MHSU) in the KwaZulu-Natal.

A multidisciplinary and inter-sectoral research network, Active Ageing Research Network (AARN), has been established and includes nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, African Vision Research Institute (AVRI), TAFTA and DAFTA. AARN plans to undertake research that is relevant to the ageing population of KwaZulu Natal and South Africa and to provide a forum for postgraduate training and development and capacity building.


Academic Staff

  • Prof Bilkish Cassim
  • Dr Sophia Rauff

Support Staff

  • Ms Leanne Munsami

Contact Us

Physical Address Postal Address
Room 328
3rd Floor
Medical School
719 Umbilo Rd
Dept of Geriatrics
Medical School
Private Bag 7
South Africa

Tel/Fax: +27 (0)31 260 4740

E-mail: Ms L Munsamy