The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town boasts a proud history of innovation. Established in 1920, it is the oldest such department in the country and is currently headed by Prof Zephne van der Spuy, the first woman head of department in this discipline in the country.
In 1980 the department established the first South African Community Obstetric Service (known as the Peninsula Maternal and Neonatal Service), setting the national and international benchmark for all primary healthcare medicine.
The department runs a well-established gynaecological oncology service. This is the first unit in South Africa to be recognised by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom as a sub-speciality training unit.
The department developed the first clinic to provide care to postmenopausal women. At the time, this service was internationally unique and set the standard for many dedicated clinics that now provide similar services.
The first South African obstetric ultrasound unit was created by the Department in 1970. This unit continues to function as a multi-disciplinary foetal medicine unit.
The first gynaecological endocrine clinic was established by the Department in 1972 and developed into the Reproductive Medicine Unit. The first sperm bank in South Africa was established at Groote Schuur Hospital in 1981. The Reproductive Medicine Unit remains the only South African university-based service dedicated to all aspects of reproductive medicine that supplies services to patients accessing the Public Health system.
The department developed the first dedicated obstetric intensive care service in 1989. This remains the only unit of its kind in Africa and has attracted postgraduate students from many countries.