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Endocrinologists care for patients with complex hormonal disorders and metabolic conditions. Other common endocrine problems include metabolic bone disease, pituitary and adrenal conditions, osteoporosis, growth disorders, and lipid and nutritional disorders.

Simply put, endocrinology is the study of the endocrine glands - a group of glands in the body, which secrete hormones, evoking specific responses in other cells of the body, and control basic bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. These hormones travel to their target organs and cells and then bind to receptors either on cell surfaces or inside the cell. This results in a change in the activity of those cells. Endocrine responses are relatively slow, taking from seconds to days to occur.

The amount of hormone produced by each gland is carefully balanced. Too much or too little of a specific hormone can have consequences throughout the body and cause various endocrine disorders. For example, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, so the diabetic needs to inject the insulin hormone into their body in order to regulate and maintain balance in the endocrine system.

Endocrinologists are trained to recognize problems with hormones and restore the natural balance of hormones in a patient’s system. In addition, endocrinologists conduct research on the basic and clinical aspects of endocrine glands and disorders. They also treat a wide range of functions and disorders of the endocrine system, including metabolism, hormonal imbalances, menopause, osteoporosis and cholesterol disorders. Endocrinologists also develop new drugs and treatments for hormonal disorders.

Amongst the most common illnesses associated with endocrine disorders are diabetes and hypothyroidism, which can cause hormonal imbalances such as obesity, immune problems, kidney failure, fertility problems and even heart disease and cancer. Endocrinologists help many of their patients to treat their disorders and diseases with medication and proper diet. They also educate people and recommend exercise and other lifestyle health choices.

Satisfying Aspects
- professional status
- good working conditions
- high income
- prestige associated with the profession

Demanding aspects
- being on call over weekends and holidays
- long and expensive training
- emotionally demanding work

- pay attention to detail
- be interested in helping people
- have excellent communication skills
- get along well with people well and instill confidence
- enjoy finding solutions to problems

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with excellent grades who would naturally be given preference.

MBChB degree at UP, UCT, UFS, Wits, US, UL, UKZN:
- Theoretical training: 6 years
- Student internship: 1 year
- Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).

Post-graduate study for specialization as an embryologist: 4 years.

Additional Requirements: before commencing postgraduate study for specialisation as an endocrinologist, at e.g. Wits, US, the candidate must:

- be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years
- be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.

Registration: On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, the candidate must register with the IMDC as an endocrinologist.

- universities and colleges
- research organisations
- hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities
- private practice or in a group practice

Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa
10A Achter Road
P O Box 783155
Sandton, 2146
Tel: (011) 202-0500
Fax: (011) 807-7989