Dr Yoshan Moodley

Perioperative researcher

Six million South Africans have HIV, which increases their risk of developing a number of medical conditions during their lifetime, some of which may require surgery. However, not enough is known about how HIV impacts a patient’s risk of developing complications around the time of surgery. Dr Yoshan Moodley’s research aims to shed light on HIV patients’ risks when having surgery, giving doctors much-needed data that can be used to improve their care and reduce complications.

Medical research has long been Moodley’s focus. He grew up on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal and completed his master’s in medical microbiology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2008. During his years in the lab, Moodley became increasingly interested in the “big picture” that lay beyond the scope of the microscope. “I would see these specimens coming into the lab and wonder where they came from, the diseases behind them and the real people impacted by them. In medical research, you can’t really understand a situation if you view one factor in isolation — you must understand the interaction between multiple factors.”

He became involved in perioperative research, which focuses on the care of patients undergoing surgery, while working as a research assistant on two international clinical trials at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban. His own research on how hypertension affects the perioperative health outcomes of patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery earned him a PhD in anaesthestics from the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at UKZN and provided new findings on the potentially harmful effects when hypertensive patients begin to take beta-blockers shortly before surgery. He also developed the South African Vascular Surgical-Cardiac Risk Index, which can be used to identify vascular surgical patients at risk of heart attacks around the time of their surgery, and has also developed another perioperative risk stratification tool, which is being evaluated by the American Public Health Association.

Currently a post-doctoral fellow at the department of anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, Moodley and his team of master’s students now focus on research into complications in surgical patients with HIV. “We are seeking to identify the extent of the problem and understand the factors influencing the risk of perioperative complications in HIV patients. We hope to inform new guidelines leading to improved patient management and lower rates of complications in these patients.” — Tracy Burrows