Dr Coenie Hattingh

Neuroanatomist, University of Cape Town

Dr. Coenie Hattingh (30) is a consultant clinical neuroanatomist and lecturer at the University of Cape Town where he teaches clinical neuroanatomy, neuropathology and neuroimaging across several academic departments. He also consults on clinical cases and research in neuroimaging and acts as consultant clinical neuroanatomist to the department of diagnostic radiology at The Bay Hospital in Richards Bay.

Hattingh is currently a postdoctoral fellow in neuropathology in the division of chemical pathology at the University of Stellenbosch, as well as concluding his second master’s degree, specialising in neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town with a focus in neuropsychodiagnosis and neuropsychoanalytic rehabilitation under the mentorship of Professor Mark Solms. Hattingh holds a membership to the International Neuropsychoanalysis Association and South African Psychoanalytic Initiative and is an elected member of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists and a fellow of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

He grew up in Pretoria, attended high school in KwaZulu-Natal and concluded his undergraduate studies in Pretoria, before moving to Cape Town in 2010 to pursue his master’s and PhD in neuroscience specialising in clinical neuroimaging. From an early age, he was driven to understand how the mind works, he says. “I started at the wrong end, by studying the brain, and now finally I’ve started understanding how the mind works.” Aiming to hone his clinical skills and develop as a clinician in the field, Hattingh says he will apply his knowledge to the benefit of South Africans. “Like most other healthcare professionals in South Africa, I am frustrated by inadequacies in the healthcare system.

A challenge in my field is ensuring that a high standard of care is delivered in timeous efficient manner. Our system is so overburdened and so undersupplied that by the time patients arrive in my ward at Groote Schuur Hospital, they are often in very bad shape. If we had more efficient strategies and infrastructure, we’d be able see them and diagnose them earlier. I am driven to answer clinical questions through research that will have an impact on our people.” He also hopes to have a long-term impact on the training of other specialists in his field. “The postgraduate academics field can be hostile, and it can be hard to find a supervisor who mentors. I don’t just want students to download knowledge. I think leading by example is better, so that students know it’s actually ok to care.”

— Tracy Burrows