My name is Catherine, I am a third year Natural Medicine student at the University of the Western Cape. I was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Despite moving various times and travelling many times, I have always returned and love living in this incredible city. I am studying Natural Medicine so that I may specialise in Phytotherapy, also known as Medical Herbalism. It took me almost a decade to realise what my heart felt with regards to a profession and the path to this point has been more like a wild garden meander than a broad straight avenue. Yet looking back it all seems very clear, that each decision and turn I made helped to lead me here at this time. It is a calling – for me it took time to uncover, loss to sow the seed, travel to open, finding a joy in the garden, roots in traditions, and chronic illness of a loved one to focus and forge determination. Academically, the first step was a BA in Archaeology and History from the University of Cape Town. I then studied Horticulture at the University of South Africa after realising how much I loved working with plants while travelling. While studying at UNISA I worked at an old Cape Dutch estate in which there is a medieval herb garden… my love of history and my love of plants combined in a rather obsessive study of the history of herbalism in the West. I think I knew then, but it still took a further 5 years and working as a photographer in the Klein Karoo landscape, before I found out about the course at UWC and decided to become a full time student again! Now in my third year of fairly intensive studies, I have more resolve than before and am loving almost every moment of it, the process of becoming a practitioner. In the very little (and at times non-existent) spare time that I have these days I love to dance Argentinian tango, go for long walks, garden and research herbs, do yoga, embroidery and read.
Pathology and the clinical sciences form a vital part of this course. According to the Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health (2003) pathology is “the branch of medicine treating of the essential nature of disease, especially of the changes in body tissues and organs that cause or are caused by disease” and clinical pathology is “pathology applied to the solution of clinical problems, especially the use of laboratory methods in clinical diagnosis”. I don’t quite yet know how to answer the question of what my expectations are of pathology and the clinical sciences as I am studying them for the first time. I hope that later in the course I will be able to answer this question better. As a start, I would hope to gain a deep enough understanding of disease so that I may diagnose skilfully as a practitioner. This blog makes up an ongoing assignment for the subject General Pathology and over the next three months will be covering the topics ‘cell physiology, pathophysiology and the relationship to all human disease’, ‘the abnormal deposition of material in tissues’, ‘normal and abnormal fluid distribution and function’, ‘inflammation, infection and repair’ and ‘cancer’.