Gastroenterologists study, diagnose and treat diseases of the stomach, liver and intestines. They are medical doctors who have specialized in gastroenterology.

Two of the most common diseases which they need to treat are hepatitis, inflammation of the liver caused by viral infections or medication, and liver cirrhosis, which is usually related to alcoholism. There are three kinds of hepatitis, Hepatitis A, B and C. Hepatitis C was only discovered recently and was previously known as Non-A or Non-B Hepatitis. Symptoms of this disease include fatigue, lethargy, jaundice (yellow pigmentation of the skin which is found in all three types of hepatitis), itching, abdominal pain and fever. It is transmitted via the blood but there can also be a very slow rate of sexual transmission. Blood for transfusion purposes is always screened for Hepatitis-C, as for HIV, before being used. All three forms of Hepatitis can be treated, but if not dealt with in time, they can cause cirrhosis and permanent scarring of the liver.

Gastroenterologists are qualified to perform endoscopies, which enable the visualisation of the internal organs through the use of a flexible instrument inserted through the mouth or rectum. An endoscope utilises a video chip and strobe light to capture an image which is then displayed on a video monitor. This allows inspection of the entire inner surface of the organ being examined. This procedure is mainly used to diagnose abdominal pain and bleeding which are usually caused by inflammation within the stomach, ulcers or heartburn. This type of inspection of the lower digestive tract is called a colonoscopy and is frequently utilised to remove polyps (small growths) that may become cancerous over time.

Other diseases treated by gastroenterologists are diarrhoea, ulcers, colitis, constipation, lactose intolerance, gallstones and heartburn, etc.

Personal Requirements

  • care for others, able to put patients at ease
  • be patient, calm and tactful
  • be accurate and meticulous
  • be responsible and ethical
  • have good communication skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

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

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

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 specialisation as a gastroenterologist: 4 years.

Additional Requirements: before commencing post-graduate study for specialisation as a gastroenterologist, the candidate must:
  • be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years
  • be registered as a medical doctor with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) for 1 year.
Registration: On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, the candidate must register with the HPCSA as a gastroenterologist


  • private practice
  • hospitals and other health care facilities
  • medical schools
  • clinics

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • ask permission to talk to a gastroenterologist and ask him questions about this career
  • research how specific organs mentioned in this career are affected by disease

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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