Stephanus Vermaak (Steph) Potgieter.
Article Type: Obituary
Subject: Physicians (Biography)
Author: Scholtz, Martin
Pub Date: 11/01/2012
Publication: Name: South African Medical Journal Publisher: South African Medical Association Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 South African Medical Association ISSN: 0256-9574
Issue: Date: Nov, 2012 Source Volume: 102 Source Issue: 11
Product: Product Code: 8011000 Physicians & Surgeons NAICS Code: 621111 Offices of Physicians (except Mental Health Specialists)
Persons: Biographee: Potgieter, Stephanus Vermaak
Geographic: Geographic Scope: South Africa Geographic Code: 6SOUT South Africa
Accession Number: 308294381
Full Text: Steph Potgieter was born on 22 September 1928. He received his MB ChB in 1951 at the University of Pretoria. He did his internship in Bloemfontein and was in geneneral practice there from 1952 to 1956. He trained in anaesthesiology at Karl Bremer Hospital and received the MMed Anaesthesiology from Stellenbosch University in 1959. He then visited several departments of anaesthesiology in Europe, including those in Stockholm (Karolinska Institute), Amsterdam, London, and Oxford, and attended a Royal College of Surgeons anaesthesia course in London. He was in private practice as an anaesthesiologist in Bloemfontein from 1960 to 1985, and thereafter to 1994 was a consultant in the Department of Anaesthesiology, University of the Free State. During his first years in practice, he was involved in groundbreaking work in the surgery and care of patients with severe spinal deformities, working closely with Dr T B Enslin.

Steph realised that in South Africa's small community it was essential to share expertise and get solutions for problems. He was a lifelong member of the South African Medical Association, and for many years the president and secretary of the Free State branch. He arranged the first meetings for South African anaesthesiologists in Bloemfontein, bringing to the country his overseas contacts. Several of these meetings were held in Bloemfontein from 1962 to 1973, which developed into the Annual Congress of the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA). Steph was also president of SASA for several terms.

Steph published on anaesthesia-related topics, but his great interest in the history of South African medicine resulted in later publications on the history of medicine. His interest in the history of early medicine practised in Bloemfontein led him to do research overseas. Returning from a trip to Scotland, to find information on doctors who practised in the Free State, he was on the Achille Lauro which caught fire and sank. He assisted many to escape to a passing oil tanker.

Steph was loved for his decent, civilised manners and was known for his endless endeavours to help his fellow-man. With excellent organising abilities, and outstanding human relations, he created a pleasant work environment for the staff at Pelonomi Hospital during the politically turbulent 1980s and early 1990s. Many from all races attended his funeral. He had a wide interest outside medicine and is known country-wide for breeding Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs and was a driving force behind the local Botanical Society.


Weeks before his death (9 April 2012), when he was already seriously ill, Steph showed international visitors the interesting and important historical places of his beloved Bloemfontein. Over the years many visitors wrote back that it had been the pinnacle of their South African visit. We will remember Steph as a man who looked you straight in the eye, kept firmly to his convictions, but was always willing to humbly provide help.

Johan Diedericks

Professor: Department of Anaesthesiology, UFS, Bloemfontein
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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