Editor’s note: The following is the second of two articles profiling the 2019 American College of Surgeons-College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA) Women Scholars.
In July, the Bulletin featured profiles of six awardees of the 2019 ACS-COSESCA Women Scholars Program. The remaining six 2019 scholarship recipients are profiled in this article. Each scholarship is worth $2,500 and is administered through COSECSA. The award is used toward travel to the COSECSA annual meeting, as well as toward educational expenses, including accreditation and fellowship examination costs. Since its inception in 2017, a total of 30 scholarships have been awarded through the program. The total cost of the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program is supported equally by the Hellman Grant through the Association of Women Surgeons Foundation (AWSF) and a generous donation from Pon Satitpunwaycha, MD, FACS, through the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Foundation.
Hilary Sanfey, MB, MCh, MHPE, FACS, FRCSEd(Hon), FRCSI(Hon), ACS Past First Vice-President, AWS Past-President, AWSF Chair, believes there are many reasons to continue to support these scholarships. “Only 12 percent of the world’s surgical workforce practice in Africa and Southeast Asia—areas where a third of the world’s population live and have the highest burden of surgical disease, yet have only one surgeon for every 200,000 people. Although women make up 50 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, they represent less than 9 percent of the surgical workforce. Increasing the number of board-certified surgeons will not only improve patient access to optimal surgical care, but also increase training opportunities since COSECSA fellows can accept future surgical trainees,” Dr. Sanfey said. “Most importantly, 85 percent of COSECSA surgical graduates stay in their home country, and 93 percent remain within Africa. This effort to channel more women into a board-eligible pathway will help to plug the leaky pipeline that currently exists. Thanks to the Hellman Grant, the AWSF was able to support 50 percent of the women scholar expenses.”
Dr. Satitpunwaycha, the ACS Foundation, and the Hellman Grant through AWSF have committed to awarding ACS-COSESCA Women Scholars Program scholarships in 2020.
Hiwot Tilahun Anagaw, MD, was born in the rural Amhara region of Ethiopia. A lifelong student of medicine who had an interest in medical school at a young age, Dr. Anagaw received her medical degree in 2012 from Black Lion Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and served as medical director and general practitioner at Mehal Medah Primary Hospital for two years. From there, she joined the general surgery department at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa, and graduated in 2019. Dr. Anagaw now works at Agew Gimjabet Primary Hospital as a general surgeon.
“I am a very lucky woman despite the early challenges, such as being born in a very small, very rural village, having been placed in an arranged marriage at age eight, and having started school late; but I am a surgeon now. There are not enough words to thank you all for what this program has done for aspiring women surgeons in COSECSA countries,” Dr. Anagaw said.
Anne Shikanda Wesonga, MMed, received her undergraduate degree from Gulu University, Uganda, in 2011 and graduated from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda, in 2016 with her master of medicine degree in general surgery. Dr. Wesonga worked as a general surgeon for one year before accepting her COSECSA fellowship in pediatric surgery, which has allowed her to train in both Uganda and at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She has always loved children, hence opting to study pediatric surgery.
“The ACS demonstrates ‘service above self.’ Is there any greater and more noble calling in this world than to make someone else’s life better? I am so proud of the ACS being part of my journey to become a pediatric surgeon,” Dr. Wesonga said.
Luwam Haile Yohannes, MD, born and raised in Ethiopia, completed her medical studies at Mekelle University College of Health Sciences, Ayder Referral Hospital, Mekelle, Ethiopia, in 2019. She has been working for Mekelle University, Ayder Referral Hospital, since 2010, where she has served as a general practitioner and finished four years of general surgical residency. In addition, Dr. Yohannes worked for one year as a general surgeon and joined the pediatric surgical fellowship program with Addis Ababa University, Tikur Anbessa Referral Hospital. Dr. Yohannes is now back with Mekelle University working alongside surgical colleagues to establish a pediatric surgery department. She has a special interest in neonatal surgery and because no university provides this training in Ethiopia, she likely will study out of the country.
“The scholarship was a great opportunity, as I rarely have a platform to meet different surgeons from all over the globe,” Dr. Yohannes said. “We exchanged experiences and shared inspiration and [the fact] that we are motivated to do more. The waived [ACS and COSECSA] membership fees mean we will have access to journals that are up to date and evidence-based, which will improve patient management: that is the best gift.”
Gallina Kazobinka is Burundi’s first woman urologist. She completed medical school in China at Jiamusi University in 2012, as well as her residency at Wuhan Union Hospital in 2017. Urology became a field of interest for Dr. Kazobinka after witnessing firsthand the many challenges general surgeons in Burundi faced when presented with urological pathologies. After completing her fellowship of the College of Surgeons (Mozambique and Rwanda), Dr. Kazobinka intends to return to her home country to fill the gap in access to trained urologists.
“I am sincerely honored to have been selected as an ACS-COSECSA Women Scholar recipient,” Dr. Kazobinka said. “This was undoubtedly a generous gift at the right moment. It is worth noting that during the entire two-year fellowship placement period in Mozambique and Rwanda, I was working as non-remunerated staff. Thanks to the scholarship, I did not have to worry much about the exam, transport, and accommodation fees, but rather focus on my exam preparations. Indeed, my educational pursuits would not have been possible without this generous support,” she said.
Takondwa Itaye-Kamangira, MBBS, MMed, attained her primary medical qualification, bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery, from the University of Malawi, Zomba, in 2005. In addition, she holds a master’s degree in medicine-general surgery from the University of Malawi, and a master’s degree in surgical sciences from the University of Edinburg, U.K. In 2017, Dr. Itaye-Kamangira was awarded the Livingstone Fellowship in Breast and General Surgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, U.K. She has collaborated on two papers published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology and World Journal of Surgery and presented at the Surgery365 meeting in 2017 in Glasgow. Dr. Itaye-Kamangira is currently a general surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi, and has a special interest in surgical oncology.
Dr. Luli Baissa
Luli Baissa, MD, is a general surgeon at Ras Desta Damtew Memorial Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia, in 2012 and then served as a general practitioner for three years. She joined St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa, and completed her general surgery residency in 2019. With the help of the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program, she is now COSECSA-accredited as well.
“The ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars award gave me financial support, which covered all the costs needed for me to sit for the COSECSA Fellowship examination. Now I have an internationally recognized surgical qualification, which has opened a door for future opportunities,” Dr. Baissa said. “In addition, because of the award, I am a member of the ACS and am able to utilize all the related benefits.”
The ACS and Operation Giving Back extends its congratulations to all of the 2019 ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars and wishes them all the best in their surgical careers.
To learn more about the AWS Foundation, visit www.womensurgeons.org/page/SupportAWSFoundation.
To contribute to the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program, visit facs.org/about-acs/acs-foundation/how-to-make-a-gift/donate and designate your gift to Operation Giving Back, Program Designation: ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program.