Profiles of 2021 ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars: Part I

Editor’s note: The following is the first of two articles profiling the 2021 American College of Surgeons-College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (ACS-COSECSA) Women Scholars. Part II will be published in the March issue of the Bulletin.

From its inception, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has prioritized international surgical collaboration. Canadian surgeons were among its original members, and just 6 years after its founding, the Board of Regents approved a Latin American program to extend fellowship outside of North America. As of 2022, ACS chapters thrive in 50 countries, and 13% of ACS membership is international—nearly 11,000 members train and practice worldwide.

But the international focus of the ACS extends beyond membership. With the goal of raising the standards of surgical care throughout the world, the ACS engages in various partnerships with other surgical societies and institutions to develop the capacities of local surgical systems in low- and middle-income countries. The ACS, through Operation Giving Back (OGB), collaborates with institutions located in the COSECSA region. To date, three surgical training hubs are under development with the goal to expand to others. COSECSA is the leading surgical organization in the sub-Saharan region and is dedicated to improving surgical education standards and strengthening overall quality of surgical care.

In addition to the development of these surgical training hubs, the ACS in collaboration with Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) Foundation provides support for the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program. Each scholarship is worth $2,500 and is administered through COSECSA. Up to ten awards are provided. The award is used toward travel to the COSECSA annual meeting, as well as toward educational expenses, including accreditation and fellowship examination costs.

By supporting the scholarship of these talented women surgical trainees, the ACS and AWS Foundation demonstrate their commitment to promote women in surgery. In this article, OGB is proud to present five of the 2021 ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars.

If you are interested in supporting the scholarships, visit the ACS Foundation web page and designate your support toward ACS Operation Giving Back, program designation: ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program.

Bezayit Tesfaye Habteselassie, MD

Dr. Habteselassie

Dr. Habteselassie is an Ethiopian final-year orthopaedic resident at St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa. She has served as a general practitioner for 5 years (2012–2017) in Hidar 11 General Hospital, Akesta, Ethiopia; Tirunesh Beijing General Hospital, Addis Ababa; and Zewditu Memorial General Hospital, Addis Ababa. She contributed to helping the disadvantaged population by working in a remote hospital for 2 years (Hidar 11 General Hospital) and through participation in various outreach activities.

Besides her clinical work, she was a department head for the emergency department in Zewditu Memorial General Hospital and a chief resident at St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College.

“It was with great enthusiasm that I applied for the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program. Presently, I am a final year orthopaedic chief resident at the St. Paul’s Millennium Medical College and looking to subspecialize in pediatric orthopaedic surgery and make a great contribution in this field in my country, Ethiopia.

“In my previous role as emergency department head in Zewditu Memorial General Hospital, and now as a chief resident, I have proven to be effective and motivational. I have sought to bring collaboration, leadership, and consistent contributions to team efforts and organizational improvements.

“My experience at the St. Paul Millennium Medical College has given me the opportunity to develop my patient management and surgical skills. I am a strong communicator and believe in providing adequate time for patients to speak about their health conditions, and I have received frequent constructive comments from my patients and colleagues. In addition, I have been providing community services, like rehabilitation services at Mother Teressa Clinic and fundraising events for needy people, during my private time.”

Elsa Daniel Alemayehu, MD

Dr. Alemayehu

Dr. Alemayehu is a senior orthopaedic surgery resident at the Black Lion Hospital, Addis Ababa University. She completed primary and secondary school in the Hawassa, Sidama, region.

Dr. Alemayehu completed her medical degree in 2016 with distinction and was hired by Black Lion Specialized Hospital, Addis Ababa University, as a lecturer.

In 2017, she started her residency in the department of orthopaedic surgery and traumatology. Treatment outcomes in pediatric orthopaedics have been particularly rewarding for her because she can change a child’s life by treating their deformity or appropriately treating a simple fracture. Most parents in Ethiopia take their children to local bone healers and wait until their child develops a complication or a deformity before seeking medical attention. Dr. Alemayehu wants to change that custom.

Dr. Alemayehu has been actively and voluntarily involved in educating parents about pediatric orthopaedics by appearing in national media, including television programs like Ye Ethiopia Lijoch, and social media platforms.

She is dedicated, hardworking, and an excellent leader. She is inspired by her husband and their two daughters to never give up, dream big, and be an example of courage and hard work for them.

“I have great respect for education, and I aspire to be a great orthopaedic surgeon. I want to give the people of Ethiopia and the whole of Africa the standard of care they deserve. I desire to be a certified COSECSA fellow so I can work in the whole of Africa without borders. I hope to subspecialize in pediatric orthopaedic surgery so I can one day work together with Cure International and Hope Walks: Freedom from Clubfoot and serve my whole continent. I dream to bring change in as many African lives as I possibly can,” Dr. Alemayehu said.

“I have a strong belief that education can change the world, and I want to upgrade my educational background. When I saw the ACS-COSECSA Women Scholars Program offering scholarships for the COSECSA examination, I assumed it was the best chance to fulfill my interest.”

Felista Moraa Mose, MD

Dr. Mose

Dr. Mose is from Kisii County, Kenya. She is a general surgeon and an alumnus of the University of Nairobi with 10 years of clinical practice experience. Dr. Mose performs clinical and research work and is an assistant editor of the Annals of African Surgery, published by Afya Research Africa. Dr. Mose works for the Ministry of Health of Kakamega County Government in Western Kenya. She is interested in pancreatic, liver, and biliary surgery, and she intends to pursue these specialties in her fellowship.

“Throughout my medical training, I have sought to demonstrate excellence in my academics and thus encourage my junior colleagues, especially women, to join the surgical fraternity,” Dr. Mose said. “I am among the few female general surgeons in Kenya, and I have female undergraduate mentees who are still in training and aspiring to pursue surgery in the future. I always seek to share my knowledge and skills with my junior colleagues and other team members at my workplace,” she added.

“Our country has few surgeons, and only four hepato-pancreatic-biliary surgeons, and of the few, none of them is a woman. I hope to pursue this subspecialty in the future and even become the first liver transplant surgeon in Kenya. This will afford me this rare skill and the opportunity to train my colleagues in the discipline while providing the much-needed services to our population.”

Hellina Legesse Mamo, MD

Dr. Mamo

Dr. Mamo is a fifth-year resident at Addis Ababa University, surgical department, plastic and reconstructive unit. Dr. Mamo was born and raised in Addis Ababa and attended missionary schools for both her primary and secondary education.

After completing her medical studies at Addis Ababa University, Dr. Mamo traveled to a rural part of her country to serve for three years. She saw firsthand the trouble that patients in the rural areas experience in reaching hospitals that are far from their homes. During this time, Dr. Mamo developed a new level of compassion and empathy for those seeking help despite all the challenges.

After coming to Addis Ababa and practicing under the tutelage of the plastic surgeons in the ALERT (All Africa Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Rehabilitation Training) center, Dr. Mamo decided to pursue specialty training in plastic and reconstructive surgery. She admired the holistic approach to managing patients’ surgical needs and balancing the functional and aesthetic aspects of surgery.

After completing her residency, Dr. Mamo’s goal is to work as a plastic surgeon in the ALERT center, performing a combination of research and clinical duties. In her limited spare time, Dr. Mamo loves listening to music, watching movies, reading novels, and hiking.

“I observed that in plastic surgery, there is a continuity of care for patients over a prolonged period of time, which is not always seen in other specialties. Also, I realized that each patient comes with different challenges that involve a wide variety of procedures,” Dr. Mamo said. “Furthermore, I got the opportunity to witness the deep, positive impact on patients and their families both physically and emotionally attributable to plastic surgery. The work of a plastic surgeon is concerned with not only the well-being of the patient, but also that of the patient’s family. Communication is quite important in this field for the patient’s family and with the surgical team.

“After completing my residency, my goal is to work as a plastic surgeon in the ALERT center, through a combination of research and clinical duties. I want to focus on the management of burn victims since it is the most frequently encountered problem by plastic surgeons in Ethiopia and one of the most neglected. I am ready to work hard to enter the next stage of my life and career, achieving my goal of being a qualified plastic surgeon in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, which has a severe shortage of surgeons. I hope to inspire other female doctors who want to pursue a career in surgery, especially in plastic and reconstructive surgery,” Dr. Mamo added.

Thitai Juliet, MD

Dr. Juliet

Dr. Juliet chose orthopaedic surgery because she was inspired during her clinical rotations. Orthopaedic surgery fulfills her passion for fixing things.

Dr. Juliet’s path toward her current leadership role includes the chief resident of orthopaedic surgery, University of Nairobi, which is a position that involves critical decision-making and ensuring a functional unit. She is vice-chair of the residents’ council, University of Nairobi, and the housing committee representative for residents at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi.

“There is a great demand for orthopaedic surgeons in Kenya. Being the youngest female chief orthopaedic resident has inspired junior colleagues to know that there is a place for women in orthopaedic surgery,” Dr. Juliet said.

“I am proactive, passionately assertive, and always eager to learn. Work is my love and passion, and teamwork builds this further. I pursue excellence in my studies, work, life, and the notion that there will be more orthopaedic surgeons in Kenya regardless of gender,” she said. “Analytic creativity is another strength, with a vast array of ideas that I have learned that I can achieve through research and actualization. I believe critical problems require immediate solutions that are aligned with my medical background.”

“I want to give my services to a place of great need. I want to be a positive influence and mentor to other young female doctors with an interest in orthopaedic surgery. With the wide range of subspecialties in orthopaedics, I intend to delve further into one of them. I have a deep interest in sports medicine and orthopaedic oncology. I really hope that what I do and work toward contributes to society positively,” Dr. Juliet added.

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