Editor’s note: The following is the second of two articles profiling the 2021 American College of Surgeons-College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (ACS-COSECSA) Women Scholars. Part 1 appears in the February Bulletin.
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) in collaboration with Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) Foundation provides support for the ACS-COSECSA (College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa) Women Scholars Program. Each scholarship is worth $2,500 and is administered through COSECSA. Up to 10 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, Operation Giving Back is proud to present the remaining five of the 10 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.
Kondjela Sara Hamunyela, MBChB, MMed
Dr. Hamunyela was born in Oranjemund, Namibia, and completed her primary and high school education in her home country. She obtained her MBChB degree at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Dr. Hamunyela returned to Windhoek, Namibia, to perform her 2-year internship and worked as a medical officer for approximately 4 years in Windhoek before applying for a postgraduate specialty.
Dr. Hamunyela completed her MMed degree in pediatric surgery at Stellenbosch University and now is employed with the Ministry of Health in Windhoek as the head of the pediatric surgery department.
She elected to pursue a career in pediatric surgery based on the need in Namibia. Before her return to Namibia, all pediatric surgery cases were overseen by general surgeons or referred to the private sector. The pediatric population has grown significantly in that country, and the mortality among neonates and children needing surgical care has become an enormous burden on the health sector.
“The general pediatric department endeavors to build a health sector that cares for children holistically. We would like to commence and continue equipping undergraduate medical students to treat commonly occurring pediatric surgical conditions and, in the future, initiate training postgraduate prospects in the discipline locally,” Dr. Hamunyela said.
“Historically, surgery has been known as a male-dominated profession. The gender profile is transforming as more females are becoming medical professionals; however, this appears not to be reflected in the surgery department in Namibia. Having started my employment in 2019, I strive to encourage females in pursuing a career in the surgical fraternity,” she said.
“I am now preparing to write the COSECSA fellowship in pediatric surgery examinations, with the hopes of making our vision for pediatric surgery a reality in Namibia,” Dr. Hamunyela added.
Makena Jean Mbogori, MD
Dr. Mbogori was born and raised in Nairobi, where she attended both primary and secondary school and attended the University of Nairobi for both her undergraduate and medical degrees. She is completing both her postgraduate masters in orthopaedic surgery and trauma at the University of Nairobi and her orthopaedic surgery residency training at Kenyatta National Hospital.
From 2015 to 2016, Dr. Mbogori completed an internship at the PCEA Kikuyu Hospital, a faith-based community hospital on the outskirts of Nairobi. This internship was her first exposure to much of the orthopaedic surgical experience.
From 2016 to 2018 at The Nairobi Hospital, Dr. Mbogori worked in the accident and emergency department, where she gained valuable outpatient department experience. She is a senior registrar in the orthopaedic surgery department, tending to patients in the clinics and theater.
In the future, she is considering specializing in musculoskeletal oncology and adult limb reconstruction, sports medicine, or foot and ankle surgery. Dr. Mbogori also is interested in research and teaching, advocacy and policy development for access to high-quality orthopaedic surgery, and the use of social media for public health awareness on musculoskeletal health and wellness.
“‘When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.’ This is a statement frequently uttered by children all the time. I was not any different; little did I know that this statement would lead to a fulfilling career. I was instantly drawn to surgery during my first-year anatomy dissection sessions and eventually selected orthopaedic surgery during the clinical years. Orthopaedic surgery appealed to me due to its diversity, hands-on approach, and seemingly instant gratification,” Dr. Mbogori said.
“If I am to use three words to accurately describe myself, they would be ambitious, confident, and innovative. My motivation stems from a need to always strive to do the best that I can, not only for my patients but for the medical practice as a whole. I have endeavored to achieve this goal by being active in both academic and extracurricular activities, including the Kenya Orthopaedic Association, where I served as the inaugural resident representative (2019–2020). We sought to create a space for orthopaedic surgery residents to make an impact in the practice of orthopaedics even while still in training.” she said.
“The orthopaedic practice in Kenya has grown exponentially over the past several years with an upsurge of subspecialists in the country in the last 10 or so years, and I am very keen to be at the forefront of this. My current interests within the field include musculoskeletal oncology and limb reconstruction, sports medicine, and foot and ankle surgery. I strongly believe that high-quality, specialized surgical care should be easily and readily accessible to members of my society in Kenya regardless of social or economic background—hence, my desire and passion to elevate my skills and knowledge in these subspecialties by accessing top-level fellowships in various parts of the world,” Dr. Mbogori said.
“There has been quite an increase in the number of female orthopaedic surgeons in the country, which I must say I am extremely proud to be a part of. Previously seen to be a male-dominated field, in no small part due to the perceived physical strength required, which I believe is not necessarily accurate. Therefore, I always try to encourage female medical students and medical officers who have an interest in orthopaedic surgery to take it up. The Kenya Association of Women Surgeons, which I have been a part of as the secretariat since its inception in 2018, creates a space that encourages and supports female surgeons in Kenya.
“It is a great honor to receive the ACS-COSECSA Women’s Scholar Program scholarship for 2021.”
Mekdelawit Mesfin, MD
Dr. Mesfin is in the final year of her pediatric surgery residency at Addis Ababa University College of Health Sciences School of Medicine. She was born and raised in a small city called Dire Dawa, located 505 km [approximately 313 miles] east of Addis Ababa.
Despite significant financial challenges, she attended private schools through scholarships and decided to pursue surgery as a profession. She tolerated the stresses of medical school because she loved it and knew it was necessary in order to be a great surgeon in the future. Now, Dr. Mesfin is in her fifth year of pediatric surgery residency. She has been blessed with a beautiful daughter and a family of he own. As a woman who passed through many obstacles in life, she is succeeding as a physician, mother, and wife. Dr. Mesfin aspires to be a caring and determined pediatric surgeon so that parents can trust her with the most valuable gifts they have—their children.
“I can surely say that being a surgeon has always been my dream. When I was a kid I used to dissect the organs of the animals that used to be slaughtered for holidays. Cutting the heart and the kidneys and seeing the different parts that my teachers taught me at elementary school made me happy. I knew I would be happy for the rest of my life if I joined the medical field and struggled to achieve my dream of being a surgeon,” Dr. Mesfin said.
“The first time I held a scalpel was to do an appendectomy my first week of internship, and I felt amazing. I said to myself, ‘Yes this is where I belong!’ I tolerated the hardship in medical school because I loved it, and I knew I had to go through it to be a great surgeon in the future. Giving care to my mom who was suffering from stage IV ovarian cancer and taking chemotherapy and undergoing operations in the university hospital where I was learning made it more difficult for me, but I persevered. I fought back harder whenever I encountered challenges. It made me who I am today. It shaped me to be a strong woman who is ready to face problems and figure out solutions without frustration,” she said.
“Being the only female resident in my batch, I am doing my best to juggle the responsibilities of my profession and my personal life. I aspire to be a caring and determined pediatric surgeon who parents can trust with their children so that I can provide care to the best of my knowledge. It also is a dream of mine to be a qualified surgeon extending my provision of care beyond my country,” Dr. Mesfin added.
Shikuria Lemma Nida, MD
Born in the small rural town of Gunchire, located in the Gurage Zone, a region in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region of Ethiopia, Dr. Nida now lives in Addis Ababa. She is a final-year orthopaedic surgery resident at Black Lion Specialized Hospital and a chief resident and junior researcher. She attended primary and secondary school in the same town where she was born and raised. She left her hometown to attend medical school at Addis Ababa University, where she graduated in November 2016.
Dr. Nida has been a lecturer and junior researcher at The College of Health Science, School of Medicine, Addis Ababa University, since December 2016. After one year of working in the department of orthopaedics as a general practitioner, she joined her residency program in Addis Ababa University in the field of orthopaedic surgery, which has been her dream since she entered medical school.
“When I look back, several experiences have led me to pursue a career in orthopaedic surgery. These experiences have allowed me to develop certain traits that would make me a valuable member of an orthopaedic team.
“Growing up, I never doubted to what I wanted to become—a doctor. During my clinical rotation in medical school, I kept an open mind regarding the residency selection to see what the various medical and surgical fields were like. Feeling excited yet most comfortable in the operating room and around surgical patients made my choice between the surgical and medical fields rather easy,” she said.
“Embarking upon my internship rotation during the final year of medical school, I had a chance to see many trauma patients visiting the emergency department, most of which were orthopaedic-related cases. All the factors involved in my decision-making stemmed from my internship rotation in the department of orthopaedic surgery. I would wake up early, eagerly anticipating what the day would bring and leaving with disbelief that so many hours seemingly passed so quickly. During my stay in the department, I was inspired by the work being done by the orthopaedic surgeons and their response to the patients. After further contemplating my experience and options, I realized that orthopaedic surgery was what I saw for my future,” Dr. Nida said.
“As for what the future holds, my plan is to combine my interests in clinical care, education, and research to develop a well-rounded practice. My goal is to be a qualified COSECSA fellow and subspecialize in upper extremity trauma surgery. I’m working to be an influential female orthopaedic surgeon and role model for young female residents. Through this practice, I believe I will relieve the dearth of skilled surgeons in the field of orthopaedics in my country and other areas of Africa,” she added.
Nimanya Stella Alice, MD
Dr. Alice was born and raised in Kampala, Uganda. She completed her undergraduate degree in medicine at Mbarara University, Uganda, in 2013, and immediately went on to start her medical internship at Mulago National Referral Hospital. She then worked as a medical officer at a private not-for-profit hospital in remote eastern Uganda (Kumi Hospital, Ongino), and later as a medical officer at The Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala.
In 2015, she enrolled for a postgraduate degree in general surgery at Makerere University. It was during her second-year rotation on the pediatric surgery unit that she developed an immense passion for the specialty.
At present, she is privileged to be a part of the pediatric surgery fellowship under COSECSA, where she gets mentorship from both the local and international collaborative faculty on the pediatric surgery unit at Mulago National Referral Hospital. She has taken advantage of the opportunities under the program to learn, grow, and better herself as a surgeon, teacher, and person each day.
“Uganda has a very young population and, like any other low-income country, faces challenges with its healthcare system. There are only seven pediatric surgeons in the whole of the country, faced with an ever-increasing burden of pediatric surgical disease. The majority of children will end up in the hands of general surgeons, who have limited pediatric surgical training, if any. I believe that every individual, including a child, deserves safe, specialized healthcare,” Dr. Alice said.
“During my pediatric surgery rotation as a general surgery resident, I came to believe that children are not just small adults. They are unique beings with special challenges. Over the course of my fellowship, I have not only fallen in love with the discipline, but I have grown to respect it immensely,” she said.
“I look forward to joining the pediatric surgical fraternity, working with the team to help ease the burden of disease by providing safe surgery to children who need it. I am excited about sharing the skills and knowledge I have accrued with medical students and surgical residents, in a bid to influence their clinical practice positively as they encounter pediatric surgical patients,” Dr. Alice added. “I also look forward to being a part of solutions and innovations that will change the future of pediatric surgery and medicine generally.”