Trainee Profile

Dr. Zelalem Gizachew Tekle

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“I decided to go into Ophthalmology to fill in the healthcare gap in Ethiopia and make a difference”

In 2017, HCP provided 132 training opportunities to ophthalmic personnel from Ethiopia as part of our efforts to increase eye care services in the country, by building a network of skilled, dedicated eye care professionals providing accessible, high-quality care. Since 2008, HCP has been providing training opportunities to ophthalmic personnel working at all levels of eye care, including hands-on subspecialty training for ophthalmologists. Dr. Zelalem Gizachew Tekle, a Pediatric Ophthalmology Fellow at Addis Ababa University (AAU), Menelik II Hospital, is one such example.

Born and raised in Jimma, the largest city in south west Ethiopia, Dr. Zelalem completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Addis Ababa University’s College of Medicine in 2004 and 2011, respectively. He chose ophthalmology after an eye opening experience with a mother and her child.

“After university, I worked at the Gode Hospital and Karamara Hospital, both in the Somali Region (Ogaden), south west of Ethiopia both as a general practitioner and as an ophthalmologist. I had always wanted to go into ophthalmology and while I was working at Gode Hospital I saw a lot of elderly blind people, but the experience that struck me the most was when I saw a child with a fumigating mass in their orbit. It was very far along, so I asked the child’s mother why she took so long to get treatment. She told me that she had repeatedly visited the nearby health clinic many times and her daughter was treated with multiple kinds of medications (antibiotics), but with no improvement. That is when and why I decided to go to Ophthalmology, to fill in the healthcare gap in Ethiopia and make a difference. I lost my mother when I was very young because of a lack of access to health services, so I am very dedicated to my work."

Dr. Zelalem was introduced to HCP, when he joined the department of Ophthalmology at Addis Ababa University, subsequently choosing pediatrics as a subspecialty.

“The Himalayan Cataract Project was already engaged in supporting Addis Ababa University both in education and technical assistance. HCP has supported my training ever since and still as I complete my pediatric subspecialty training for the past year and a half. I started my training at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Nepal for five months with a focus on pediatric cataract surgery. After I finished those five months of training I went back to Ethiopia and performed a lot pediatric cataract surgeries. There has been a tremendous amount of help in strengthening the eye care systems in Ethiopia with support from HCP and the USAID Child Blindness Program.”

Dr. Zelalem is currently finishing up three months of training at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel.

“The focus during this training has mainly been on strabismus and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). I have learned a lot and believe this training will greatly contribute to the management of strabismus and ROP in the children of Ethiopia. I also gives me the opportunity to get hands on training at Menelik II Hospital with the supervision of my mentors. It adds much depth and confidence in my abilities to treat and manage pediatric patients.”

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