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By Mulumebet Haile Selassie MD
Obstetrics &Gynecologist
HMSS Student, 1959-63

I was born at Mekonnen Haile Selassie Hospital on December 25, 1945. I attended church school at St. Michael church near out house, until I was able to read Amharic. Then I attended Yeshimebet Girls School where my older sister was a boarding student. The first two years were very hard for both of us, since my teachers expected her to tutor me in English and Mathematics, in addition to her schoolwork. Once I started feeling confident and started catching up with my classmates, things got easier. I had the advantage of having a sister that lived in the dormitory. She was not only my protector but also my connection to the older high school students who stayed in the same dormitory as my sister. They attended Medhane Alem Secondary School or the Teachers Training School.

We, the young kids, admired and were in awe of the older students. When it was my sister's turn to attend Medhane Alem Secondary School, I was so eager to find out about the school activities, the strict teachers, hard subjects and of course the boys! I listened to the older students gossip and to the comments of my sisters and wondered when it was going to be my turn to be a High School Student.

September 1959 was my freshman year. At the time, Medhane Alem was the only high school for the whole province of Harar and Bale, so there was no room to accommodate all the newcomers. All five classes of grade IX were kept as Ras Mekonnen School until new classrooms were built for us. It was disappointing to be a student of Medhane Alem and attend classes in the old elementary school!

The other change for me was getting used to being with boys who were notorious for teasing and torturing us, girls. I used to stand first or second in my class at Yeshimebet School but here I was 19th out of the 40 students. The competition caught me by surprise and I felt that I was not as good as I thought. By the beginning of second term, we moved to the main campus and everything was somewhat settled even though construction work continued around us. I was determined to improve my stand in class. I studied hard and by the time I was in the 11th and 12th grade, I was among the top three students in my class.

Among the many things that I remember, the one that I recall most is a young labourer who got buried by the collapsing and that fell on top of him while he was building a retaining wall to make it safe. He was dug out and I saw a dead body for the first time.

I also remember how on the first day in class, Mr Cherian threatened to throw out the widow the person who does not pay attention. Mr. Mathai was always funny. He commented about the boys who were trying to find seats beside the girls in the Chemistry laboratory saying that he knew that there was an "affinity" over there. He told one of the students that if he continued smiling all the time, the flies would get in his mouth. When someone could no balance an equation, he would say "if you do not study, formulas will not come from the sky!"

Mr. Virghes always sweated on his bald head. Mr. Ahmed kept us entrained by giving nicknames to students. I know mine was "All body and no legs"! I respected Father Tohomas and Mr. Abraham for being knowledgeable on the subjects they taught. Mr. Paul always wore clothes two sizes bigger, so he was busy adjusting his pants and his sleeves. Thus, we paid more attention to his shuffles and "Get, Get, Gets" rather than the Algebra he was teaching. Mr. Alexander was just too handsome to be bothered by anything.

Dr. Ghasswalla called me "monkey" a couple of times: once while I was day dreaming during his physics class; and the other time when I told him that I was not going to sit for the Mathematics B examination at the end of 12th grade. He had more confidence in me than I did in myself. I took it and did fine.

The boys formed the Moon Light Club that ran the Coffee Shop where half the school caught Hepatitis. They also climbed mount Kundudo besides other things. We girls organized the Saba Club. I was the president. Besides running around to get members together at the specified time and getting them to do what they were assigned to do, we were able to participate in the school day presentation. We has fantastic food and drinks. Even the Governor of Harar was impressed!

I knew that I was going to study Science in college because I had a liking for nature since childhood. I liked to watch wasps, bees, birds, lizards, and tadpoles changing into frogs- my little fish grew legs! I liked playing with bugs and all animals in general. I always wanted to help deliver my father's cows and goats but never had a chance as they did it out in the pasture and I was not allowed to go there. So in high school, Biology was my best subject as it dealt with my interest. The other subjects had to be memorized to get the best grades. I never thought of becoming a doctor while I was in high school. However, the solid academic teaching I received there helped a lot.

The first year in college was hard. Besides being a time of adjustment, the physics and calculus courses were hard. Once that was over and I started concentrating on Biology, college became more interesting and easier. In the summer of 1966 I had nothing to do. I was offered the opportunity to take some social science courses in order to join the College's best students- I know that I needed these courses for completion of my Biology degree in case I changed my mind. So I took the courses with my friend who at the end decided to go back to the Chemistry department. She told me that she was not interested in cutting cadavers; but I was and I stayed.

After graduation from Medical School, I worked at Bahr Dar for two years. Then I came to America just before the Emperor's government was overthrown. I did my residency in General practice for three years and then was accepted at the Cook Country Hospital in Chicago for residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. I finished my specialization in June, 1980.

I worked at the Naval Hospital as a civilian for a year and then for the city of Chicago for eight years. And now, I am working with a group of Family physicians as the only Obstetrician and Gynecologist which I have been doing for the past eight years.

Even though my class prediction at Harar Medhane Alem said that I would be a famous doctor, my achievements did not come easily. I consider myself a hard worker but not a genius. I had to sacrifice a lot to get to what I wanted. First in the summer of 1968 when my classmates were home on vacation, I was at rested classmates were fumbling around. Second, while waiting to find residency in my field of interest, I worked as General practice resident for three years.

Third, in 1989, I found out that I needed to take my board qualifying examination again since the first one lapsed while I was attending to my family. The only way I could catch up with all the new advances was to go back to residency. I volunteered to work for free in return for the Hospital preparing me for the examination. That took nine months, most of my life's savings and a lot of hard work. Thank God I passed the examination and got to where I am now. So if one has her mind set to achieve a certain goal, perseverance and sacrifices surely will be needed in addition to hard work to get there!

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