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
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
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
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
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