Dawit Worku Kassa
Addis Ababa University
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fellow of the IGCS Global Curriculum & Mentorship Program
Where did you complete your training? Or tell us about your background in gyn oncology.
I completed three years of gyn oncology training at Addis Ababa University and completed my fellowship in January 2019. I also took the German gynecologic oncology group (AGO) licensure examination. I have been enrolled in the IGCS fellowship program since 2018.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in gyn oncology or what about it interested you?
I did my residency (specialization) in OBGYN at Addis Ababa University, Blacklion Hospital. During my residency, I realized there are only a few (around 5) gynecologic oncologists in the whole country and nearly all are referred to this hospital for care. The combination of scarce skilled human power with a high number of reproductive organ cancers made the waiting time unacceptably long. This is the reason why I decided to do further study in gynecologic oncology.
Tell us about your work in women’s cancer: daily activities and/or special projects.
My weekly gynecologic oncology schedule includes one day outpatient clinic, making regular rounds on patients admitted for surgery, prescribing and the administration of chemotherapy and two days of surgery. Apart from these clinical activities, I am involved in teaching undergraduate medical students and resident physicians. I also work as a member of the national task force for the prevention of cervical cancer and as a board member of the Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ESOG).
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
The most rewarding part of my career is looking at the glimpse of hope, relief and smile I see in women with malignancies who come for follow up visits after they have undergone surgery.
What is the most beneficial resource or equipment you have access to at your training site?
As opposed to many African countries, the institution that I am working at is equipped with radiotherapy machines.
What is one of the biggest challenges in gyn cancer care in your region? What resources are lacking?
The biggest challenge in gyn oncology care is resource limitation (both human and material). Currently, there are only a few centers that provide comprehensive gyn oncology care hence why the waiting time for surgery is long. The other challenge is late presentation with an advanced disease making the options of therapy limited and chance for survival guarded. As there is only one radiotherapy center for a population of more than 110 million people the waiting time for radiotherapy is unimaginable. Scarcity of chemotherapeutic agents, particularly, the second line and the new generation drugs is also a big challenge.
How long have you been a member and how did you become involved with IGCS?
I have been enrolled in the IGCS fellowship program since 2018. This was possible through my international mentors, Dr. Rahel Ghebre (Gyn oncologist from University of Minnesota) and Dr. Carolyn Johnson (Gyn oncologist from University of Michigan).
What does being a part of the IGCS Global Curriculum & Mentorship Program mean to you?
Being part of the IGCS Global Curriculum & Mentorship Program allows me to be mentored by gyn oncologists with years of experience in the field. In addition, being a member gives me access to different online resources. Generally, the care of women with gynecologic malignancies need a multidisciplinary approach. The monthly ECHO Tumor Boards the program offers bring experts in the field from across the world together and continues to be a very important platform to discuss management of challenging cases. Finally, I am honored to be an IGCS fellow.
What is a unique or fun fact about your country or community culture?
Some unique facts about Ethiopia:
1. Has its own letters
2. Ethiopia has 13 months in a year and the last month (the 13th month) only has 5 or 6 days. According to the Ethiopian calendar, the year we are in is 2012.
3. There are more than 80 ethnic groups with as many languages
4. Home of ‘Lucy’ a 3.5-million-year-old fossil
5. One of the only nations in Africa that has not been colonized
Does your country/region have a traditional food or drink? Do you like it?
My favorite Ethiopian food is ‘DORO WET’ which is chicken stew that is paired best with ‘Injera’ (a staple Ethiopian dish made from a grain called ‘teff’).
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