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technology 25 Nov 2019

The African women breaking barriers in health care

By Waiswa Wafula

After British Physician Elizabeth Blackwell was admitted into a medicine school into a medicine school in the USA in 1847, becoming the first woman to be admitted and graduate with a doctor’s degree move women have taken up the space and are excelling in the career.

Women make up 7 in10 health and social care workers globally and contribute about 3 trillion dollars annually to global health. WHO highlighted in 2019 that the health and social sector is although further policies are needed to address inequalities and discrimination in earning, remove barriers to access to full-time employment and support access to professional development and leadership roles.

Here are some remarkable women breaking barriers and revolutionizing medicine in the African Continent:

  • Dr. Susan Karanja

With fewer than 40 neurosurgeons in Kenya, Dr. Susan Karanja is one of just three female neurosurgeons in the country. From as early as primary school, Karanja knew that her calling was to be a medical doctor, having grown up seeing awareness campaigns about the spread of HIV/AIDS.

After completing her internships, Karanja shifted her focus from internal medicine to surgery — combining that with the challenge of neurology. She went to South Africa for five years to study for her Master’s degree in Medicine Neurosurgery at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

  • Dr. Elizabeth Awoliyi Abimbola

Dr. Elizabeth Awoliyi Abimbola was the first female physician to ever practice in Nigeria, and she was also the second president of the National Council of Women’s Society of Nigeria from 1964 to her death in 1971.

Born in 1910, in Lagos, she went on to study medicine in Dublin, Ireland, before becoming a specialist in gynaecology and obstetrics. After her death, the Dr. Abimbola Awoliyi Memorial hospital was built in Lagos in the late 1970s in honour of her legacy.  

  • Dr. Ncumisa Jilata
Dr. Ncumisa Jilata PHOTO/COURTESY

In 2017, at the age of 29, Dr. Ncumisa Jilata became Africa’s youngest neurosurgeon after completing her fellowship for the Council of Neurosurgeons of South Africa — also making her one of just five Black, female neurosurgeons in South Africa.

Jilata is an expert on all things related to the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spine.

  • Dr. Gloria Tshukudu
Dr. Gloria Tshukudu PHOTO/COURTESY

Dr. Gloria Tshukudu became the first South African woman to qualify as a plastic surgeon in 2013. 

Tshukudu specialises in plastic and reconstructive surgery. She graduated with a degree in medicine at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, previously known as Medical University of South Africa. She went on to receive a Master of Medicine degree at the University of Limpopo’s Ga-Rankuwa Medical University at the end of 2012. 

  • Dr. Lindiwe Sidali
Dr. Lindiwe Sidali PHOTO/COURTESY

Sidali became the first African female cardiothoracic surgeon in 2018. She treats patients who suffer from heart, lung, oesophagus, diaphragm, and trachea conditions that need surgical intervention and cannot be treated with medicine alone. 

Dr. Sidali, 38, was born in a small town called iDutywa, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. After high school, she received a bursary from the North West Department of Health to study medicine in Cuba. 

Also ReadA women-only village in rural Kenya inspires others on Land Equality

  • Dr. Nomusa Shezi
Dr. Nomusa Shezi. PHOTO COURTESY

Dr. Shezi, 35, is from KwaZulu-Natal province (KZN) in South Africa. In 2017, she became the first Black, female neurosurgeon from KZN and is one of only five Black African female neurosurgeons in South Africa.

At the time, the University of KwaZulu-Natal said it hoped her accomplishment would encourage other young people — and particularly women — to pursue careers in medicine.

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