Since the 18th century fields of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have remained predominantly male dominated.
Although the medical field has made strides in terms of closing gender disparity, much is still left to be desired in surgical related fields to bridge the gap, consequently topping up female representation.
Neurosurgery unlike other medical specialities, already lags behind with number, the low percentage also amounts to a fewer representation of women in the field. In Africa at present, the estimated total number of African women in neurosurgery (AWIN) is roughly 243 (female residents/trainees excluded).
Rwanda suffers from a great shortage of neurosurgeons, with only six neurosurgeons serving 12 million people.
Hence the need to celebrate a pacesetter changing the narrative in
Rwanda – Dr. Claire Karekezi, the country’s first and only female Neurosurgeon.
She is a Consultant Neurosurgeon at the Rwanda Military Hospital.
Choosing medicine as a career was the first challenge for Dr. Karekezi, owing to the fact that it takes a strong amount of dedication and commitment, not less than six years to earn a degree. Her journey took at least ten years. Dr. Karekezi a Consultant Neurosurgeon at the Rwanda Military Hospital graduated as a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Rwanda.
“I received my MD degree from the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health sciences (2009) and completed my Residency in Neurosurgery from the Mohamed V University of Rabat/WFNS Rabat Training Center for African Neurosurgeons (2016). I was further involved in fellowship programs in the US and Canada, received the 2016 AANS International Visiting Surgeon Fellowship in Neurosurgery/ NeuroOncology at the Brigham and Women Hospital in 2016, and later completed a Clinical Fellowship in NeuroOncology and Skull Base Surgery at Toronto Western Hospital, University of Toronto in Canada (2017/2018).”
But her journey wasn’t smooth; pressure to settle down rather than completing her studies were mounted, but she stood firm.
“I refuse to let being African and a woman be a limitation for me. There is no attainable dream.” She says, in reflection of how she was able to stand firm and follow her dreams.
“Even though my story of being Rwanda’s first and only female Neurosurgeon broke the internet, I feel like there is still much to learn and accomplish as a young, (African) woman neurosurgeon. Each step all along my journey has been tough but achievable…” Dr. Karekezi says.