By Tadias Staff
Published: Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
New York (TADIAS) – This past July the University of Gondar, which is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding this year, “re-graduated” about 500 alumni along with over 4000 students. The alumni had gathered for the three-day occasion (July 5-7th, 2014) from across Ethiopia as well as from other African nations, the United States, and Europe. The University’s Alumni Steering Committee in the United States estimates that there were about 100 former graduates in attendance from the Diaspora. The University of Gondar is the first public health institution in Ethiopia, and was established in 1954 as a Public Health College in response to a malaria epidemic to help train nurses, health officers, sanitarians, laboratory technicians and other professionals that would eventually form the backbone of country’s modern public health structure. It was transformed into a medical college in 1978 and a full university in 2004.
Among the alumni residing in the U.S. who took part in the program include Dr. Elias Said Siraj, Professor of Medicine and Director of Endocrinology Fellowship Program and Clinical Endocrinology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “This was the first time in Ethiopia that alumni from a major university were organized in such a fashion and took an undertaking that others could emulate,” said Dr. Elias in an interview with Tadias Magazine. Dr. Elias graduated from Gondar College of Medical Sciences in 1988 and is one the founding members of the Alumni Steering Committee in the United States. “We also used the occasion to launch a publication, The Alumni Voice magazine, in conjunction with an ‘Alumni Clinical Symposium’ covering a range of subjects in medicine and highlighting expert presentations — including topics in surgery, women & children’s health, diabetes, kidney and heart diseases — that was attended by students, medical doctors, public health officials, and policymakers from Gondar and beyond.” Dr. Elias stated: “The feedback from students, teachers and others was very positive and encouraging. They were touched and delighted by the physical presence of the alumni, as well as by the contents of the magazine and the symposium.”
The Alumni Steering Committee in the U.S. includes six graduates of the historic Ethiopian institution: In addition to Dr. Elias, they include Dr. Anteneh Habte (1984), Founding Member, Clinical Assistant Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine; Dr. Mulugeta Zerabruk Fissha (1998), Founding Member, Director of Cardiovascular Services at Newman Regional Health, Emporia, Kansas; as well as Dr. Nuru Abseno Robi (1988), Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.; Dr Yared Aytaged Gebreyesus (1988), Consultant in Internal Medicine at the Blue Nile Clinic in Alexandria, Viginia; and Dr Yared Wondimkun Endailalu (1986), Consultant in Internal Medicine at the Mary Washington Health Group in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Professor Yared Wondimkun, also former Dean of Gondar College of Medical Sciences and former President of the University of Gondar, notes in an interview with Tadias that the alumni-led symposium was designed not only as “an educational platform,” but also as a “networking opportunity for alumni, faculty, students and researchers to exchange ideas and learn about each other’s expertise as well as discuses way of strengthening the relationship between alumni members and the University of Gondar.”
Dr. Yared, who now lives in Northern Virginia, also received his MD degree from the Gondar College of Medical Sciences in 1986 before serving as the institution’s last Dean (2002-2004) and first President (2004-2007). He pointed out that the limited-edition of The Alumni Voice journal contains 26 important articles authored by alumni from the school’s various stages including graduates of the public health college, first graduates of the medical school, four previous Deans, and several alumni reflecting on the past and offering their perspectives for the future.” Dr. Yared adds that further contributions to the publication came from “key historical figures who played leading roles in the era of the Public Health College as well as the Gondar College of Medical Sciences.”
Dr. Elias shared his opinion that in general alumni and their potential resources are not effectively utilized in Ethiopia, and it was with this in mind that the University of Gondar Alumni Steering Committee in the US was established. “In close collaboration with the University of Gondar senior leadership, and with its president Professor Mengesha Admassu in particular, the Gondar Alumni Steering Committee worked hard in various areas to set an example so that other Ethiopian Universities will give the necessary attention to alumni activities and strengthen their alumni offices with appropriate manpower and resources” he said. Dr. Yared likewise added that based on the feedback received so far, the effort of the steering committee has paid off and the University of Gondar is being seen in Ethiopia as a “pioneer” in effectively collaborating with its alumni. Both Dr. Elias and Dr. Yared also thanked the leadership of the University of Gondar for believing in the power of alumni and for supporting all the activities of the steering committee.
The University of Gondar’s 60th year Diamond Jubilee was marked by year-long activities that culminated in early July not only with the “re-graduation’ of its alumni, but also the inauguration of a Comprehensive Outpatient Center at the the University of Gondar Hospital “designed to provide an integrated program that will enhance patient-centered experience and increase the hospital’s capacity to accommodate an ever increasing number of patients. The facility was built in partnership with the U.S. government that provided USD $9.1 million through the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with technical assistance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Patricia M. Haslach, U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, said, “This newly constructed facility is part of the U.S. Government’s commitment to strengthening the national capacity of health facilities to provide comprehensive and integrated HIV/AIDS health care services throughout Ethiopia.”
Below are photos from the event courtesy of the University of Gondar Alumni Steering Committee in the U.S.:
For more coverage on Gondar University and its journey to its 60th anniversary, you may listen to People To People’s broadcast on blogtalkradio.com. More information on The Alumni Voice can be found at: Facebook.com/University-of-Gondar-Alumni-Journal-special-edition.