A Heart Based Kidney Specialist

My Story

Dr. Momina Mohammed

I was born in a small village near Bahir Dar called Zegae, where I went to elementary school and later moved to Bahir Dar city with my family for secondary education. I finished medical school at the Gondar University and my post-graduation specialization at Addis Ababa University. I later did my sub-specialization study in South Africa at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg.

I spent most of my younger childhood working at my father’s shop from an early age. I never really had the time to play and remember not having friends to play with me because I was so unskilled in most of the children’s games. Since I was the first born, my family placed a lot of responsibility on me. Not only was I balancing my time at school, my father’s shop and Madrassa (religious teachings at the Mosque), but I was also responsible for budgeting our home’s expenses.

Sadly, my father passed away right after I graduated from medical school leaving me responsible for my siblings and mother. Those were some of the hardest times in my life. I believe most of the struggles and obstacles that I went through my childhood are all elements that contributed to who I am today. I believe I manifested endurance and resilience as part of my character because of my particular childhood, in that I strove to push forward through many of my challenges, always picking myself back up, with faith that I would reach my goals.

“…I believe that there are opportunities in life and what differentiates us from one another is whether or not we grab on or not…dream big and work hard to realize your dream…”

As a medical student, I remember that kidney failure always resulted in death. Because there was no renal treatment service at the time, I did not think of the issue as a specialty to pursue. It was only after I joined Bethel Teaching General Hospital as an Internist (Internal medicine specialist), one of the pioneers of chronic hemodialysis service in Ethiopia, and attended a certain conference on renal failure that I was intrigued about the possibility to further my studies and specialize in nephrology. I could not bear any longer to see patients come with renal failure with no hope of surviving, when in fact the procedure was simple and reversible for many in acute conditions. Although the road to nephrology was not a simple one, I chose to pursue it regardless of the struggles I faced because I believed in my capability to take back my education to Ethiopia. It was not just an ambition; I took it as my duty to be one of the ones to provide such a service for my fellow citizens.

As a female physician from Ethiopia’s rural area, born to illiterate parents, I pride myself on my journey and my achievements so far. I am proud of successfully establishing a renal unit at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, at the time the only actively working public hemodialysis center in Ethiopia, which provides free services to around 70% of all incoming Acute Kidney failure patients free of charge. I am also proud of introducing the first historic kidney transplant service in Ethiopia with my local and international team; I was a clinical director of the program from its inception to date. Along with the kidney transplant program many more new services that increased the over quality of the medical care introduced like renal histopathology, special Laboratory and Imaging services.

I pride myself on having increased the number of kidney disease care professionals including kidney disease specialists, Hemodialysis nurses, kidney transplant nurses, hemodialysis technologists, renal pathologist, to name a few, and not to mention assisting other institutions in their initiatives to provide hemodialysis services. Other than improving Ethiopia’s healthcare system in terms of quality and access, I find I am passionate about patient advocacy. I enjoy mentoring young physicians and I enjoy the work that I do, even with all its trials. Since the launch of St. Paul’s Hemodialysis center, over a thousand Acute Kidney failure patients have been treated with a high recovery rate. Many patients who have chronic kidney failure and kidney transplant candidates are being dialyzed and waiting their queue for kidney transplant. Over 44 kidney transplants have been carried out in Ethiopia for the first time with over 95% success rate.

“I would like to believe that fighting for a patient’s right to treatment has always been my purpose in this life”

I dream of an Ethiopia with a more developed healthcare infrastructure, one in which people are not denied basic healthcare due to the lack of sufficient expertise and medical equipment. I dream of an Ethiopia with better educational facilities and more services providing mentorship and training to the medical youth society. As a physician, I believe that I can be a role model to all those in the field. I believe that I am standing proof to all stakeholders, that one can put together a system that provides quality services with only a limited amount of resources reaching a broad spectrum of the population throughout Ethiopia, as I have done. I truly believe that creating the availability of some of these scarce services, such as renal treatment, helps the end user, the patient, and the country at large. As part of my succession plan, I have picked one female physician, who joined our nephrology super specialty fellowship training, second batch of nephrology fellows whom I mentor in my fellowship program, whom I believe has the most potential in replacing me. Many more female medical students and medical residents are motivated and inclined to join the nephrology super specialty program are in the pipeline.

I believe the most important elements required for a woman to thrive is education and support. As women, we need to push for education and we need to support one another. We need female role models as a method of reaching out to them for inspiration and motivation. I try to instill views and values in my female students by sharing my experiences, challenges and successes. I believe that is how I can contribute to my community of females and I humbly accept my responsibility as a role model to younger females.