Professor Yeweyenhareg Feleke
Professor Yeweyenhareg Feleke was born the 2nd of 9 children and raised in Southern Oromia. After finishing her elementary education, she attended the only secondary school available then in the area. She describes her childhood life as a blessed one as it was time to learn house chores, fetching water, gardening, herding flocks, and studying at night with lamp (kuraz) managing both family and school work responsibilities successfully. She shares, “I grew up working, which gave me good impetus to be a multi-tasker and balance different life responsibilities.”
“I grew up working, which gave me a good impetus to multi-task and balance different life responsibilities ”
During her last year of high school, she moved to Addis Ababa and joined Centralized School of Nursing at Black Lion Hospital. She saw young students with white gowns carrying heavy books within the compound of the Hospital and inquired about them. She learned that they were medical students and future doctors who would provide treatment to patients. This reminded her of her family members calling her by a nickname – “Doctor! ” Given her interest in science, she felt that her calling was not to be a nurse but a doctor. Passing the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Exam (ESLCE) with points that enabled her to join medical school as a private student, she left her nursing studies and joined the Faculty of Medicine, Addis Ababa University in 1979. She graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1985.
Immediately after graduation, Professor Yeweyenhareg got married to her high school instructor and soul mate, Engineer Ketema Ayalew, and now is a mother of three men. After working for five years as a general practitioner and examining areas of interest to specialize, she joined post-graduate study in 1990 and specialized in Internal Medicine. After graduation, she was hired in the Endocrine and metabolism unit within the Department of internal medicine at Addis Ababa University in May 1994. At the time she was the only female academic staff among 23 male colleagues within the department. Serving eight years, she later went to Norway to sub-specialize in endocrinology at the University of Bergen, Norway, from 2003-2005. During her stay in Norway, she did two parallel studies and returned to Ethiopia with a Master of Philosophy in International Health and Fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism. She currently serves as a consultant Internist and Endocrinologist, as a researcher and physician in the Department of Internal Medicine, teaches medical students, advise them on their research projects, treats patients and conducts research.
Professorship is the highest academic rank in academia. Professor Yeweyenhareg is the second female professor in the history of the AAU and the first Professor from Health Sciences in the country. The Senate and later, the Board of Governors of the AAU approved her professor-ship on December 31, 2009. She attributes her success to hard work, focus, single mindedness, family support, advisors, and Ethiopians in Norway as well as her work place.
According to the Senate legislation, one must be involved in teaching, different university committees, provide community service, administrative service and have adequate publications at every stage as assistant and later on as associate professor and have additional researches published after being an associate professor. Her work was evaluated and approved by internal and external professors. Prof. Yeweyenhareg has aggressively worked to accomplish the highest academic rank in short period of time.
Improving quality of health and producing qualified health professionals is one of Professor Yeweyenhareg’s passions in life. “I grew up in a country where poverty is deeply rooted and some health indicators are now improved but most health indicators are way below the standard. My contribution to improving the health condition of the poor is my way of dealing with poverty.” She continues, “In a country where brain drain is a major problem, I decided to come back to my country and serve my people managing patients and producing more doctors who are willing to serve their country. My work has given me many opportunities to go abroad for short- and long-term trainings. I have had offers to live and work abroad but my heart is not in what I gain financially by living abroad but in producing more medical professionals who have vision to improve the country’s education system and health status.”
Professor Yeweyenhareg is also passionate about research. “Science and technology can bring answers to many of our poverty problems. Research that addresses those issues is needed to tackle our local problems providing scientific information and indigenous solutions.”
“…my heart is not in what I gain financially by living abroad but in producing more medical professionals who have a vision to improve the country’s education system and health status”
As part of academic staff of the University in College of Health sciences and School of Medicine, she has been involved as head and chairperson of in the Institution of Review Board (IRB), leading the IRB with other board members, evaluating several researches and guidelines to achieve the scientific and ethical standards for four years. Under her leadership and hard work, the IRB was internationally recognized by WHO/SIDCER/FERCAP as the first African Institution of Review Board in the meeting held from Nov 23-26, 2009 in Philippines. This has brought recognition both to the Addis Ababa University as well as the country. Later the Ethiopian Science and Technology Ministry endorsed the recognition.
Her contributions of knowledge in different national and institutional guidelines include: National Research Ethics Review Guideline of Science and Technology Ministry, National Strategic Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), Management Guideline for NCD in Ethiopia, Federal Ministry Health of Ethiopia Standard Operating Procedures and Research Guide Manuals for IRB and others. She contributed as a member of the committee and did the technical work but she also led the committees and prepared several guidelines. She was the national delegate to attend World Health Assembly for the 67th and 68thmeetings in Geneva.
Professor Yeweyenhareg has more than 40 scientific publications on diabetes mellitus and other endocrine diseases published internationally and locally. She has also authored a book on diabetes mellitus in Amharic and donated it to help people who live with diabetes to guide them on how to live healthy life. This is printed in 11,000 copies and given to those who need it. She said, “I will never forget a man from western part of Ethiopia came and acknowledged my work and said, ‘You built us a monument by writing that book.’
Prof. Yeweyenhareg is one of the 49 founding members of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. She has also been leading the Ethiopian Medical Association (EMA, the oldest association in the country (53 years since established) for four consecutive years. She is known to have sacrificed her sabbatical leave to engage in the leadership with board members, executive committee members of EMA Secretariat office and staff, producing many working documents such as strategic plans and different guidelines. During her Presidency term, Professor Yeweyenhareg is known to have accomplished some of the following among many:
- Opening of a new research unit
- Opening of the Continued Professional Development unit to ensure medical professional upgrade their knowledge to renew licenses.
- Establishment of fund generation capacity
- Preparation and launch of five-year strategic plan for EMA (2014-2018)
- Increased impact of the EMA website by availing medical journal articles
“ I could have opened hospitals if I was simply thinking of myself and family. However, I believe in giving back to my community and my life is not just mine. I am giving back with what I have.”
Prof. Yeweyenhareg is the immediate past president and member of the Ethiopian Medical Association, life member of the Ethiopian Public Health Association, member of The Society of Women in Science and Technology, Member of Society of Internal Medicine, Editorial Board Member of Ethiopian Medical Journal, Head and Chairperson of Institutions Review Board of the School of Medicine, member of the AHRI–ALERT Ethics Committee, Chairperson of Ethics Committee of EMA, Founding member of the Ethiopian Academy of Science and several other associations.
She was also a Member of the National Health Council, Ministry of Science and Technology and Chairperson of the Scientific Review Commit-tee, awardees committee, member of the Federal Hospital Board and Executive committee member of the Ethiopia Diabetic Association. As a member of these institutions, she contributes to national initiatives.
Award & Recognitions
In addition to her Professorship, which in of itself is a huge recognition, Professor Yeweyenhareg was also recognized during the 50th celebration of School of Medicine of College of Health Science, Addis Ababa University, as “Golden Faculty” for her dedication and faithfully serving for over 20 years.