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Tewodros Zerfu

Orthopaedic Surgeon and Residency Programme Director

Through the partnership between NDORMS, University of Oxford and Cure Ethiopia, Tewodros undertook training to become a Trainer of Trainers. This has allowed him to provide ongoing teaching to surgery residents from across Ethiopia as part of efforts to improve paediatric orthopaedic surgery.

Orthopaedics has long been a neglected subject in Ethiopia. There are currently less than 500 orthopaedic surgeons in Ethiopia, for a population of 100 million, so we can only imagine how many trauma patients with orthopaedic problems go untreated.

After working as a GP I moved to Kenya for five years of surgical training.  Within two weeks of the training beginning I knew that surgery was what I wanted to do and in particular to specialise in orthopaedics.

It is amazing, someone comes with an injury and we operate on them, the next day he is on crutches and maybe later that day he is back home. You get immediate results.

Many of the patients we see here at CURE are suffering from congenital deformities, simple things that can be corrected, as well as from road accidents with resulting trauma.

I sometimes see very sad stories, I remember a 13-year-old boy, he had lost his father in a road accident and just six months later on the same road his family were involved in another accident.  He was the only one who survived that crash, his whole family gone. He had complicated fractures, but we are able to treat him and he is recovering really well, making friends with other children his age on the ward.

We see children as young as 5 who have never walked before.  We treat them for a couple of months, sometimes just weeks. Years later they return grown up, walking, and you don’t even recognize them.  You get a hug sometimes a kiss.

Sadly there are still a lot of case where children with congenital disabilities are associated with curses and so other children don’t play with them. Sometimes, in the worse cases, the children are locked in a room whilst their parents are at work, to protect them from stigma.

For me and my development as a Surgeon and Residency Director being able to meet with other experts in the field and to ask them about the challenges they face was invaluable.

For the trainees, the residents in Black Lion, it was a blessing, because I know how it was before.  It has made a great difference.  Before they were not very sure what to do with trauma and deformity patients and often they ended up sending the patient home, just see them come back after six months.  This is costly for the patients.  But after this training, they were sure of what to do.