Claire Karekezi dreamed of becoming a doctor amid a childhood scarred by genocide. In early July, the 35-year-old will return home as the first and only female neurosurgeon in Rwanda.
As a child growing up in Rwanda during the 1980s and ‘90s, Claire Karekezi dreamed of becoming a doctor. But what she calls her “guiding star” has taken her far beyond that initial goal to join the ranks of what is perhaps medicine’s most demanding specialty.
Claire Karekezi was born and raised in Rwanda. She completed her medical school and qualified as a Medical Doctor (MD) from the University of Rwanda (UR) in March, 2009.
Culled from Claire’s LinkedIn Profile:
My story with Neurosurgery starts In June, 2007 while on my 5th year of Medical training; I had the opportunity to be in an exchange program through the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the chance to be in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Linkoping Teaching Hospital (Sweden) under Professor Jan Hillman, Professor of Neurosurgery, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery; who became a crucial element in my career becoming my very first Mentor. This was a huge inspiration to Neurosurgery as for the first time I had seen and touched the “Human Brain”.
Later in February 2009, I was selected for the very competitive “Elective program” at Oxford University/John Radcliffe Hospital (Neurosurgery Department), and spent 6 weeks observing Dr Cadoux-Houdson. It was then clear in my head: I knew I wanted to become a Neurosurgeon!! Where? How? I had no idea!!! That time Rwanda barely had 1 Neurosurgeon/11M and no local training program in Neurosurgery!
Despite almost insurmountable difficulties for such practice and training in my Country and the rest of Africa, I did not give up. April 2011, I was finally admitted for a full five-year residency program at Mohamed V University/Rabat WFNS Reference center for the training of African Neurosurgeons thanks to Pr. El Khamlichi A and his team. I graduated as a Neurosurgeon in may 2016.
I, from July 2017 joined my clinical fellowship in NeuroOncology and Skull Base Surgery at Toronto Western Hospital/UHN/UofT for a year and have had an incredible opportunity to be with the Giants in Neurosurgery.
I wish to contribute to the Neuro-Oncology Practice in Rwanda and SSA. I will be becoming the first Female Neurosurgeon in my country and hope to be an inspiration to young female wishing to become Neurosurgeons.
Claire has spent the last year at Toronto Western Hospital, honing her skills in neuro-oncology and skull base surgery, specializing in the removal of brain tumours.
Providing that service to brain cancer patients in a country with only one hospital-based MRI and few CT scanners will be a daunting task, but it’s one Karekezi is determined to overcome, just as she has all the challenges and sacrifices needed to fulfil her childhood dream.