Today’s guest is Lukman Yusuf. He is the first Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was the Secretary National Health Policy Task Force: Office of the Council of Ministers. He as well worked in different parts of the country in various capacities. Likewise, he has contributed and published a number of books, Monographs and guidelines apart from working as a Medical Consultant in OB-GYN, MoH. What is more, Prof. Lukman is member of the Ethiopian Medical Association, Ethiopian Public Health Association, Ethiopian, East Central and Southern African Societies of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology,
By the same token, Prof. Lukman has actively participated in national and international conferences, symposiums and workshops here and abroad including World Health Organization (WHO), Global Data System for Maternal and Perinatal Health, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau Annual Conference and the International Conference for Preventing Physical Abuse against Women. He also played a part in Palme Exchange Teacher, Karoliniska University in Stockholm, Sweden, and Ethical Issues in Research in Reproductive Health, Zimbabwe and so forth. The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with Emeritus Prof. Lukman at his office with the intention of acquainting his personal and professional life with our readers.
Just to begin who is Prof. Lukman ?
To start with, my name is Professor Lukman Yusuf. I was born and brought up in Harar. I had an extended family relatively well-to-do ones. To be honest, we did not pass through life challenges in view of the fact that we did not encounter financial problem. Unfortunately, I lost my dad in my younger years. I attended elementary education at two schools: Harar Muslim School and Harar Theological. Furthermore, I attended high school at Harar Medhane Alem Comprehensive Secondary School and Barrington High School, Rhode Island, USA. As a typical Harar student, I know how to live in harmony with followers of different religions.
As far as my professional career is concerned, I served as Gondar College Hospital Director, Head Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Addis Ababa University, member of an ad hoc committee for a promotion to a full professor and member of Health officer’s Training Program Development committee. I also served as a member of community council and Secretary of Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and so on. I also served as External Examiner in OB-GYN for undergraduates and postgraduates in different higher leaning institutions of the country. My research interests focus on Post abortion care, Gynecological oncology, sexually transmitted diseases (HIV and AIDS) and harmful traditional practices.
It is good to share your academic performance for our readers.
As I was an outstanding student, I had a chance to get double and triple promotion. To be frank, at the time when I was in elementary school, I was able to join grade three from nowhere. After that, following my academic success, I ended up joining grade six. It is a long story to explain the whole thing in chronological order. We were not admitted when we went to join Haile Selassie I Primary School as they knew that we were from grade three and four. In fact, I went to the Harar Theological School. It was a brand new Orthodox Christian School. When I was at Harar Medhane Alem Comprehensive Secondary School, I won scholarship and left for the United States America to finish high school education. In principle, I studied at Barrington High School, Rhode Island, USA for a year and returned home. In my stay there, I achieved the intended target within the shortest time possible for I was working day in and day out. I was constantly dreaming of helping my country.
What was the next step?
The instance I returned home, I joined the then Haile Selassie I University to study medicine. After having completed my studies successfully, I served as a General Practitioner at Dembi Dollo Hospital and then transferred upon the request of the Ministry of Health to Nekemte Hospital to work as general practitioner and medical director. This was actually the result of the request by the office called Ethiopian Workers Party. Then, they requested that I should stay for one more year instead of moving to Gondar, College of Medical Science and thus I stayed there for one more year and then moved to Gondar. Actually, I worked in Humera Hospital as a Campaigner. By the way, I did my PhD in Karl Marx (Leipzig) University, Germany.
How and when did you leave for Germany?
The thing was, I left for Germany to study Obstetrics and Gynecology. As a university staff, I was given the opportunity to do my PhD vis-a-vis the residence program. I stayed there for about four years. After successful completion of my studies, I was begged by the Academy of Postgraduate studies as well as my teachers not to get in administrative affairs except serving the Ethiopian people with determination. They also positively influenced me to train students upon my return to Ethiopia as it is part of serving the general public. That impacted my life. That has greatly influenced me. They say, “You have learnt so much. You have operated so much. You have got a good skill. Therefore, you have to give it back to your country.” At the same time, there were people who were requesting me to stay there following government change. They knew that would happen ahead of time. They were constantly advising me to stay with them as long as I wanted. I was not interested to stay there. I tried all I could to convince them despite they were not in the position to lend me their ears.
When I was at a loss what to do, I said, “My children are in Ethiopia. They miss me a lot and thus I have to go back.” That was the lame reason I gave in order to convince them. To be quite honest, I hate to be second class citizen. At that specific juncture, my parents, brothers and sisters were living in the United States. I did not have an inkling of interest to live anywhere except in my country. The same was also true for Germany. I never wanted to stay there as second class citizen. At the end of the day, I came back and started teaching in the Gondar College of Medical Sciences. In my stay there, I was shouldering various responsibilities.
Did you achieve the intended target?
As there was total evacuation following the war across the country, there was lack of manpower in Gondar College of Medical Sciences. This being the case, I was alone serving as a department head, as a committee member, as a teacher, as an obstetrician and gynecologist and the rest. I was shouldering a number of responsibilities. We were totally exhausting ourselves. Simply put, there was no any stone I left unturned to take the then Gondar College of Medical Sciences to a new level of success.
After the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took over, I came to Addis Ababa University. We were not displaced. We were given an opportunity to work. In fact, I served the University as a lecturer , Head Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other engagements.
After all what inspired you to study obstetrics and gynecology?
Well, I have had an elder brother who studied medicine. He is seven year older than me. We did not meet in any of the school.When I was attending elementary education, he finished high school. When I joined the Addis Ababa University, he had already finished. As a role model, he was there for me. My elementary school director used to ask me as to what I wanted to be. I told him that I sought after to be a doctor. I was working hard to make my dream become a reality. Briefly, I was simply a student strive to do as good or as best as possible being in line with the competence of class. In this fashion, I studied what I wanted and began harvesting the fruit of success at any price despite facing valleys and hills in life.
What are the challenges?
It is crystal clear that there are challenges all over the place. In spite of the fact that there are challenges in all professions, there are lessons you learn through life challenges. For instance, at the time when I was in a campaign called Development through Cooperation, I learnt a lot of things as it really gave me ample opportunities to stand on my own. The competitiveness was there. In other words, the aspiration to excel and the discipline that goes with the medical practice were there. As a physician you are not allowed to do what others do as you wish. For instance, as a physician you cannot go to bar for a bottle of beer or other drinks in view of the fact that you are expected to be a role model. You cannot do anything in public. As a physician, there are a lot of inhibitions imposed upon us. We are highly responsible and expected to be ethically groomed.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
As a teacher I have spent most of my time teaching almost all the practices. I have been training Obstetrics and Gynecology for Undergraduates and Postgraduates students. They, in turn, have been contributing their share for their country. What is more, I served in different parts of the country at various capacities. If truth to be told, there is nothing which gives me pleasure in life more than serving my people. I feel affection for my profession with all my heart. When I help my patients, I turned out to be infinitely happy for I am the reason. Their satisfaction always makes me extremely happy. Following my contributions in my profession, I was able to get a number of international awards. I am the first professor in the field of obstetrics and gynecology while the new Minster of Health, his Excellency Prof. Yifru is the second.
Of all the recognitions, would you tell us about the latest award ?
I worked in the Secretary of Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as a secretary and president. I possess more than 42 years of experience. I was able to get a number of awards at different times. Furthermore, I recently got lifetime achievement award during the 25th anniversary of the Ethiopian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If it had not been for my colleagues on my side, I would not have reached where I am today. I would like to thank all of them in this regard. As I have mentioned before, when I help my patients I turned out to be very happy. At this point in time, I am working in private health institutions. Eventually, I got myself involved in developmental and community services.
How do you describe your contributions in terms of departmental and community services?
I played a part in departmental and community services in different capacities. To start with the departmental services, I took part in teaching, clinical services, clinical research, postgraduate committee, organization of oncology unit, research and publication committee, development of management protocol, appointment and promotion committee and data management and so forth. As far as community services is concerned, I served as elected Member of Community Council, Health Education Centre of MoH on training and learning materials, Journal of Integrated Health Sciences (JIHS), External Examiner in OB-GYN, External Examiner in OB-GYN , Makerere University, Uganda, Ayer Tena Collective Association and so forth.
What is obstetrics and gynecology all about?
Obstetrics and gynecology are two distinct medical areas of expertise which deal with the female human body. A number of changes have been manifested in the area. That is why they are normally merged as a single specialty. In spite of the fact that they are grouped as one specialty, there are differences. To begin with, obstetrics is the branch of medicine concerned with the care of women giving birth, pregnancy, delivery, childbirth and the rest. Gynecology is diseases of women to do with tumor, infection, abortion, menopause, and all types of cancers and so on. On the other hand, gynecology is simply an umbrella term including the treatment of any disorder or disease that is common in the female reproductive system. To come to the point, gynecology is the medical practice dealing with the health of the female reproductive systems and the breasts.
What is your take on obstetrics and gynecology treatment in Ethiopia?
In fact, the number of Obstetricians and Gynecologists across the country is greater than ever. Besides, the awareness level of pregnant women during pregnancy and during childbirth is ever-increasing. They openly discuss about their problems. Furthermore, when the need arises, we always stand on their side. For instance, when pregnant women come to our center seeking my help, I do all I can as I am their servant. I give my all gladly. There is nothing I hide from them. I do want all pregnant women to be happy. In the past, most pregnant women were not interested to have pre-cervical cancer and pre-breast cancer test but at these days they willingly undergo different tests. This is really encouraging.
Furthermore, we train them about the various uses of drugs in the course of pregnancy and breastfeeding. We also bring into play various medical instruments which smooth the progress of our treatments. Nowadays, Ethiopia is offering various types of treatments such as Radiotherapy, chemotherapy, pain management and what have you. Hence, our country is turning out to be a medical tourism hub. At this instant, a number of patients from Kenya, Hargessa, Somali and South Sudan are coming to Ethiopia to receive medical care or treatment.
What causes cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is caused by a number of factors. At the outset, it is caused by lack of personal hygiene, weakened immune system, various infections, having many sexual partners, having sex earlier than the age of sixteen, experiencing menstruation prior to the usual time, smoking, having kidney implantation, and HIV and AIDS. By the way, women with a number of sexual partners have a higher hazard of being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a sexually transmitted virus. This virus also raises the risk of developing cervical cancer. There are several types of papillomaviruses. Among them, some of them cause cancer. Mostly, cervical cancer causing papillomavirus types are nearly always transmitted as a consequence of sexual contact with an infected individual.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
In fact, women with premature cervical cancer and pre-cancers on average are with no symptoms given that they do not begin until the cancer turns out to be invasive and grows into nearby tissue. At this stage, different types of symptoms could be manifested. The different types of symptoms take account of bleeding after vaginal sex and menopause, spotting between periods, having unusual menstrual periods and so on.
Tell me about the status of cervical cancer in Ethiopia.
Nowadays, cervical cancer is spreading alarmingly.Every year, some 500,000 new cervical cancer patients receive medical treatment in different health institutions worldwide. Unfortunately, some 280,000 people depart this life each year because of cervical cancer. According to the Ministry of Health , in Ethiopia young girls who surpass the age of 15 are exposed to cervical cancer. Moreover, some 4,648 women are affected each year by cervical cancer. Among them, 3,235 patents pass away.
BY ADDISALEM MULAT