I feel very privileged to be a member of the ECLIPSE team as a researcher. I am a medical parasitologist and I work at the School of Medicine in the College of Health Sciences of Mekelle University (MU).
I was born in Adigudom, a small village located about 36km away from Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray region in north Ethiopia. Being from the underprivileged rural family, I grew up learning important lessons from the countryside natural environment. I was privileged to observe how rural communities are highly affected by poverty and infectious diseases, including Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Sometimes, I was wondering about nature and its unfairness among human beings. Some born to live in paradise; while some others born to suffer. I attended the Atse Yohannes secondary school in Mekelle and my first degree (BSc Biology) was from Mekelle University. I joined the medical faculty at Addis Ababa University (AAU) at the Black Lion Hospital and studied second degree in Medical Parasitology. My MSc thesis was on Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL, aka, Kala-Zar). I am currently a PhD fellow at Mekelle University. I am currently working on my doctoral dissertation on leishmaniasis in north Ethiopia.
My engagement in leishmaniasis research is with unfortunate tragedy happened up on my high school classmate. While I was at the Black Lion Hospital in 2007, one severely debilitated patient came to the clinic. I recognised the patient as Leul. He had been my classmate at the Atse Yohannes school in Mekelle. He was the most brilliant from our batch, the results he scored are still the highest to date. He was admitted at the Black Lion Hospital with prolonged high fever and splenomegaly. The clinicians first suspected it was DR malaria, but the diagnosis remained ‘unknown’. After one week, a senior internist confirmed that Leul’s sickness was VL (Kala-Zar). Although anti-VL drug medication was started, this brilliant young man passed away too young. The clinicians mentioned different reasons: the delay in hospital admission, inefficient care, misdiagnosis, toxic drugs and other reasons. But, the tragedy happened! I lost my beloved friend Leul.
It was then that I decided to contribute whatever possible from me to tackle leishmaniasis. I discussed this with a senior leishmaniasis researcher, Professor Asrat Hailum, who supported my decision to venture into leishmaniasis research and told me many stories about how VL is killing many youngsters in Ethiopia. I travelled to the disease endemic areas of western Tigray where I found VL diagnosis kits rK39 and DAT support from MSF Greece and MSF Holland. In addition, the Kahsay-abera hospital and MSF Holland staff coached me in the VL lab diagnosis and helped during my MSc dissertation work on Kala-Zar.
In addition to my academic duties and community service work, I have been appointed at Mekelle University as the focal person for leishmaniasis research in north Ethiopia. I have engaged in different national and international sponsored studies as the regional coordinator: 1) KALACORE baseline and end line surveys for Kalazar patients care seeking, diagnosis, treatment & economic burden in Asia & East Africa (funded by STMH, UK); 2) Ecology and Transmission Dynamics of VL in north Ethiopia (Bill & Melinda Gates) and 3) Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination coverage survey in Ahferom district of Tigray region (Gavi, EFMoH, & WHO). In addition, I have engaged in different community services. For example, I am engaged with the Dignity Period Project (www.dignityperiod.org ) supported by MU, WasU in St. Louis (USA) and ETHIOPIAID (UK, Australia & Ireland).