The honoree was Dr. Widad Kidane Mariam.
Dr. Widad Kidane Mariam was born in 1931 and belonged to a free-will Ethiopian émigré family in Palestine. She received her medical degree in 1959 and post-graduate health sciences concentration in maternal and child health from the American University of Beirut [AUB]. She died in 1989 after few years of voluntary community service during her retirement from the Division of Medical Services of the Ministry of Public, Ethiopia.
Dr. Widad was one of the youngest trail blazers associated with the meaningful equal opportunity for all Ethiopians regardless of their genders, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds during her lifetime tenure as Director General of the Division of the National Medical Service in the Ministry of Public Health. Given her pioneering spirit in bridge building coupled with her persistent and persuasive lifetime goals, Dr. Widad has fulfilled her unique dream by marching back from her temporary exodus status in Palestine and Lebanon to live forever in her eternally promised Ethiopian ancestral land sixty years ago. Very few pioneers recognize that the newly founded status for the first Ethiopian female medical graduate was a calculated success story on how overcome the historical odds for a woman facing the gradual but sure upward mobility to topmost health policy making position in Ethiopia.
The capstone of her professional life was when she mobilized and spent her precious free time to serve as uncompensated member of advisory boards of several interdisciplinary grassroots charity and non-governmental organizations. Beside her demanding position in the Ministry of Public Health, she served as a volunteer to organize the first Ethiopian Family Planning Association and aim of which was to promote and support Maternal Health and Child Survival health care services. Her vision was to leverage her liaison roles to collaborate with the wives of the Rotary and Toastmaster Clubs of Ethiopia to plan organize private maternal and child health clinics for homeless pregnant and indigent women to improve the quality of life of residents of Addis Ababa Municipality with ultimate up scaling into national policy. As a Good Samaritan, she was able to collect and distribute free drugs not only from non-for-profit international humanitarian grants and donations but also fund raising from wives of foreign diplomats and grassroots societies. She used her influence to negotiate public assistance to nongovernmental organization to claim reimbursement for not for profit health care services as part of the allocated Ministry of Public Health’s budgets for humanitarian women’s health and child survival projects in addition to funded partnerships supported by the Swedish Save the Children Fund [RADARN], as well other international humanitarian technical assistance such as USAID.
In the final analysis, Dr. Widad has dedicated her time and energy as the most honorable pioneer advocate of equal opportunity, equity and justice throughout holistic human span of life. Hakim Workineh and Melaku Beyan society honors Dr Widad for her dedicated life time contributions to promote health in Ethiopia.
WHO IS WHO BIOGRAPHY OF THE FIRST ETHIOPIAN FEMALE IN MEDICINE AND PUBLIC HEALTH: WIDAD KIDANE MARIAM, MD, MHS
Dr. Widad Kidane Mariam was born in 1931 and belonged to common Ethiopian émigré family in Palestine. Indeed their free-will destiny was determined by the superior values given to secure better education for their offspring who grew up in exodus but with final dream that someday they shall contribute to Ethiopia as their first promised land. She was one of five children who invariably excelled in their professions whether in health, public services or private entrepreneurship. Dr. Wadad Kidane Mariam became a valedictorian of Ramallah Girls Elementary and Highs School in Palestine. Subsequently, she attended the first Beirut College for Women [BCW] where she received her baccalaureate degree and in 1959 she graduated from the School of Medicine of the American University of Beirut [AUB]. AUB was also known for producing the highest number of the first generation of Ethiopian physicians until 1960s. She also received postgraduate degree in maternal and child health at the American University of Beirut [AUB]. Dr. Widad seized the unique opportunity from where she was in exodus to excel and has never forgotten Ethiopia as her land of origin. By the same token, her older brother, Yohannes Kidane Mariam, a graduate of the American University of Beirut [AUB] has his maiden career in public service when he finally held the multiple portfolio as Minister and Private Secretary of Emperor Haile Sillassie until his untimely execution in captivity at the outset of the Socialist Revolution Regime in 1974.
Dr. Widad was a private medical practitioner before she was offered permanent public service position leading to her appointment as the “first female” National Director General of the Division of Medical Services in the Ministry of Health. During her tenure as Director General during her maiden public health career[ 1960s-1970s] she served as Ethiopian the first female member of the National Medical Board of Advisers in the Ministry of Public Health, as well as the Ethiopian Medical Association. Her new status empowered her to surround herself with key associates such as Dr. Arnt Myer-Lee of the Swedish International Development [SIDA] and Dr. Ahmed A. Moen, Associate Director of Medical Services who was among other associate manager and all of whom were US trained health care managers in charge of the Offices of National Health Planning and Statistics and accreditation and licensing non-governmental hospitals and rural clinics and Office of Nursing and Gondar Graduate Health Officers, Community Nursing and Environment Health and Laboratory Technicians. The diverse team managers graduated from various universities such as AUB, the University of Michigan School of Public Health , University California School of Public Health in Los Angeles, Saint Louis School Health Administration Program Graduate and Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Ahmed Moen was transferred from his first position as the Associate Administrator of the Malaria Eradication Program in order to merge the autonomous vertical communicable diseases projects supported by expatriate advisers seconded by WHO, USAID, SIDA AND British Overseas Development Agency [BODA] under Vice Minister of Health Affairs and Medical Service Division in the Ministry of Public Health effective in 1960.
The appointment of qualified Ethiopian leadership team has ushered unprecedented restructured of referral services and coordination of primary care, hospitals and vertical programs which occurred as run-up to the establishment of the first Medical School in Addis Ababa University in collaboration with the American University of Beirut that admitted 4 premedical students two study in AUB while the medical students are expected to complete the bridging curriculum that lead to continuity of transferring their medical degree prerequisites to newly established School of Medicine of Addis Ababa University during in the 1960s. Some of the home-grown holders of the accredited first degree in medicine from the Ethiopian Medical also pursued post-graduate medical specialty programs overseas and when returned they assumed leadership positions such as Chairpersons and Deans of Addis Ababa University School of Medicine, Gondar University an affiliated of Addis Ababa University and the first Medical Degree in Community Medicine in Jimma. [Kidane Mariam and Moen, Ahmed, PP 111-139, JEM and National Five-Year Public Health Plan of Action 1965-1970]
The Medical Service Division was actively engaged to supersede the expatriate health advisers, managers of vertical programs such as malaria control and smallpox eradiation that involved joint expatriate full-time advisers, as well as American, Japanese and Austrian Peace Corps Volunteers. The new Ethiopian leadership team initiated the formal integration of multiple technical assistance's such as the World Health Organization [WHO], Swedish Development Agency [SIDA] and US Agency for International Development [USAID]. The young and enthusiastic policy makers including and not limited to the equal opportunity given to male and female graduates of the Gondar College of Public Health Officers, Community Nurses, and Environmental Health Technicians including the first Ethiopian Red Cross Nursing School that graduated the highest number of hospital registered diploma nurses and certified Medical Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses and Nurse Mangers. All of these integrative human resource development policy making culminated with writing and managing two consecutive Fifth Five-year Strategic Plan of Ethiopia in 1960s-1970s.
Dr. Widad as a Director General of the Medical, as well as her associates worked as centralized and decentralized teams in charge of the first development of urban and provincial hospitals and public health centers staffing patterns for more than more than one small and midsize umber of hospital beds, community health centers, maternal and child health primary care stations. The Ethiopian leadership initiated sustainable human resource development plan to provide access and referral services from primary up to secondary district and tertiary regional and provincial healthcare delivery services. The plan included collaborative memorandum of understanding to formally institute partnership with the First Addis Ababa University Medical School and also the Ethiopian Medical Association and Gondar College of Public Health that formerly under the Ministry of Public Health in the newly founded Addis Ababa University regional baccalaureate colleges and schools on one the one hand and the Medical Service Division and the Department of National Public Health Planning of the Ministry of Health. [Kidane Mariam and Moen, Ahmed, PP 111-139, JEM and Admasu, Mengesha and Moen, Ahmed A. PP 23-29. P2P Publication 2013].
Given the leadership status of being the first female Ethiopian Medical Service Director, Dr. Widad with assistance of her associates of public health and nursing graduates, she was successful style of management included her in the new role of advisers of the Minister of Health, Ato Ketema Abebe and aim of which was to supersede WHO and bilateral appointed expatriates not only in the Ministry of Public Health but also coordinate reorientation of human resources development in collaboration with Addis Ababa University Medical School to implement policy priority of rural medical and health service national staffing patterns. Given the leadership status of being the first female Ethiopian Medical Service Director, Dr. Widad with assistance of her associates of public health and nursing graduates, she was successful style of management included her in the new role of advisers of the Late Non-Medical Minister of Health, Ato Ketema Abebe and aim of which was to supersede WHO and bilateral appointed expatriates not only in the Ministry of Public Health but also coordinate reorientation of human resources development in collaboration with Addis Ababa University Medical School to implement policy priority of rural medical and health service national staffing patterns.
The Medical Services Division under the leadership of its new home-grown and international medical and public health graduates collaborated to restructure, update and design modified curriculum and admissions standards for prospective graduates of Gondar public health and future applicants of medical school at the Addis Ababa University. The transfer of the joint ownership of Gondar School of Public Health from the Ministry of Health resulted in continuation of the Bachelor of Science Degree in public health and medicine with privileges and rights given to all students enrolled in colleges and schools in Addis Ababa University systems then. In so doing, several of Gondar Public Health Officers who completed a minimum of 4 years of rural and national services were granted advanced credits for premedical courses and practicum that waived the conventional admission of medical students. In so doing, the first merged curriculum graduates received Medical Degree in 1968 and also became the first time Ethiopian Medical and Health Provincial Officers eligible to be the seed of the first home-grown Ethiopians with Medical degrees. A new policy of requirement of obligatory and equitable minimum two years of field service for all graduates of the medical schools and public health was officially proclaimed and placed under the watch of the first Medical Director of the Ministry of Public Health.
[Kidane Mariam and Moen, Ahmed, PP 111-137, JEM and National Five-Year Public Health Plan of Action 1965-1970, Admasu, Mengesha and Moen, Ahmed, P2P Publication PP 23-29]
The 1960s witnessed the unprecedented self-reliance and pioneering investment return. The precedents set new standards for effective agenda of nation building when expatriate medical advisers and mangers were superseded by home-grown medical and public health graduates in charge of central and district levels. A new approach to constructive engagement in policy-making that refrained from exclusive privilege to serve in urban areas instead of under serviced rural areas. By all measures of success no one should avoid the obligatory integrative experience coupled with a minimum of two years of rotation at all levels of medical and allied health rank and file positions in Ethiopia. The policy involved service contract signed by all fresh medical and allied health sciences degrees holders regardless of obtaining their degree origin from national or international colleges and universities. The pioneers have already sacrificed to institute self-reliance as mandated national priority to achieve the ultimate vision of securing a fair share of the little Ethiopians can give back and also help in curtailing excess that favor the privileges of the fortunate class and the purposed enunciated in the health tax for health centers building in Ethiopia. [Mehari, Enawgaw et. al: Triangular Partnership to Support Medical Education in Ethiopia. P2P Publication, 2013]
THE GOOD SAMARITAN LEADERSHIP MODEL
In the final analysis, as a civil servant, Dr. Widad mobilized and spent her free time to work as uncompensated member of advisory boards of several interdisciplinary grassroots non-governmental organizations. She became an uncompensated volunteer to organize the first Ethiopian Family Planning Association and aim of which was to promote and support Maternal Health and Child Survival health care services. As one of her vision was to collaborate with the wives of the Rotary and Toastmaster Clubs of Ethiopia to plan organize private maternal and child health clinics for homeless pregnant and indigent women to improve the quality of life of residents of Addis Ababa Municipality. With ultimate upscaling into national policy. As a good Samaritan, she was able to collect and distribute free drugs not only from non-for-profit international humanitarian grants and donations from wives of foreign diplomats and grassroots societies. She used her influence to negotiate reallocation of public assistance to nongovernmental organization to claim reimbursement from the annual Ministry of Public Health’s budgets for women’s health and child survival projects as a partners of the Swedish Save the Children Fund [RADARN], as well other international humanitarian technical assistance such as USAID.
All of these Samaritan up-bringing fostered her pioneering spirit to turn back the clock to her favorite social experiment that allowed humanitarian assistance to bond with a group of women and children care givers and thereby focusing on the new phenomena of homeless and broken families in need of voluntary leadership to operate free-clinics for women and children. This could not have occurred without the partnership of the Ministry of Public Medical and Health Services Division and Addis Ababa Municipality Health Division. When Dr. Widad Kidane Mariam retired from the Ministry of Public Health and partly because of the mass attrition of qualified civil servants, she resorted to her basic humanitarian instinct of pioneers to engage in real health profession-based constructive leadership to practice ob-gyn in not-for-profit organization as an uncompensated volunteer to promote family health planning organizations and access for all as evidence-based lifetime achievement of her 30 years of public health service when she died in 1989.
What Dr. Widad achieved is complemented by her siblings and parents. Her oldest sister, the late Helen Kidane Mariam was employed in an executive position at the Economic Commission of Africa, Addis Ababa. Her father Kidane Mariam Wolde Mariam and mother Bekeletch Workneh, produced three college graduate Tekle Mariam, George and Diana. However, she was survived by her younger brother, George who graduated with MA from Eratmus University in Rotterdam, Netherland and retired there, as well as her younger sister Diana Kidane Mariam, BA, who graduated from Sweet Briar Women College, Briar, Virginia and Mt. Saint Mary University, Los Angeles, CA and finally her adopted daughter, Herut Kidane Mariam is an entrepreneur in the arts and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Ethiopian Medical History
Photo: Dr. Melaku Beyan. Dr. Melaku Beyan became the first Ethiopian medical doctor to complete his education in the United states in 1935 (Dr. Workneh Eshete became the first Ethiopian doctor to obtain a modern medical education in 1882)
The non-governmental organization, People to People, has just released The Manual of Ethiopian Medical History by Enawgaw Mehari, Kinfe Gebeyehu and Zergabachew Asfaw. The purpose of the publication is to teach the future generation of Ethiopian medical students and health care professionals about Ethiopiaâ€™s medical history.
Mekele University and Bahir Dar University have reportedly agreed to incorporate the study into their medical education curriculum.
Enawgaw Mehari, MD
Kinfe Gebeyehu, MD
Zergabachew Asfaw, MD
Senior Graphic Editor: Matthew I. Watt