The future is black and female. After spending a year training at Toronto Western Hospital, 35-year-old Claire Karekezi will return home to Rwanda in July and become the first and only female neurosurgeon in the entire country, specializing in removing brain tumors.
Karekezi, who studied neuro oncology and skull base surgery, grew up during the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed roughly 800,000 people. She lost several family members during the 100-day massacre, but told the Huffington Post that’s what kept her going.
“So this kind of spirit kept me going, to do whatever it takes to get where I want to go,” Karekezi told the Toronto City News. “I keep pushing because the genocide happened, the whole world was watching and no one did anything. But we came through that, we are a strong nation, and we have very brave people who have managed to do impressive things now.”
She said she had zero intentions on becoming a neurosurgeon, saying she knew nothing about the field while in medical school abroad. She planned to study radiology.
“I knew nothing about neurosurgery, I had no training in brain anatomy,” she said. That didn’t stop her mentor, Dr. Jan Hillman, from taking Karekezi under his wing.
Rwanda only has one hospital-based MRI and a small number of CT scanners, according to the City News.