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Meet Dr Claire Karekezi, Rwanda’s First Female Neurosurgeon

In April 1994, the world watched with horror as the Hutus of Rwanda embarked on a genocidal campaign against the Tutsi. When sanity was finally restored and the red haze gone, over 800,000 people had died, leaving a nation full of orphans, widows, and widowers. But Rwanda has been healing since and this is about to be aided by its first neurosurgeon and survivor of those dark times, Dr Claire Karekezi.

Dr Karekezi witnessed the war firsthand and saw a part of the aftermath and rebuilding process firsthand before leaving the country. She had her high school and university education in her native country before flying out to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

Her decision to pursue medical school first took her to Sweden where she was first introduced to the field of neurosurgery. She had, at first, being interested in radiology but this didn’t happen as the neurosurgery department was the only department operating during her time spent in Sweden.

Dr Claire

Karekezi has journeyed through the world -Europe, Asia, Canada, Africa- in her pursuit of medical knowledge, especially her surgical skills which required her to continually hone them.

An inspiration to younger girls and to a generation that was the most affected by the genocide that swept through HR home nation, Karekezi says part of her drive comes from what she witnessed during the genocidal war.

In an interview she granted The Toronto Star, Dr. Karekezi said “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.”

When she returns to Rwanda to use her skills to better the lot of her own people, she hopes to partner with the four male neurosurgeons who currently practice in the country to launch a neuro-oncology center.

Godspeed, Dr. Karekezi. You humble us with your persistence, determination, and focus.

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