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Meet Claire Karekezi, Who is Rwanda’s First and Only Female Neurosurgeon Inspiring Girls

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When Claire Karekezi started medical school in 2002, neurosurgery did not exist in Rwanda, but she is now the first and only female neurosurgeon in the country.

Neurology and neurosurgery were taught in a classroom, but no formal training, and no one was a practicing Rwandan neurosurgeon in the country. The scarce neurosurgical care was provided by expatriate surgeons from South Africa and Cuba, but Karekezi now runs a neurosurgery unit at the Rwanda Military Hospital.

Claire Karekezi is Rwanda’s first female neurosurgeon. She obtained a Doctor of Medicine from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Rwanda. By chance, Karekezi selected a neurosurgery rotation at the Linköping University Hospital in Sweden under the tutelage of Jan Hillman, the Department Chair of Neurosurgery.

After seeing her first craniotomy, she became fascinated by the brain and its pathologies. So she decided to become a neurosurgeon and began teaching herself the basics of neuroanatomy.

Without an established training program in Rwanda, Karekezi forged her own path outside her home country, Springer Link reported. After her Swedish rotation, she secured sponsorship for an elective rotation at Radcliffe Hospital at the University of Oxford.

Karekezi later completed a Clinical Fellowship in Neuro-Oncology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of Toronto, Toronto Western Hospital (Canada), before returning to Rwanda in August of 2018 to become the country’s first female Neurosurgeon. 

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