Hawassa (also spelled Awassa or Awasa) is located on the shores of Lake Awassa in the Great Rift valley of Ethiopia. It is also the location of Hawassa University, one of Ethiopia’s medical schools, as well as the Referral Hospital for the Southern Peoples Region of Ethiopia.

Dr. Zoe Parr teaches Essential Surgical Skills in Awassa, 2009. Photo © R. Lett

The Essential Surgical Skills (ESS) course was introduced to Hawassa University in 2006, as part of the Innovation Project, developed jointly by CNIS and Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association (ENAHPA). Today, ongoing ESS courses are taught in Hawassa with the help of Canadian surgeons from Calgary, AB.

In 2006, the surgical department of Hawassa University was one of the six surgical libraries in the country to receive new surgical and medical books through a CNIS book shipment, donated by the Sabre Foundation. Hawassa received 676 of the 4200 books, of a total donation worth $300,000.

Draping lesson from Essential Surgical Skills course in Hawassa. Photo © R. Lett

The Fundamental Interventions, Referral and Safe Transfer (FIRST) course was piloted in Hawassa in August 2009. 22 health officer trainees (18 men 4 women) took the course. The FIRST courses are now run ongoing and are given to Health Officers, who are usually the first person to see the patient, even in serious cases.

ESS Director, Dr Aberra Gomez, with FIRST students, Hawassa 2010. Photo © R. Lett

By 2010, all of the first three graduating medical student classes from Hawassa had completed the ESS course and all Generic Heath Officer graduates had completed the FIRST course.

The University of Calgary has provided four surgeons over the past four years in the support of skills training in Hawassa. In 2011, another two Calgary surgeons, Drs. Janet Edwards and Ola Dunin-Bell, taught ESS to final year medical students in Hawassa.

In February 2011, the Safe Surgery Saves Lives(SSSL) nursing course was brought to Hawassa. 18 instructors were taught at the Hawassa University Referral Hospital.

Hawassa ESS
Dr. Zerai Kassaye
Dr. Belay Zerihun
Dr. Aberra Gomez
Dr. Aberra Gomez