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Achamyelesh Kifle (Colonel Dr.)


 
Key Achievements:  

First woman doctor in the Ethiopian Air Force and one of the only women doctors in the military when she began; rose to Director of Curative and Supportive Services Directorate for all of the defence health institutes in the country, where her responsibilities include staffing, standardizing guidelines, medical supplies and equipment, and business process re-engineering; has helped lead key improvements in management, standards, and services in the army; received an outstanding alumni award from John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, and was accelerated twice in military rank, achieving the rank of Colonel in the Ethiopian Defence Force

Current Position: Director of Curative and Supportive Service, Ministry of Defence, Health Main Directorate
Birth Place: Gambella, Ethiopia
Birth Date: 1964
Current Home: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
       
  Primary School  
  Gore Haile Selassie 1, Gore, Illubabor
 
  Secondary School  
  Gore Secondary School, Gore, Illubabor; Teferi Mekonnen Secondary School (12th grade), Addis Ababa
 
   
  Doctor of Medicine, Addis Ababa University
 
   
  Postdoctoral degree, Pediatrics and Child Health, Addis Ababa University, 1992; Masters in Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 2007
 
   
  Medicine, Military Healthcare Administration
 
 
 
   
 

Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh Kifle, having begun her career as a general practitioner and one of the first doctors in the air force in Ethiopia, serves as Director of Curative and Supportive Service for the Ministry of Defence in the Health Main Directorate.  She has also served as Dean of the Defence Health Science College in Debre Zeit, Honorary Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, and in various leadership positions at Tor Hailoch Referral and Teaching Hospital, including medical director.  Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh has been a leader in efforts to combat AIDS in Ethiopia, where she has served on the Ethiopian National HIV Council and the National Review Board of the National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, and as a board member of the National Coalition of Women against HIV/AIDS.   She developed a five-year strategic plan for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and guidelines for anti-retroviral therapy as well as other manuals and guidelines both for the army and at the national level.

Growing up in a liberal family in Gambella and in Gore, Illubabor, Achamyelesh received love and support from her family, where girls and boys were treated equally; both sons and daughters were required to participate in household chores and also given the chance to play.  In her school career, she was vice president of the drama club, president of the debating club and a member of the church prayer group.  Watching her older sister, who became a nurse, as well as doctors in area hospitals, motivated her to try to become a doctor.

While she was at Medical School in Addis Ababa University, Achamyelesh went to a number of different hospitals for practical training and was especially impressed by the disciplined, uniformed, and organized practices of the then Tor Hailoch Hospital.  Though none of her family was in the military, what she saw motivated her to consider joining the military.  While carrying out her clinical responsibilities during her studies, she began to become involved in the social and administrative affairs of the hospital, because she enjoyed interacting with people and was the kind of doctor who was attached to her patients and cared about their personal lives.  Some while later, she became interested in joining the Ethiopian Air Force, in spite of the objections of some of her friends and colleagues.

Applying during her final year of study (though at the time they were recruiting only male students into the Air Force), she was admitted.   She started at the cadet level, moving on to the officer orientation course and earning the rank of second lieutenant.  As the only female doctor in the Air Force at that time, she made a special effort to work with the mothers and children in the armed forces.  She served in the commanding base in Debre Zeit where the army was located and was also involved in administrative functions, such as recruitment and serving on the medical board.

In 1987, after practicing for a year, she again joined Addis Ababa University for post-graduate specialization study in pediatrics, completing her graduate degree in 1992. Later she became the pediatric specialist at Tor Hailoch Hospital and a lecturer and attendant at the medical college, assuming progressively more and more responsible leadership positions.  She served as head of the pediatrics department, member of the hospital’s management board, head of the training and documentation department, Deputy Director and finally Director of Tor Hailoch Teaching Hospital. Along with her leadership roles and research, she served as clinician to the family members of the military. Realizing the importance of working at a larger scale to help make changes she could see were necessary, she obtained a de Beers Fellowship award to study public health at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States; there, she earned her Masters in Public Health in 2007, receiving an outstanding medical student award.

After completing her masters degree, she was appointed Dean of the Defence Health Sciences College in Debre Zeit, where she worked in curriculum design development in various disciplines to make the coursework more relevant to the needs of the defence system. Assigned to the Ethiopian Defence Peacekeeping Center as a senior officer and inspector for the UN peacekeeping mission of Ethiopia, Dr. Achamyelesh was tasked with overseeing the health systems and standards of the mission and acting as a policy advisor.  She was chief military public information officer at United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for ten months, serving as spokesperson for the mission force commander.

Currently,  Colonel Dr. Achamyesh is Director of Curative and Supportive Services under the National Health Directorate in the country, with responsibility for management and organization, including policy and standardization.  She still consults as a clinician, teaches at the Military Medical College and is an honorary assistant professor in Addis Ababa University’s Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Achamyelesh is proud that she has dedicated her military career to building up the organization, standards, and operations of the Ethiopian Defence Force health institutions, in collaboration with her colleagues.  The Defence Health Sciences College, which initially offered only one type of specialization, is now producing graduates in 12 different health disciplines, including medical doctors and master’s degree graduates in surgery.

Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh greatly admires people who broaden the scope of their activities and who handle their family life and their careers in a balanced way.  As a student, she admired Brigadier General Dr. Hailu Kefene, who was a high ranking military officer, a physician, a leader and the commander of the hospital.  She is inspired by women doctors who invest time and care in their patients.  People who are dedicated and committed to serve others are role models for her.  

In her career, Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh has observed that however strong their performance, women have a harder time attaining leadership positions.  But her upbringing, convictions, values and confidence helped her overcome these challenges.  She is a fast learner, she observes closely, she listens, and she approaches her work with a good heart. She believes that her education helped her to see the challenges she faced in perspective.

Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh is passionate about seeing her country achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  She dreams that people will have access to clean water, food and education; she especially hopes that women will have improved educational opportunities and that the community will change their perception of the role of women in society.  She wants Ethiopia to be a country where citizens live a fulfilled life and the nation is able to achieve strong development.  She also hopes that the contribution of military women will be recognized.

Though Achamyelesh has already been able to play a significant role, she believes she has much more to accomplish.  She hopes to complete the building of the maternal and child health center initiative that she has started.  When she finishes her military career, she would like to engage at the community level with programs to benefit women, children and youth.

Achamyelesh is married and the mother of two boys.  She has received strong support from her appreciative husband and children, helping her excel even more.

Her advice to girls and young women:  You should work vigilantly on your personal and career development, challenging adverse attitudes and perceptions against women. Join your male colleagues on an equal basis. Build your confidence and self-esteem in order to struggle and strive.  Challenge negative attitudes and perceptions about women.  Contribute in collaboration with others to improve your community.

 
 
 
  Key Sources  
  Interview with Colonel Dr. Achamyelesh Kifle, August 2012
 
  Other Sources  
      
  Researcher  
  Melat Tekletsadik  
       
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