Resident spotlight: Dr. Asa Ahimbisibwe

1. What program are you a resident of and what year of residency are you in?
I am a PGY-1( First year), in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

2. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Uganda, East Africa.

3. What degree(s) do you have, and from what university(ies)?
I have a Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery (MBCHB) from Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Mbarara, Uganda. I also have a Masters of Medicine in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (MMED) from Makerere College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda.

4. What inspires you in your work?
This is a question I get asked many times, but there is never enough time to do it justice. Having been born and raised in Uganda, I have seen my fair share of human suffering and death. In Uganda, a country with a population of 35 million people, 16 - 20 women die every single day as a result of pregnancy and child birth, mainly due to preventable causes. What inspires me in Obstetrics, is that we can relieve human suffering and pain. I also hope that the global community will one day say “no” to the deaths of women and children in the developing countries.

As a young child, I visited a hospital in my mother’s home district, escorted by my aunt. After waiting on the bench for many hours to be seen by a clinical officer, a child down the queue had a seizure and died while waiting, and a few minutes later, a young woman was being carried out of the hospital’s maternity ward by a group of men after she had died in child birth. She was followed by wailing relatives, many of them women.

This day was to be a defining day in my life. I asked my aunt what was going on and she explained all to me. That day I did not see a doctor, I was told to return again and wait to see him because he was so busy. I wondered aloud as we travelled back home, alternating between walking a few meters and being carried on my aunts back - I asked her why a woman would die while giving birth, a question I do not remember her answering, a question that still haunts me today. It is an important question that leaders in developing countries need to come to terms with, finding an honest and realistic answer if we are to prevent our women from dying during pregnancy and child birth.

I made a resolution that day, that I would grow up and study to be a doctor so that people like the small child who died in the line, the woman who died while giving birth, and even myself, who waited the whole day in vain to see a doctor, would be taken care of. I would work hard to make sure people saw a doctor, and women did not die in child birth. I made this decision at six or seven years old.

My aunt later died in the same hospital giving birth a few years later, because there was no basic equipment to save her life, and that of the baby. And there, my decision to study Obstetrics and Gynaecology was cemented. I hope that in a small way, I will contribute to the safety of childbirth in our generation, especially for those women who are underserved and least privileged. Ironically, it is these women who have no one to speak for them that die every day.

5. Why did you choose to pursue your residency at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?
The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry presented a good opportunity to learn cutting-edge Obstetrics and Gynaecology while offering a community touch as well. There are also plenty of opportunities to learn and teach others in the process. Exploring novel ways of medical teaching is my other area of interest. Schulich Medicine & Dentistry gives me these opportunities.

6. What has been your greatest experience to date in your residency?
My greatest experiences have been the people I work with and the amount of responsibility I have. My colleagues and teachers are an inspiring group who see to it that I am well. On the other hand, the amount of responsibility and expectations on first-year resident is overwhelming but in a positive way. There is so much to learn both clinically and structurally.

7. What special interests or hobbies do you have?
I have a wide variety of interests and hobbies. I enjoy non-fiction writing and am currently writing a book about maternal mortality in the developing countries entitled “The Politics and maternal deaths; why women continue to die during childbirth in developing countries”.  I also enjoy motivational speaking, especially presentations to youth, encouraging them to harness their potential. I also advocate to raise awareness of the plight of women and children dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

I am an avid runner and enjoy spending time with friends, and listening to, singing and writing music and playing the guitar – but that is only for my ears.