Dr. Leul: A leading light

At CURE Ethiopia, we like to think that we are a teaching hospital first. Everything our physicians do, from clinics to outreaches to surgeries and lectures, involves teaching residents and staff alike. Training is a part of our mission at CURE hospitals!


Growing up in the loud and busy hub of Kazanchis in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, Dr. Leul is a true city boy.

“Initially, I wanted to study physics, but because of my family’s influence, specifically my father, I joined medicine,” said Dr. Leul. “My father’s argument was if you study physics here in Ethiopia, you will end up being a teacher. My dreams were greater then just physics. I dreamt big; NASA big! After I began medicine, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot! My father indeed steered me in the right direction.”

Dr. Leul went to medical school at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia.

“CURE is one of our rotation sites during orthopaedic residency. The first time I came to CURE, I saw deformity cases. I was moved. I was moved by the procedures. I had the chance to read books about them and that’s when I decided I was going to study pediatric orthopaedics. Because I was one of the top scoring students at my medical school, I had the choice in what field to study.”

“Dr. Leul finished his residency at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, and once completed, he became a General Orthopaedic Surgeon. The goal of the fellowship is to get him trained up to do the same programs elsewhere, for example, at government hospitals,” explained Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rick is Chief of Surgery at CURE Ethiopia and has been serving there since 2015. Dr. Rick is involved in the training of surgeons. Dr. Tewodros, Dr. Mesfin, and Dr. Jim also put in a lot of time and effort in surgical training. They also upkeep Dr. Leul’s logbook. They have done an outstanding job in providing assistance to the academic program as well as the training program schedule. Whether it was providing OR feedback training forms, taking Dr. Leul through operations, or helping to make corrections, the surgical team at CURE Ethiopia was always by his side.

“All government hospitals will most likely have orthopaedic specialists in the next ten years, which will benefit children who have to travel far distances for treatment. Dr. Leul has operated three to four days of the week and, under supervision, completed 672 surgeries,” said Dr. Rick.

Dr. Mesfin, top left, showing Dr. Leul, left, what to look for while examining a patient at a mobile clinic in Hawassa.

“I studied hard. As hard as I can. There are constant examinations. You are working with them under immediate supervision. You spend lots of hours operating, treating patients during rounds in the OPD (Outpatient Department). So, you’re always being progressively assessed. I have a log book which I document every case and its complications, if any, and outcome. It’s an objective way of elevating your performance as well,” explained Dr. Leul.

Dr. Leul is also the first Orthopaedic Trained Fellow in Ethiopia. When asked how it felt to be the first fellow to complete an accredited Orthopaedic Residency in the country, Dr. Leul humbly replied, “I never thought of it that way.”

“I thank Dr. Rick for making my dream a reality,” he added warmly. “It’s a privilege to work with every Orthopaedic Surgeon here. I’ve enjoyed it and liked it so much! The entire team is so welcoming,” said Dr. Leul.

“Dr. Rick found me a scholarship through the POSNA-COUR International Scholar Program to meet one of my heroes! A golden moment, for me, was when I got a chance to meet Dr. John E. Herzenberg, the Director of Pediatric Orthopaedics at Sinai Hospital and Director of the ICLL (International Center for Limb Lengthening) in Barcelona.”

Along with Dr. Rick and Dr. Jim, Dr. Leul attended the POSNA (Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America) Conference in 2017.

Dr. Leul has a broad spectrum of orthopaedic cases to learn from: sometimes complex cases and, other times, cases that are simple.

“He became familiar in the management and the range of pathology we see in Ethiopia: from children born with dislocated hips to those who come following neglected trauma and bone/joint infection, as well as children born with limb deficiency. Over the year, he learned how to manage these children in the optimal way, and, futhermore, how to train others to do the same,” said Dr. Rick.

Dr. Leul recalls his most recent complex case.

“I remember Konjit’s case. She was the second case where I treated an ortho case with blocking screws opposed to nails. After surgery, she developed an allergy. Her stitch sites began to break the wound. After one month, she was back with an infected implant. We took her back to the operating room and did a debridement to control the infection. The infection was controlled. I took her back to the OR for multiple washouts after. Her bone was exposed, so I made a flap with her muscles to cover the area and control the infection. The flap had taken. Next time, I did a dressing change. The wound was good, so I did a skin graft. I was so happy, and the patient was also happy! These are the kind of challenges that you may encounter, particularly when this type of hardware is implanted in the bone. Controlling an infection from hardware is very difficult. I saw a smile on her face on the last skin graft and I was so happy!”

“What we do in CURE, no one does in Ethiopia,” said Dr. Rick. “The AO Alliance Foundation is a charitable branch of AO that is investing in orthopaedic and infrastructure development in several countries in Africa and Asia. They are making a huge difference in Ethiopia. For CURE, they sponsor training for our residents and fellowship as well as upcoming pediatric and spine courses.”

“It’s been a privilege. Dr. Leul will be a leading light for the next generation of orthopaedic surgeons. I plan to keep in touch with him and discuss cases and continue to support him,” said Dr. Rick about the training and mentoring of Dr. Leul.

The poorest third of humanity receive only 3.5% of all surgical procedures. We’re out to change that. Learn more about CURE Ethiopia at cure.org/ethiopia.


Photo of the Mieraf Gebresellasie

About the Author:

Mieraf served as a Storyteller at CURE Ethiopia from 2015 to 2018. She was born in a refugee camp in Northern Sudan and grew up in the U.S. Having taken a few trips to Ethiopia, she recognized her calling to return to the land in which she belonged, to serve. Photography is her passion and she loves to show the voices of children through the images she captures. Mieraf enjoys hiking, learning with children, and exploring the uniqueness that is humanity. She loves listening, watching, hearing stories through people while traveling unbeaten paths, shopping at local markets, learning Amharic, and serving cake she’s baked to strangers wherever a cake is needed.

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