At only 33, Dr. Alice Niragire is the first female doctor to graduate with a Masters degree in surgery since the course was introduced in Rwanda in 2006. She talked to Women Today’s Sharon Kantengwa about her journey and the big plans she has in store for the future.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born on June 2 1982, and I am the second born in a family of three sisters and four brothers. I am currently single. I graduated on July 31, 2015 in Medicine, Masters of Surgery and I work at Rwamagana Provincial Hospital in the Eastern province. I am a born again Christian who regularly attends church services.
Tell us more about your educational background.
After the death of our parents during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, our maternal aunt took very good care of us and ensured that we attained good education. I attended Nyarurama Primary School in Ruhango District and later on went to Byimana Science School, founded by Catholic brothers. I specialised in Bio-chemistry and it is after that I joined the National University of Rwanda in 2004, where I did General Medicine for six years on a government scholarship.
What inspired you to do medicine?
I always dreamt of becoming a doctor since I was a little girl. Although the number of girls in my class was very small and after a while, continued reducing, I just knew I had to become a doctor some day. My aunt and my classmates were supportive and inspirational. I never gave up on my dreams, and here I am today.
I was inspired by Professor Ignace Kakande from the National University of Rwanda. He always told me that I could make it as a surgeon. After I graduated in medicine, I was sponsored by the government to do a Masters degree in surgery. My profession gives me joy, because I get a sense of fulfilment every time I conduct a successful operation and later meet my patients in perfect health.
What did it feel like being the first and only female to take up that course?
I love challenges. Male students weren’t a threat at all. Instead, they encouraged and supported me where I needed help because I had to juggle work with studies. I cannot say other female doctors could not manage. In fact some decided to take on other courses like paediatrics and pathology, while others went abroad for psychiatrics and radiology. I just felt that the course was meant for me.
What is your philosophy in life?
With determination and hard work, a bright future is possible for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams and achieve the set goals.
What message would you give to any girl out there who looks up to you?
I encourage young girls out there to set goals and work hard towards achieving them. Sciences are manageable and girls should be inspired to take on the task. They will not regret the decision.
I still want to go back to school and pursue a three year course in plastic surgery. I did three months rotation of plastic surgery in 2013 at the Rwanda military hospital with Dr. Charles Furaha as my supervisor and I found it very interesting.