In memoriam: Professor Jemal Abdulkadir

Professor Jemal AbdulkadirBy Elias S Siraj, Ahmed Reja, and Solomon Tesfaye

On Saturday August 24th, 2013, the world diabetes community lost Professor Jemal Abdulkadir, a pioneer of diabetes care in his native country, Ethiopia and the African continent.

When the history of modern medicine in Ethiopia is written, Professor Jemal Abdulkadir’s name will be up there as one of the architects who shaped Ethiopia’s medical services, influencing many generations to come.

Professor Jemal Abdulkadir was born in the southwestern Ethiopian town of Gore in 1935. He completed his elementary education at his home town and then moved to Addis Ababa to finish his high school at Teferi Mekonnen High School. After attending 2 years of college education at Addis Ababa University he went to Canada to join the McGill University in Montreal where he got his MD degree (1959). In subsequent years, he got his DCMT from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (1964), and did his postgraduate studies in internal medicine at the Royal Postgraduate School of Medicine, London University (1966). Finally, he completed his endocrinology training at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland (1979).

His professional services in the Ethiopian healthcare system included progressive clinical appointments, starting from Staff Physician at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital to Senior Consultant Physician at the Black Lion Teaching and Tertiary Referral Hospital (1979–1998). While working in these hospitals, he was a full-time acadamic at the Addis Ababa University Faculty of Medicine, where over the years he rose from Assistant Professor to a full Professor position. During those times he also served as Chief of the Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Unit as well as Head of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Prof. Jemal Abdulkadir was one of the first few Ethiopian physicians to introduce modern Western medicine to Ethiopia. Despite opportunities to stay in the West and settle there with a comfortable life, he returned to Ethiopia to make a difference and improve the healthcare system of the country. Over the years, he also served his country in the following leadership capacities at various times: Minister of Health of Ethiopia, President of the Ethiopian Medical Association, Editor of the Ethiopian Medical Journal, President of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, President of the Ethiopian Diabetes Association, and one of the founding members of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences.

As the first endocrinologist in Ethiopia, he established one of the first dedicated diabetes clinics in the country and played a key role in establishing the Ethiopian Diabetes Association where he was President, taking a significant part in expanding diabetes management services throughout the country. Read more