Dr. Lia Tadesse Gebremedhin is a well-known Ethiopian physician who has worked tirelessly to improve maternal health in her home country. She is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and she is one of the few female Ethiopians who specialize in this field. More importantly, she has been Minister of Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia since March 2020. During her tenure, she has been praised for her determination and dedication to providing better health care, particularly in maternal and newborn health services. Moreover, she has been lauded for her health-care leadership and hospital administration.
Lia Tadesse was born in 1976 to Ethiopian parents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her father, Tadesse Gebremedhin, was an etymologist. He did his PhD research on insects that attack teff. On the other hand, Lia’s mother was a teacher.
Although Lia was born in Addis Ababa, she spent some of her childhood in Holeta when her father worked at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. Since Lia’s mother was a teacher, she was the one who taught her child preschool education. As a result, Lia didn’t fit in kindergarten when she was sent to school, as she already had a head start in her education. Instead, she had to rely on her mother’s teachings. Lia, at the age of 4, joined the first grade, having already acquired the skills necessary to keep up with her peers.
Since her childhood, Lia has had a dream of being a physician.
Lia Tadesse is married and a proud mother. She married her husband after four years of courtship. She describes her husband as her biggest supporter, and she could not have achieved her success without his encouragement.
Lia Tadesse attended high school at Menen School, which is also known as Yekatit 12.
Lia received her medical doctorate from Jimma University. During her time there, she was one of the four female students in her batch to graduate. There, she faced many challenges, both personally and academically. She even experienced home sickness at first because she had to leave her family to further her education. As a result, Lia recalled her time at the university as being a difficult journey, but one that she was able to overcome with perseverance and determination.
Following that, Dr. Lia obtained a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology from Addis Ababa University Black Lion Hospital. This field of study had been of great interest to Lia since her fourth year, as she wished to use her knowledge and skills to help women in her native Ethiopia. While she was a student there, Lia had the opportunity to complete internships at Gandi Hospital and Black Lion Hospital.
Furthermore, Lia holds a master’s degree in healthcare hospital administration in a joint program with Yale University at Jima University.
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After graduating as a medical doctor, Lia started working at the Federal Police Hospital. She stayed there for three years before starting a specialty in obstetrics and gynecology. However, after finishing her specialty, Lia got back to working at the Federal Police Hospital.
Lia’s career took an important step when she got the chance to present a study at a conference prepared by the Ethiopian Obstetrics and Gynecology Union. After presenting her study at the conference, the former minister of health of Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros Adhanum, offered her the opportunity to become CEO of Saint Paul General Specialized Hospital. In a short span of time, Lia was able to establish her professional reputation and turn the Saint Paul Hospital into one of the most respected in all of Ethiopia.
Lia reformed the hospital’s organizational structure as well as other system-related issues with medical services. Under her direction, Dr. Lia is credited with bringing about a number of reforms at Saint Paul Hospital and Millennium Medical College, including the establishment of a successful emergency department capable of handling mass casualties. She is also credited with boosting the enrollment of female students by 30% annually.
Moreover, Lia Tadesse developed working connections with numerous national and international organizations and was successful in obtaining much needed training and resources for the hospital staff. She is particularly credited with establishing a collaboration with the University of Michigan to assist Saint Paul’s Hospital in establishing the first obstetrics and gynecology specialization program.
Additionally, Dr. Lia Tadesse served as the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) Project Director for USAID at Jhpiego, Ethiopia. Later, she held the position of Program Director at the University of Michigan’s Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT).
Lia Tadesse’s appointment as Minister of Health of the FDRE, was never easy for her from the beginning. COVID-19 provided additional challenges for the new minister, who was already working to address other major public health issues. Nevertheless, Lia Tadesse has proven to be an effective leader in the face of the pandemic. She has worked to improve hospital operations and medical services in the midst of the global pandemic. She headed Ethiopia’s highly successful pandemic response at every level. From distributing vaccines to rolling out a massive testing and contact tracing campaign, she has sone a great job.