It takes a special kind of bravery to reflect on one’s own community—with love and critique—and to then use one’s career to make it a better place. It takes an agent of change.
Today, there are only three female surgeons for every 1 million people in low-income countries. ReSurge International and SkinCeuticals are working to close this gap through the Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) Program.
In 2021, we tragically and unexpectedly lost the life of one of our pioneering surgeons, Dr. Matolase Mtonga. We established the Matolase Mtonga Annual Scholarship in her name to continue her legacy.
We are proud to announce the three winners of the first annual, 2022/23 Matolase Mtonga Scholarship! Each winner was provided a scholarship in the amount of $2,500 (USD) to support their training in medicine. These three powerful women have dedicated their careers to enacting change in their community.
Dr. Samrawit Girmay, Ethiopia
Medicine is a balance, an intricate demonstration of teamwork. During her training at a large government hospital in Ethiopia, Dr. Samrawit Girmay noticed a missing piece in this delicate puzzle. When she saw an adolescent child with his chin pressed against his chest who had not left his house for 18 years, and a young woman, left by her family due to severe burns she suffered from an electric cable, Dr. Girmay realized she could be that missing piece: by becoming one of the first reconstructive surgeons at the institution. She wants to give people their life back—the confidence to face their society, agency to seek medical care, and above all, independence.
Dr. Girmay hopes to pursue training in microvascular surgery to enact the miracles that can reverse the effects of devastating accidents. She hopes to return to her home institution and pioneer a residency program in plastic surgery to train more surgeons in the hope that patients don’t have to wait for life altering care.
Dr. Amala Kulkarni, India
The path to medicine was far from a set template, a scripted journey from point A to B, for Dr. Amala Kulkarni. As Dr. Kulkarni ventured through her education, trying different subjects from mathematics to engineering, she let her genuine love of knowledge and natural talent lead the way. But with a familial precedent of service through medicine, Dr. Kulkarni felt herself drawn to the clinical mindset she inherited, along with a corresponding responsibility to help those around her. For Dr. Kulkarni, reconstructive surgery represents a way to transform lives impacted by trauma, through mechanical and aesthetic means.
Seeing education as a way to “open the doors to the rest of the world”, Dr. Kulkarni hopes to continue her career at a teaching institution and remain in the academic world. She believes that the way to inspire positive change in medicine is through training the next generation of plastic and reconstructive surgeons.
Dr. Sarah Nyakiongora, Kenya
For Dr. Sarah Nyakiongora, plastic and reconstructive surgery is an art form. An art form where the process is just as important as the outcome. With surgery, Dr. Nyakiongora has the liberty to harness her creativity to fix disfiguring wounds or scars, tailored perfectly for each patient she sees—whether this be an elderly woman with a previous mastectomy or a newborn child with a cleft lip.
To this end, Dr. Nyakiongora hopes to start a no-cost, subsidized surgical center, with a particular emphasis on microsurgery and breast reconstruction. She hopes to empower women and restore their confidence, one surgery at a time.
Dr. Matolase Mtonga was an agent of change—a leader, a pioneer, a surgeon. These scholarship winners embody Dr. Mtonga’s same commitment and drive to a future in reconstructive surgery. These three agents of change will be carrying on the memory of Dr. Matolase Mtonga, and we cannot wait to see what they do through their careers in reconstructive surgery.