Michael Teklemichael Teweldebrhan is the head of the Laboratory department of Orotta referral hospital, the largest hospital in Eritrea. He was born in Segheneity on the 12th of August 1975. He went to Selam elementary school in Asmera from1983 to 1985. He joined the EPLF at a young age, he was, therefore, sent to the revolutionary school (Betimhrty Serwra) and followed his studies from 1986 to 1990.
He was then assigned in the popular army as an operator, where he served until June 1993. Michael joined Asmera University in 1999, and graduated in the field of Clinical Laboratory Science in 2003, and has been working in Orotta referral hospital laboratory department since. He also took part in the battles in the third invasion of the weyane with division 27 of the Eritrean Defence Forces.
We have been trying to arrange an interview with Michael, however it did not materialise for a long period that is until few days ago, when we met him on his way back to Eritrea after completing his training outside Eritrea.
Amongst other things, we talked about the values of work ethic, selflessness, and his multi-skilled talents that he practises not only on his assigned tasks but also beyond the call of duty, which Mussie Kiflom (who regularly does a voluntary work at Orotta Hospital) admired and talked about.
Mussie says : “Michael is very committed to his work and public service, he works very long hours beyond the scheduled obligation hours and does his tasks and much more besides such as fixing and maintaining machines and equipment. He managed to save considerable hard currency that was spent to hire foreign professionals who come to Eritrea to fix a machine, by teaching himself the required skills to fix such machines.”
Michael also worked as a part-time laboratory medicine lecturer at Orotta medical school. Mussie observed how much students respect and love in the passionate way that he delivered his lectures and his strong desire to pass on his knowledge to the students. Michael also takes an active interest in sport, he played volleyball and currently coaches the national volleyball team.
After an introduction, the question put to Michael was in regards to his work ethic “You go beyond the call of duty to work extra including fixing machines. How do you manage to learn all these and where does your motivation and work ethic come from?
Michael: “I think it is my behaviour. I learned these values and characters from my golden school years at the revolutionary school (Betiimihrti Sewra). During the armed struggle all the fighters worked very hard. I learned these values when I was young and have adapted and this is who I am. It is also my duty to contribute my knowledge.
I love my work and I try to develop my knowledge daily. If I do not solve problems around me, I cannot sleep well. The armed struggle taught me to work hard, to make sacrifices and to be dedicated to achieve your goal and to serve the community equally and efficiently.
Question – What is your current position and what sort of tasks and responsibilities do you do?
My current tasks are to coordinate the lab work, to follow up the SOP, to develop the knowledge of the staff, to maintain the instruments, and monitoring quality results of the patients. In addition, ensuring results are produced in shortest possible time so as to make sure patients receive the necessary treatment. To achieve all these, human resources and management are important factors. Above all having good relationship amongst staff is crucial. I believe in open discussion, therefore, meetings are held every month to discuss current situation of work and cohesion of staff among each other.
Question – Despite the heavy investment made in human resources, many individuals do leave the country upon completing their education including those in medical profession in the hope of better economic opportunities, how do you see this and what keeps you going?”
Michael – If we work hard in building our nation, we can achieve our goals, but leaving your country in order to solve one’s own financial problems, is not the solution. By facing the problem we can build the nation of our martyrs’. At this moment of globalised world, every nation has its own problems. I think sacrifice is mandatory to see the golden nation that we all want. Building a developed nation is our main goal, so in general, I don’t accept leaving your nation to gain money. That is why I prefer to work hard to attain my goals for achieving developed and economically strong nation.
Question – You have just completed a course abroad, what was it about and how will it contribute in the development of the service you provide?
Michael –The micronutrient study research will be carried out in the coming years in our country. In order to do this, development of human sources is important factor. Based on that principle, our government gave me this chance to upgrade my knowledge, and to do the research by ourselves.
In this training, we cover the atomic absorption spectrometry, HPLC, India reader cobass 411, and operation training. This training will give me further encouragement to contribute my skills whole heartedly to my people to attain our goal.
This training also helps the analysis of heavy metal poisoning like lead poisoning. As you know, we now have two mining companies of gold and other heavy metals. So introducing atomic absorption spectrometry is crucial in our areas.
Question – Development of health service is one of the top priorities of our country; looking back to the present time how far have we come and what are the mainchallenges in the sector?
Michael –Our government has built many health centres and hospitals. When we compare the present with the period before independence, a lot of health centres have been built and are giving full service to the community. That is why we achieved the million umbrella award. The government subsidises the cost of the health services, which does not happen in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries.
At this time, the knowledge of our society in health and medication has developed. The health institutions give sufficient service even though we are under sanctions. In my opinion all the developed countries built their nations by sacrificing many things, just as we have made so much sacrifice to achieve and maintain our independence.
Question – Despite the challenges that come with living abroad, Eritrean professionals living outside Eritrea, do try to contribute in the ongoing development efforts, how is the level of participation at present specially in the health sector , and if you have any advice or views for these professionals?
Michael –I think very few contributors are there but most are foreigners. My advice for those living abroad is to contribute their skills for the development of their homeland and their community. We have a lot of professional shortage, we are encouraging them to participate in construction of a developed nation that we all envision.
We would like to thank Michael for this initial introductory interview. An extended and a more detailed interview will be held sometime in the near future. As Michael stated, his values and commitment to the national cause, did not come out of no where, but learned from the struggle that has taken generations as well as his own heroic mother who served as Hafash wudbat and father who lost both his eyes fighting for independence. In conclusion, as our history and present time testify, there have always been those patriots, who have always shouldered the extra burden of the national struggle. They are to be found in safeguarding including in areas of very harsh conditions. They are to be found building infrastructures tirelessly all over the country.
They are to be found protecting our national security and some flying high safeguarding our sky. They are to be found providing services for their people including education, health and other essential services.
These are people of values, who put the national cause before their own basic needs. They treat and protect property and resources of our nation with more care than they would for their own private resources. They serve their people with honesty.
The irony is, not much is heard of them, as they only speak with their actions – sticking to the humble culture of the poplar front. They are the treasures and more valuable than any natural resources our country has. They must be upheld very high as there could be risk of negative values – including self-publicising, carelessness, self-serving and public resources wasting- becoming the dominant values.