Asha Ali Garas, MD: An inspiring story of perseverance

Asha and Philippe

Fig 1: Asha learning how to use the mouse in her new computer with Philippe 

Asha and her 5 brothers and 2 sisters were growing up in Somaliland, when the economic troubles of the early 1990s and subsequent overthrow of Siad Barre caused a humanitarian crisis in the country. At the age of 2, Asha and her siblings were left with no parents.

They lived a perilous life, with Asha’s elder sister doing her best to raise the youngest siblings. One sister immigrated to Djibouti where she worked as a cleaner, sending her salary back to Somaliland to support the rest of the family. After her older sister’s marriage, Asha juggled the care of the little children whilst also taking evening classes in Islamic studies, Arabic, English, Math.

Asha decided in 2007 to become a nurse, and joined the Edna Adan Hospital in Hargeisa, graduating as a midwife in 2010. It was during this time she attended the ISUOG outreach course.

As a trainer during the course, I saw the shy but studious Asha blossom into a good scanner. Although very shy, she was clearly a remarkable student, continually studying her notes and answering questions timidly. While others may have been jockeying for best viewing positions and turns on the machine, Asha was quietly taking notes, filling the patient’s chart and waiting to be offered a chance. She obviously knew what was valuable and what was not.

When we left Somaliland, as a remarkable student, she received the laptop that had been used for giving the lectures. She was delighted and incredulous! We wondered if she was able to connect to the internet, to which she gave an evasive answer. Then, one of the local faculty explained that she did not have internet, and so would travel to the local gas station to recharge her PC – hiding it under her dress to keep it safe!

After the training, Asha decided to pursue her studies and go to Medical School. Funding her study while working as a nurse was not easy, but with the help of her elder brother Farhan – who by that time had a more stable position – she was able to do it.

Asha graduation

Fig 2: Asha (left) at her graduation 

This July, Asha completed Medical School! I am very proud of Asha and thankful for her friendship, she is a role model I often mention when I travel in low-resources countries and an inspiration for young bright minds everywhere. I am grateful to ISUOG for creating the opportunity to meet Asha.

Ever driven, she has set herself two more goals: Pass the USMLE and, become an OB/GYN or Pediatrician. A remarkable achievement in the face of much adversity.

Asha says that her siblings have really been pillars in her life. She is ever thankful to them, and Edna Adan who has been a great support too.

Philippe Jeanty

Asha Training

Fig 3: Asha scanning
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