PEOPLE [Welcome to AMC] An opportunity to grow as a surgeon 2023.03.15

Dr. Zelalem Chimdesa Merga, International Fellow from Ethiopia


▲ [Left] (From the left) Professor Chung Sik Gong and Dr. Zelalem Chimdesa Merga / [Right] After completing laparoscopy training at the Simulation Center


International fellow Zelalem Chimdesa Merga is a surgeon at the Zewditu Memorial Hospital in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. He has been training at the Division of Stomach Surgery since September last year under the supervision of Professor Chung Sik Gong. Dr. Zelalem Chimdesa Merga shares his story about the international physician training at Asan Medical Center.


Why did you apply for the training at AMC?

When I was in Ethiopia, I had a colleague who came back from the international physician training program of Asan Medical Center and recommended it to me, saying that a great deal of growth was achieved by learning professional knowledge and skills from excellent professors. Unfortunately, however, the training program was discontinued due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and I was unable to apply for the program. When the program resumed after 2 years, I applied immediately. I chose the Division of Stomach Surgery because I was interested in the upper digestive tract and minimally invasive surgery.


What part of the training is most impressive?

Asan Medical Center is different from the hospital in Ethiopia where I worked in many ways. First, Asan Medical Center is overwhelmingly big in size and has state-of-the-art equipment and modern facilities. On the other hand, equipment in the Ethiopian hospital is outdated and poorly maintained. In addition, I believe that one of the greatest advantages of Asan Medical Center is that customized treatment is made possible according to the patient’s condition with well-segmented medical departments and skilled medical staff in each segment. Digital services such as AMIS 3.0 and electronic medical records are used effectively, which is in stark comparison to the Ethiopian hospital where all work is still paper-based. As I have mentioned, Asan Medical Center is ahead in all areas including medical service quality, environment, and facilities and I hope to help develop Ethiopia’s medical care when I return to my hometown, building upon my training experience here.


▲ [Left] Dr. Zelalem Chimdesa Merga(first from the left) with other international trainees / [Right] With Dr. Abeje Brhanu Menjeta(left), another Ethiopian physician training at AMC


What are you learning?

Out of the many things I am learning, the training on minimally invasive gastric surgery is particularly helpful. I am able to get one step closer to my goal of becoming a competent upper gastrointestinal surgeon thanks to my training here. The Division of Stomach Surgery has the latest medical equipment and the medical staff has a lot of experience and know-how in treating stomach-related diseases, especially stomach cancer. I consider it a great privilege as a doctor to receive high-quality education and training at AMC. I am deeply grateful to the professors who share their in-depth and extensive knowledge and experience concerning stomach surgery.


What are the commonalities and differences between South Korea and Ethiopia?

I remember being surprised to see South Koreans bowing their head and bending their waist forward to express their respect and honor when greeting their seniors. Ethiopia has a similar culture. This helped me feel at ease despite being in an unfamiliar environment. Of course, there are differences. It seemed that South Koreans value personal life and are not quite interested in what happens around them. It felt particularly strange to see everyone looking at their mobile phones when using public transportation. Ethiopians are used to having chats with strangers and it is natural for them to start a conversation with foreigners. I will never forget Asan Medical Center for allowing me to experience a new culture and grow as a surgeon.



※ ‘Welcome to AMC’ introduces the stories of international physicians who come to AMC to learn advanced medical skills.