From the mountains and waterfalls of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, to the rolling hills and equine landscapes of Lexington, Kentucky, Dr. Getachew Hailu endured an exhausting 17-hour trip this summer to begin his sabbatical year at the University of Kentucky.
During this year, Hailu said he hopes to observe other doctors and learn more about cancer, his main field of interest, while working at UK’s College of Medicine.
“I was already considering a sabbatical, and in January of this year, (a representative from) the UK College of Medicine made a trip to Bahir Dar and eventually convinced me to come to Kentucky,” Hailu said.
Hailu is no stranger to Kentucky. He visited in 2014 and enjoyed a tour of UK’s campus. He said he was amazed by the “kindness and receptiveness” of the people. This time around, his trip is not for tourism, but to learn more about his field of pathology and observe the medical practices in the United States.
Hailu defines pathology as the “medical discipline focusing on diseases” with his personal focus being cancer diagnosis. His interest was sparked after seeing how so many women in his home country of Ethiopia were diagnosed with breast cancer at a stage too late due to inadequate technologies. Moved by the pain his community experienced, he has devoted a significant part of his career to breast cancer research, and it is something he has managed to observe in great detail during his first months in Lexington.
Though he has loved his time in Kentucky so far, he said he misses his family back in Ethiopia and is hoping his wife and three children can visit soon. Aside from the southern hospitality, Hailu said he loves the food in the Bluegrass and his favorite dish is grilled chicken and French fries.
When asked how he found his passion in pathology and cancer research, Hailu said it was as simple as wanting to help his home country with a problem that was taking many lives – breast cancer. As an expert in his field, Hailu offered a piece of advice to students who are interested in scientific research, “Look around and find the problem. The problem is something experienced largely by your community. Base your research on the problem and find the solution to help and empower your community.”