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Catching Up with Chuor de Garang Alier

photo of Chuor de Garang Alier

In this dramatic year 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world came to a grinding halt. I take this moment to empathise with all those affected and especially the brave men and women in the medical and allied professions who have had to make the ultimate sacrifice in their line of duty serving humanity. Despite these challenges, it is worth remembering that there are things we should always be grateful for; the Rare Rising Star Award is truly a memorable one.

The Rare Rising Star Award gave me the platform to speak about some of the most pressing issues in reproductive health, especially infertility and its stigmatisation. This has led me to have a much more deeper appreciation of the level of public engagement that is needed to raise awareness on an issue that is less talked about. The public feedback and the number of people who have expressed how they suffer in dignified silence has renewed my resolve to seek solutions that do bring hope.

I graduated from the University of Oxford last November with an MSc in Clinical Embryology. I am grateful to the Chevening Scholarship Secretariat for having offered me the scholarship to pursue my course. After leaving Oxford, I got a scholarship to pursue a PhD in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), supervised by Prof. Salome Maswime, the Head of Global Surgery. I will be focusing on access to fertility services in low resource settings. The South Africa Medical Research Council is funding me through a student research fellowship administered by the Department of Global Surgery.

In my country, South Sudan, I am a visiting lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the College of Medicine, University of Juba. Merck Foundation has also granted me an opportunity to do a three month placement as a trainee embryologist in a busy Assisted Conception Unit at Manipal University Teaching Hospital, though this has to wait, like all our pre-pandemic plans. In a nutshell, I am delightfully caught up in the mixture of teaching, research, and clinical services as a full time gynaecologist and obstetrician, and now also as an embryologist spanning Tanzania, South Sudan and South Africa.

I would like to acknowledge the floodgate of opportunities that have come my way after the Rare Rising Star Award. It is humbling to note that while sharing my story to motivate others, the tables turned on me in a good way and more opportunities knocked on my door, literally. Many young people reached out to me and I have mentored a few of them towards being awarded the Chevening Scholarship, one achieved admission to Oxford as a graduate, and another reached the penultimate stage of the Rhodes Scholarship, making the final top 6 out of 3000 applicants for Rhodes East Africa. All these success stories are just a snapshot of our African continent, so full of potential and promising young people. I am however reminded that while young people work hard to be at such places, the fact that one of my mentees had to drop out and not take up their Oxford admission showed me the limitations that stand in the way of their dreams. This was a painful reminder of my past and why I should continue to help mentor those in need of guidance where such is lacking.

I truly pay tribute to Rare Recruitment and the judges who take such care in identifying the best of so many highly talented people. One of the former recipients of the Rare Rising Stars Award (2018), Gladys Ngetich recommended me; she has equally moved on and is now a post-doctoral researcher at MIT in the USA, after successfully completing her Oxford DPhil in Aeronautical Engineering. This clearly implies that the ideals of Rare Recruitment and Target Oxbridge in picking and nurturing talent go a long way in ensuring that there is proper representation, because proper representation matters!

I had hoped that by the time of the award ceremony for the Rare Rising Stars Class of 2020 the travel advisory would have been revised and I could have attended to cheer them on during the absolutely nerve-wracking countdown of the 10 amazing personalities. To whoever gets called out first and last and all those whose names will be read out in-between, I wish you the very best of luck and I congratulate you for the well-deserved recognition.

While publicity is a great thing, kindly find the sanity and absolute peace of mind to sit down and write out that last chapter of your dissertation. For any of my Oxford colleagues who may have made it, kindly avoid the 5 minute sprint down the High Street to the Exam Schools because you had been late to make your submission while answering media queries about your award by Rare!


Many greetings from the cradle of mankind - Mother Africa!


Dr. Chuor de Garang Alier, MD,MMed,MSc(Oxon)
MRC South Africa Research Student Fellow,
Department of Global Surgery,
University of Cape Town, South Africa