Born on June 26, 1971, in Kumba in the South West Region of Cameroon, Dr. Henry Ebong Nkumbe is undoubtedly one of the finest ophthalmologists in Cameroon and even in the Central African sub-region.
This seasoned ophthalmologist specializes in vitreo-retinal surgery, cataract surgery, refractive surgery, and public health ophthalmology.
Through hard work, determination, and dedication, he has gained extensive international experience as an ophthalmic surgeon, educator, public health ophthalmologist, researcher, administrator, and leader.
Childhood Dream Turned Reality
At the age of 13, Henry Nkumbe complained of eye problems, prompting his mother to take him to an ophthalmologist at the Presbyterian Hospital in Ndounge, in the Littoral Region of Cameroon.
This visit would change his life. He received his first pair of corrective glasses, which improved his myopia.
For the first time, he had perfect vision. Another event left a lasting impression on him that day: when he arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. with his mother, there were 200 to 300 patients waiting to be examined by the same ophthalmologist.
Despite the large and demanding crowd, the specialist’s compassionate nature struck young Henry Nkumbe as he diligently and courteously attended to his patients.
Despite his tender age, Henry realized that many Cameroonians had eye problems, and there were very few ophthalmologists to care for them. His calling was clear: to become a seasoned ophthalmologist to care for his fellow Cameroonians.
He overcame all obstacles to pursue his dreams and is now a valuable asset to the medical sector in Africa. His journey from dreaming of becoming an ophthalmologist to achieving that goal is a life example worth emulating.
Dr. Nkumbe was an exceptional student. He pursued his medical studies in Switzerland and Germany. He graduated from the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1998, where he received the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) award in 1996.
During his third year in medical school, Henry became the founder and president of CAMFOMEDICS (German-Cameroonian Forum for Medical Sciences, www.camfomedics.net).
Today, CAMFOMEDICS remains the leading medical association of Cameroonians in the diaspora.
After working at GTZ headquarters in Eschborn, Germany, and at the WHO in Geneva, he continued his ophthalmology training at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Henry completed his residency in 2002 with distinction, and the University of Nairobi later honored him for his academic excellence.
Extensive Professional Experience
In 2002, Dr. Henry Nkumbe joined the World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) in Geneva as a researcher, where he worked for two years.
During this time, he was involved in the design and supervision of clinical and community-based research on severe malaria conducted in several African countries, China, and Bangladesh.
In 2004, he joined the International Disability Organization (CBM) and worked for a year at CCBRT Dar es Salaam and KCMC/KCCO in Moshi. During this period, he focused on paediatric ophthalmology and community eye health promotion.
In September 2006, CBM designated him to work in Madagascar as a medical advisor.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Madagascar and the Malagasy Ophthalmological Society, he played a key role in the nationwide and regional implementation of the Vision 2020 initiative and in training ophthalmologists and intermediate-level eye care personnel.
Henry also contributed to establishing a vision 2020 collaboration between Leeds NHS Trust and Madagascar.
During his time in Madagascar, he served as a visiting professor in the community eye health program at Groote Schur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. He was also a visiting consultant at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center at Tumaini University in Moshi, Tanzania, where he actively participated in training ophthalmology residents.
He enrolled in the MSc. CEH program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine during the 2005/2006 academic year and also took courses in leadership and entrepreneurship during his time in London.
From February 2007 to March 2009, he was a member of the Advisory Leadership Group of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ALG), which later gave rise to the African Ophthalmology Forum (AOF), where he served as Secretary-General.
The African Ophthalmology Forum eventually evolved into the African Council of Ophthalmology.
The Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute Project
In 2010, the founders of the Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute sought the expertise of Dr. Henry Nkumbe, who joined the project by contributing to its conception and implementation. In preparation for the role he would play in this developing hospital, he left Madagascar in 2012 and traveled to Nigeria. There, he spent three months at the renowned Jules Stein Eye Institute (UCLA, USA) before heading to Aravind Eye Care System in Madurai, India, in April 2013.
In Madurai, he underwent a year of training in vitreo-retinal surgery and ophthalmic hospital management.
His sole motivation was his patriotic commitment, which led him to forgo foreign opportunities and relocate to Cameroon in order to actively contribute to the design, development, and realization of the Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute in Yaoundé.
The Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute and Key Statistics
Inaugurated in 2017 by the Prime Minister, Head of Government, the institute employs over 100 Cameroonians from diverse backgrounds and has become a source of hope for the people of Cameroon and Central Africa as a whole.
To date, the institution has conducted over 330,000 consultations, with more than 60,000 of them being free consultations in underserved communities. During the same period, the institute performed over 15,000 complex eye surgeries to restore or preserve vision.
Additionally, more than 230 eye care professionals from 12 African countries have been trained in various ophthalmology programs, with the majority coming from Francophone African countries.
These achievements have made MICEI and Cameroon the only accredited and pass-through centers in Francophone and Central Africa for the examinations of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) and the International Ophthalmology Foundation (IOFF).
Furthermore, the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) has accredited MICEI for ophthalmology residency.
As a public health facility, the hospital regularly conducts outreach visits to rural communities to provide on-site ophthalmic consultations, and in some cases, these consultations are provided free of charge (22% of consultations).
Awards and Distinctions
– August 2022, Knight of the Cameroon Order of Valour, by the President of the Republic of Cameroon
– January 2022, Best of Africa Award, United Kingdom.
– December 2021, ASBY special price of Professional Competence and social engagement in Health care
– December 2021, Best Hospital Award, REPAC Cameroon
– November 2021, Best Private Hospital, ECHO SANTE Cameroon
– May 2019, Jean and Jacques Chibret Prize, Paris, France
– October 2018, CAMFOMEDICS Award, Berlin, Germany
– December 2017, Cameroon Returnees Award winner in the Health Category.
– September 2012, Knight of the National Order of Merit of the Republic of Madagascar, conferred by the President of Madagascar.
– September 2011, Recipient of the International Council of Ophthalmology’s Helmerich RRF International Fellowship.
– May 2011, Treacher Collins Prize Winner 2011, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists Annual Congress, Birmingham.
– April 2011, American Academy of Ophthalmology International Member Education Award.
– November 2008, Winner of the University of Nairobi Prize for Academic Excellence
– November 1995, Winner of the DAAD (German Academic Exchange) Prize at the University of Göttingen, Germany.
Editor’s Note: The article above is part of a new series of reports MMI will be publishing in collaboartione with renown historian, writer and social critics, Arol Ketchiemen, to celebrate English-speaking Cameroonians who are excelling in the country and abroad.