“Daktari Wangu” is Swahili for “My Doctor“.
Welcome to Daktari Wangu, a short Q&A segment that features Kenyan medical doctors in various medical fields and specialties. This weekly Friday feature is intended to help us get to know our doctors better and help demystify an integral part of the Kenyan healthcare system. It also aims to help anyone looking for a medical specialist in Kenya to find one who fits their needs as well as to highlight suitable mentors for our junior colleagues.
What a great way to start your Friday!
This week we have the absolute pleasure of featuring Dr. Stellah Wairimu Bosire-Otieno. Her story (here & here) is true testament that hard work, determination and persistence will move mountains and help you achieve your goals and dreams.
Update: Starting on the 1st of October 2016, the amazing Dr. Bosire-Otieno has taken over as C.E.O. of the Kenya Medical Association This is in addition to the many many other titles she holds and influential roles she plays in the healthcare sector. A true powerhouse indeed! She is a real inspiration to many and I would like to take this opportunity to wish her all the success in her new role. Congratulations Daktari!!
Good morning Daktari and thank you so much for joining us today.
1. To start off, please tell us about yourself and your qualifications.
I am Dr. Stellah Wairimu Bosire – Otieno, a medical doctor by profession. I hold Bachelors in Medicine and Surgery from The University of Nairobi; I am currently pursuing a Masters in Global Health Policy from the University of London International program. I am also pursuing an MBA in Healthcare Management from Strathmore Business School.
I hold multiple other trainings, one of the key ones is Research and Reproductive Health from Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research in collaboration with the WHO and HIV Clinical Management certificate from University of Washington. I have also undertaken various trainings in HIV prevention programs for Key populations, on maternal and Child health, and Health system management
2. What drew you to Medicine as a career?
I know it sounds cliché, but my mom drew me into the field of Medicine, coupled with the health challenges I saw growing up in Kibera. My mom struggled with mental illness all her life and as a child, I always wanted to find a solution, actually I initially wanted to pursue Neurosurgery. She is now deceased.
Growing up, we had a lot of challenges as pertaining healthcare, from water borne diseases, to the chronic illness that time and time again resulted in premature loss of life both infant and in the adult population. Healthcare in the informal areas is not affordable and this has resulted in many people them seeking care from unqualified personnel are alternative forms of medicine which have been more detrimental than helpful.
3. Are you primarily in clinical practice, working in a non-clinical field or do you have interests outside of medicine as well?
I have just taken up a new role as the Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Medical Association, which is more of a Health Systems and Policy role. I however also intend to start my private practice and I have already received partnership offers. I will say this for a fact, I love the interactions I have with my patients and I am not intending to stop soon.
I have also been serving as the Vice Chairperson of HIV/AIDS Tribunal of Kenya, the only such Tribunal in the world that arbitrates on injustices against people living with HIV/AIDS. The Tribunal has and continues to be a powerful tool whose goals is to protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and at the same time push for the agenda of Zero infection in 2030. This means that our patients are accessing healthcare without prejudice, they are adherent and this further encourages the uptake of HIV Voluntary Testing.
Part of my role as the CEO of KMA is managing the Associations arm in Real Estate, the KMA center which is valued at 2.1 Billion. This is an investment initiative for Doctors and currently we are in the market looking for investors. Further, I also ensure cohesion in our other arms of KMA, notably KMA Housing Cooperative and KMA Sacco. These two are also alternative investment opportunities for our Doctors.
4. Briefly describe your typical work day.
I start my day at 4 am; I catch up with my class work, by 6:30am – 7am I am already at the office. I organize my day, reply emails, and organize meetings with clients. I then catch up with what I had not finished in the morning. At 5pm I head home, make dinner, then head to the gym where I spend at least 1-2 hrs. I catch up with my books again after dinner.
5. What do you do with your free time/what are your specific hobbies outside of work?
I cook, a lot. Gourmet food. I am a motivational speaker and notably I have been invited in multiple forums including the Coca Cola Women Delegation, JKUAT, The Nairobi University, UN, High Schools are other private engagements. I speak on different issues among them Innovation in Healthcare, Universal Access to Healthcare, Work Lifestyle balance, Human rights in healthcare, Creating opportunities for women in Business.
6. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Prioritizing is key in life. For me, my family is core in my eco-system. I have learned to always finish what I start. I separate work and family and focus on each at the right time. I never leave engagements hanging, giving me an opportunity to pick new challenges as they arise. I actively create time during the weekends to hang out with my girls, despite our busy schedules, we make a point of catching up over coffee or lunch.
7. Doctors have been increasingly accused of not heeding their own advice on leading a healthy lifestyle. How do you approach your own personal fitness and nutrition?
The life of a Doctor is an adrenaline charged lifestyle, constantly managing emergencies, deaths, keeping up to date with the current innovations in healthcare among other issues. Managing the emotions of the doctor especially in times of grief for their patient has never been looked into. We have brilliant doctors who do not debrief. We take care of many but who takes care of us?
And this being a challenge, the KMA has started a program that looks at the life and health of the Doctor beyond the stethoscope. We are developing programs specific for our doctors that will ensure they eat healthy, exercise in form of excursions, share and debrief etc.
Personally, I run every alternate day, I also do indoor exercises aided by my husband and son (my greatest supporters). I eat a lot of vegetables, lots of white meat and drink at least 2L of water per day.
8. What are some of the challenges that you and your colleagues face in the practice of medicine in Kenya today? How do you think some of these challenges can be overcome?
a. The Human Resource is and continues to be a perennial challenge. We constantly see Doctors on strike due to remuneration challenges. This challenges were brought about by the rush to the Devolution in Healthcare. I am not saying that devolution is wrong, with all honesty, it has ensured access to different services in the grass roots which is great initiative. The challenges have been that the right systems were not put in place to handle these transitions.
b. There is need to have an ALL inclusion in Policy and decision pertaining healthcare in the country. Many are times policies are developed by others then handed to the Doctors for implementation. How does one implement a policy they do not understand? Of course this will bring resistance in all spheres.
c. Training- Kenya has not met the WHO recommendation of 1 doctor to 1000 patients, we are at 1 doctor serving 10,000 patients. When the doctors express the need to further their training and are denied the chance to acquire specialized training, that then means that the gap will only widen more as these doctors are looking for opportunities outside Kenya (Healthcare migration which is a big challenge in Kenya and Africa as a whole).
d. Government investment in Healthcare. Let’s face it, we are not even Achieving a 1/3 of the Abuja declaring in Healthcare expenditure.
e. Healthcare in Kenya has started attracting investors worldwide, however this is only in private practice. The government needs to revamp and package the public facilities in such a manner that it attracts investors. There is a lot that can be achieved with Public Private Partnership especially in closing the gaps in Primary Healthcare access.
9. How do you define success and what motivates you?
Success is finding happiness in what you.
I am motivated by change. Change in leadership, change in governance, change in perceptions. Every day I am pushed to becoming that which I was not.
My driving force is encountering challenges. That drives me towards finding solutions. I am a solution-based leader.
10. What advice would you give to a young person thinking about going into medical school or those currently in medical training now?
Money is overrated. Find your niche, grow in it and outdo yourself. That way money will find you.
Thank you so much Dr. Bosire-Otieno for making time to join us today. It has been my absolute pleasure to get to share your story with the world. I’m sure it will inspire many others out there.
Finally Daktari, where is your office and how can we reach you?
The KMA office is on the 4th floor of KMA Centre on Mara road in Upperhill and my contact details are as follows:
Kenya Medical Association,
Phone: +254 722 275 695
Asante sana daktari and enjoy the rest of your day!
I hope we’ve all enjoyed that informative session and look forward to others to come. Feel free to contact me with questions you would like added or answered by your medical professional as we go along. Also include medical doctors you’d like to see featured in future posts. Have a wonderful weekend ahead!
Click here in case you missed our previous feature.
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