Dr Ednah Akinyi Ojee is an experienced pediatrician, child health practitioner, and researcher.
She is also a writer, mentor, and tutorial fellow in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Nairobi School of Medicine.
The mother of one shared her career journey with the Sunday Nation.
I was born in Nairobi into a Christian family. I’m the third born among five siblings. My late father was a civil servant while my mother worked for a parastatal.
Our parents ensured we attended church and participated in activities and this is where some of my most valued lifelong relationships began. We spent part of our school holidays in our home village Siaya County which allowed us to experience rural life and understand the difference between city life and village life.
From an early age, I understood the importance of community and family support and this continues to be an integral support system on my life’s journey.
My father was a strict disciplinarian and encouraged us to develop ourselves all round, beyond academics. My mother, on the other hand, was a homemaker per excellence, and naturally, we followed her example.
My educational journey started at All Saints Cathedral Nursery School. I later joined Nairobi Primary School. After completing primary school, I read the book Gifted Hands by Ben Carson, a world-famous American neurosurgeon. The book inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.
For my secondary education, I joined Moi Girls High School, Nairobi. After high school I joined Kenya Medical Training College, Nakuru then proceeded to the University of Nairobi School of Medicine, where I pursued a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery course then I did Masters in Paediatrics and Child Health.
After graduating from KMTC Nakuru, as a clinical officer, the usual path was to get posted by the government and start working immediately. However, after I graduated, the government was not employing, and I needed to find work. I was offered part-time clinical work by a physician from our church. He later recommended I apply for a position as a research assistant at Kemri for public health research on a nationwide study on Iodine deficiency disorders that informed Kenya’s national salt iodization policy.
This opportunity to work in various parts of the country collecting data and learning about research further opened my eyes to the possibility of combining a career in medicine with research.
As the research project was winding up, the government was employing health workers and I was employed to work at a government district hospital where I worked for two years. My parents kept encouraging me to pursue my dream which they believed I would achieve.
My dad died during my search for a medical school and he did not live to see me graduate as a medical doctor. I was admitted to the University of Nairobi’s parallel degree program but on my government salary, I could not afford the fees. I was however granted study leave for the duration of my training. My family and our friends were greatly assisted in fundraising for my fees for medical training.
My mother has a lot of faith in God and she encouraged me on to complete the program. I have been blessed by the support I received from my parent’s friends from a long-standing chama they belonged to as well as friends from church and Bible study.
I’ve come to appreciate my career growth as well as the people and relationships I’ve built. I recognise that beyond accumulating accolades and ticking boxes, how I bless others on my way up is what is remembered beyond arrival at the destination.
To go fast, go it alone but if you want to go far in life, go with others since we are better together. This has helped me through life and in my medical training, I found that study groups enabled me to cover a lot more content than doing this on my own.
A choice to offer my service in the public/government facilities and make a difference in healthcare for the public health sector is one of the major decisions I have had to make in my career.
My current role is Consultant Pediatrician and tutorial fellow at the University of Nairobi. I teach Pediatrics and child health to undergraduate medical students in their third and fifth year.
My advice to the youth is to start where you are and go from there, use what God has given you in hand your natural talents, gifts and abilities.