Dr Claire Gathoni Kinuthia is a consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist with seven-year experience. The 37-year-old is in private practice at PrimeCare Health Services, Upperhill Nairobi.
Dr Claire is also the founder and creative director of They call me Daktari blog and online health and wellness community.
She is also the medical director of Claire’s Argan Gold, a cosmetics firm specialising in organic Moroccan Argan oil products known for their healing benefits. She shares her career path with Sunday Nation.
“I am the firstborn. I have two younger brothers. The five of us, including my parents, are a close-knit family of doctors in different fields of medicine. I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, my earliest memory of this being at age seven when I asked my parents to buy me a doctor toy set at Uchumi. I never went anywhere without that plastic stethoscope! I was obsessed with TV shows about doctors such as ER and Scrubs.
“I was born in Nakuru when my parents were posted there as medical interns, but we moved to Nairobi about two years later when they came to pursue their master’s degrees.
“We lived in Olympic, Kibera, then the Kenyatta Hospital staff flats during my dad’s residency, then moved to Magiwa Estate in Ngumo. We later moved to Karen where my parents built their first home. I grew up in an amazing household with supportive parents who did their best to nurture our talents.
“I remember having ballet classes, piano tutors and even learning Spanish! They were hard-working and even though there were some tough times, we adjusted and never felt like we lacked in any way.
“I was the responsible child and tried to be a good example for my brothers. My parents have always been amazing role models and even when I was tempted to be a bit naughty, I found their example too difficult to ignore.
“I started off my education at Our Lady of Guadalupe Nursery at Adams Arcade, then joined Loreto Convent Valley Road Primary. In class six, I moved to St Patrick’s Hill and later St Anne’s Lioki, Kiambu, for my high school.
“I joined medical school at the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 2003. Those five years were the most challenging of my life. Even as a top performer, I realised I was not prepared for how tough medical school was. My classmates and I were the best of the best, but the school humbled us with tough classes and gruelling hours.
“I celebrate medical school for the attributes and habits it helped instil and fine-tune in us. Discipline is key and keeps you going. Time management and organisation are also key; I still use schedules and to-do lists to help me complete tasks.
“We learned how to work smart and prioritise tasks and goals. We also learned patience and persistence as there are no quick fixes or shortcuts in medicine. We graduated in 2008 and I was posted to Keruguya District Hospital for my internship. My first basic salary was Sh30,000 and the government delayed payment for six months, so I had to lean on my family to cover my expenses.
“Internship was a new challenge but one I enjoyed. It was during my internship that I discovered my passion for reproductive and sexual health.
‘They call me Daktari’
“After that, I worked as a medical officer/general practitioner for two years before applying for a Master’s in Obs/Gyn at the UoN. The four years of residency were tough… We were not paid for the services we provided at KNH. I worked as a locum on the side to pay my bills, but because I had found my passion, I enjoyed the training.
“I graduated as one of the top students in my class in 2015. After that, I discovered the real challenge of working as a specialist doctor in Kenya. The healthcare system takes advantage of doctors, with long hours for little pay. Attempts to change this have been met with resistance and smear campaigns to make the public believe we are just greedy.
“Over time more and more doctors are opting to leave and work in other parts of the world just so they can make ends meet. It’s a sad reality for us as a country because this brain drain is not something we can afford to have when already we don’t have enough doctors for our communities. It was during these struggles that I started my blog, They call me Daktari, to share my personal experiences as a doctor working in Kenya.
“At the time I felt so alone, drained, and demoralized that I didn’t even feel like a ‘proper’ doctor, hence the name. It helped me cope better, my release and therapy if you will. I decided to use it as a space to be honest about the challenges I was facing because no one else was sharing yet so many of us were struggling too. One year later, I won an award for it!
“It has since grown into a huge online community on various platforms (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok) where I continue to endeavor to humanize doctors by openly sharing our challenges and successes, agitate for reform in the Kenyan healthcare system, mentor junior colleges and share medical and health information in an easy-to-understand manner.
“My advice to the youth in Kenya is to think outside the box even in conventional professions or careers. We need new solutions to persistent problems in every sector and the true innovators will be those who decide to color outside the line.
“In my free time I love the outdoors. I prioritize time to spend exploring new places to go running, hiking and camping. I also read a lot and enjoy learning from other people’s experiences as told through books. I enjoy knitting as it helps with my surgical dexterity. I’m also a car enthusiast.”