Yesterday, contrary to popular belief about my coldness, I got heartbroken. A lady by the name Edith Njeri looked me straight in the eye and said these not so palatable words; “Too much Ugali is dangerous to your health!” Stop smiling, it was serious business. Actually I did laugh at the statement, before she quickly retorted; “Haya, na usicheke, this is serious. Ugali and any other carbohydrates is highly oxidative and consuming too much of it is not healthy. It can even alter your DNA!” Now that was real scary. My heart sunk. Literally. Especially when her mean declaration was endorsed by six other colleagues. Her other partners in crime included one Joyce Kahwai, Doris Kiboi, Abdirizack Aftin, Geoffrey Maina, Florence Njeri and Kevin Njoroge, all of whom are Public Health graduands awaiting their graduation in the upcoming JKUAT’s 27th Graduation Ceremony scheduled for 30th of this month. And no, before you make an assumption, I was not taking Ugali at the time. It was a topic on healthy diet we were discussing, where I was defending Ugali as being among the healthiest foods.
Following our post this week on Course of the week where we featured B.Sc. Public Health, I had the opportunity to interact with these great minds, a representative of the Public Health Class awaiting graduation, to share their experience of studying the course in JKUAT and their career expectations going forward. But even before I transcribe their interviews and inputs, I have to say what a huge learning experience it was interacting with them. Biggest lesson? Just as my friend Aslaksen would have said; Moderation. Only this time, as pertains to diet. Let’s now listen to the Health Experts.
What inspired you to pursue Public Health?
Edith; I have always believed that prevention is better than cure, and Public Health mainly focuses on preventive aspects of human health. It also came from my love for a better, healthier nation.
Geoffrey; I have always had compassion for children. There is an increase in child mortality cases and morbidity cases. This mainly informed my choice of this course.
Abdirizack; I had always wanted to do a course related to health and I found Public Health as the best option for me.
Doris; First I can say I have passion for a healthy community. By the time I was settling for public health, I had done Clinical Medicine and was working. From my experience at various hospitals, I had the desire to also get equipped on how to prevent the diseases in the first place and even prevent people from having to go to the hospitals. This made Public Health a natural choice, especially because it has a large scope and has a lot to offer in terms of career development.
Joyce; My passion came from the desire to reduce the disease burden from the community.
How did studying the course at JKUAT satisfy your expectations?
Edith; studying in JKUAT not only gave me quality knowledge in class, but also equipped me with skills to handle both an international and local setting of public health aspects.
Geoffrey; I was able to identify various ways to bring solutions in our community, case in point, health education in the community, and I’m now ready and prepared to serve when an outbreak occurs. I learnt ways to prevent diseases for example vaccination of children to boost their immunity.
Abdirizack; JKUAT imparted the knowledge I required through theories, practicals and two attachments, which gave sufficient exposure.
Doris; Studying the course at JKUAT has enabled me to look at things and argue them from a wider perspective. One especially useful area was the understanding of epidemiological theories in terms of causes, spread and how frequently diseases occur in a community.
What are some of your memorable experiences while studying the course?
Edith; we once visited a very remote village in Voi, and the interesting thing from a public health perspective is that every house had a clean latrine, water in a bottle just outside the latrines and ash which acted as soap! I also remember our visit to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve which as the most butterflies in East Africa!
Geoffrey; Trips in public health, in Mombasa and Kilifi, where we learnt a lot to do with Community Total Lead Sanitation (CTLS). This was one forum where we able to engage with the community, and helped to mobilize the community and create ownership of the project that they had started.
Joyce; My research work with my supervisor, Dr. Gachohi, who inspired me a lot.
What would you say makes JKUAT an ideal destination to offer this course?
Edith; JKUAT makes you an all-rounded student, and it has the best lecturers in public health when it comes to experience and quality of knowledge passed.
Geoffrey; The lecturers are supportive and are always reliable. The research work done in School of Public Health is top notch, and this enables students to acquire abilities to do research work in order to deal with the health problems in the community at large, therefore solutions are designed and interventions are made.
Doris; JKUAT has the right facilities to offer public health. the course outlines for various units are also well organized to ensure the students obtain the main objectives and skills.
Do you have any current engagements that relate to what you studied? And what do you expect after graduation?
Edith; I was involved in the recent national vaccination program. I hope to work in any organization that deals with different public health concepts to help them achieve their corporate goals.
Abdirizack; I am currently working at KEBS, and I intend to continue working there even after graduation.
Doris; I’m currently promoting prevention with positives. This entails educating people living with HIV on how to avoid infecting new individuals by adhering to various guidelines as well as promoting adherence to antiretroviral drugs. I also look forward to engaging in project management in my area of expertise.
Apart from employment, how do you intend to use your skills to impact on the society?
Geoffrey; I intend to ensure people are educated on how to live a healthy life. Also, I plan to help in policy making process, especially raising issues that are experienced at grass-root level.
Edith; I intend to create awareness on different issues within my community that might be health a hazard.
Abdirizack; I want to empower the society and communities, to create awareness on both communicable and non-communicable diseases, especially how they can be prevented.
What are some of the personalities in JKUAT that greatly impacted on your Public Health career development?
Edith; there’s Dr. Mokaya, who was my lecturer and project supervisor. He taught me the importance of not being average in your work and defending the right thing.
Geoffrey; Dr. Gideon Kikuvi, for the immense support during my research project. Also, Mr Udi Kamau, who is a professional Psychologist and one lecturer who has a unique and effective way of teaching. His class sessions were interactive; one would be engaged emotionally, physically and cognitively. Then there’s Dr. Gachohi, Examination Officer in School of Public Health, his lessons were interactive and his methodology was superb.
Abdirizack; Mostly I can say all my lecturers, but just to mention a few, Dr. John Gachohi and Dr. D M Kamau. They were very helpful.
Doris; Basically all the lecturers were helpful, but I can cite Prof. Karanja, very elaborate in his teaching. Dr. Gachohi, very supportive in research work, and Prof. Makokha, who was very involving and extensive in his lectures.
If you were to become a student again, what would you do differently?
Edith; I would appreciate my lecturers more. Its only once you get out here that you realize how much sacrifice and work they put in making sure you get the knowledge to make the world a better place.
Geoffrey; I have no regrets so far, but maybe I would take things more seriously and probably wake up a bit earlier. I’d also maybe seek more advice and listen more keenly to lectures.
Doris; I think I would engage the lecturers more to ensure I tap more knowledge than I have.
Joyce; I would impart the knowledge I have on other students not taking public health.
What aspect of Public Health are you most passionate about, and how do you plan to put this into action?
Edith; I love maternal child care. I just don’t understand why a mother should die while giving life just due to lack of resources. I’m also passionate about water and sanitation, and I believe every citizen has a right to clean, safe water.
Geoffrey; that would be Child health care – I plan to work with various relevant persons to ensure children, especially under the age of five, live a healthy lifestyle free from diseases.
Doris; I am very passionate in curbing the occurrence and spread of disease. I look forward to working in programmes engaging in disease surveillance to promote a healthy nation.
Joyce; that would be PMTCT, Prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. I plan to actively participate in helping educate infected mothers.
As a Public Health expert, if you were to give one health-related advice to the public, what would it be?
Geoffrey; I’d like to especially emphasize to people the importance of sanitation and hygiene. This will help prevent diseases that could affect the people and the community at large.
Edith; I would tell the public to stop being ignorant. Most diseases are caused by being ignorant or negligent to simple advice like washing hands after visiting the toilet, or breastfeeding your child exclusively for the first six months!
Doris; Health begins with you. If we changed our lifestyle and mind one another by taking care of our environment, we’ll be one happy healthy nation.
Joyce; Avoid consuming contaminated food and drinks.