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Dr Mary: Oral -Health is a highly neglected field in the health sector and for this reason I was motivated  to practice dentistry in order to restore oral health and transform the lives of patients, and to  shape the future of oral healthcare by engaging in dental education and research . 

Name: Dr. Mary Akumu

Occupation: Medical Doctor

Speciality: Dentist

Place of work: Prestige Dental Services

Years of Practise: 4 years

ESTHER: Thank you for accepting this interview. Briefly tell us about yourself.

Dr Mary: My name is Dr. Mary Akumu, born in Nairobi and raised in Nairobi and Kakamega. I schooled in Nairobi for my primary education and in Western-Kenya for my secondary education and later  joined the University of Nairobi to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dental surgery.  I am a committed professional, who strives for excellence and has in-depth understanding of  dentistry and who is passionate about educating patients the importance of Oral hygiene.  

Mary at work

ESTHER: Nice to know you Mary. What motivated you to practice dentistry? 

Dr Mary: Oral -Health is a highly neglected field in the health sector and for this reason I was motivated  to practice dentistry in order to restore oral health and transform the lives of patients, and to  shape the future of oral healthcare by engaging in dental education and research . 

ESTHER: That is amazing. Why did you choose dentistry and not other fields such as nursing or general medicine? 

Dr Mary: To educate the public on the importance of oral health and disease prevention and I also wanted  a hands-on career and sociable working hours (9AM to 5PM)  

Dentists can balance their personal and professional lives to meet their individual needs and  desires. 

ESTHER: Have you tested your motivation? Explain. 

Dr Mary: My motivation is tested every day at work, I deal with numerous cases some of which could have  been prevented with proper oral health education at the community level. 

ESTHER: Amazing. If you were not accepted at medical school, would you have an alternative career plan  and still pursue your motivation? 

Dr Mary: NO. Because it has always been my dream and career goal to practise dentistry and advance  better outcomes in the specialty. If I was not accepted, I would still go back to school to get better  grades to allow me to join medical school. 

ESTHER: And how do you visualise using your dentistry education, Mary? 

Dr Mary: To improve the quality of life of people through treating the various dental related pathologies,  for example by relieving patients’ pain by doing a root canal treatment or fabricating a denture to  help people eat foods they may previously have struggled to eat due to missing teeth. To educate the general public on the importance of oral healthcare.  

ESTHER: Would you want to pursue any other field? Why?  

Dr Mary: Yes, public health. This will enable me to keep communities healthy and enhance my goal for dental related disease  prevention and accessibility to oral healthcare. 

Public health is diverse and takes into account the health of the whole population rather than focusing on health at an individual level and this will help me reach out to a bigger population  hence creating a bigger impact. 

ESTHER: How have you been able to handle work-related stress and time management considering  that you’re balancing between family and work? 

Dr Mary: First of all, dentistry practice provides me with sociable working hours giving me more time to  spend with my family. 

My joy is derived from creating smiles and relieving patients’ pain and this helps me in dealing  with work related stress. 

I also take time to recharge by “switching off” from work by having periods of time when I am neither engaging in work related activities nor thinking about work, taking time off to relax and  unwind. 

ESTHER: That brings me to the next question, what do you do for fun? 

Dr Mary: I enjoy travelling. I find travelling to be relaxing and it helps me release tension and make new discoveries about  the word. 

I also do a lot of cycling. It’s a form of exercise and something I enjoy doing. 

Enjoying some good time

ESTHER: What role has your family played to influence your decision in pursuing medicine? 

Dr Mary: My family is loving and supportive. As a result of this love and support, I had confidence in my  abilities to choose and pursue dentistry as a career.  Throughout my studies my family has encouraged me not to give up even when things got tough. 

ESTHER: What have you achieved in your career course? 

Dr Mary: I have transformed patients’ lives through creating smiles and this provides me with a lot of  satisfaction which gives me motivation to continue doing what I do. 

ESTHER: What are the experiences working with sick people? 

Dr Mary: The experience can be traumatising at times especially working in a public set up where  resources are limited, but it’s satisfying to see patients put all their hopes on my ability and skills  to improve their quality of live by restoring their oral health  

ESTHER: What excites you about dentistry in general? 

Dr Mary: Transforming patients’ lives through creating beautiful smiles. 

ESTHER: That is precise. Do you keep yourself updated with current medical trends?

Dr Mary: Yes, I do. 

I do this through continuous professional development, reading and researching current advances in dentistry. This provides me with skills to achieve better treatment outcomes in my  patients using current technologies. 

ESTHER: What do you see as challenges in the health sector in Kenya today? 

Dr Mary: There are numerous challenges in healthcare in both public and private as follows. 

For instance, the doctor patient ratio is wanting. This increases the patient mortality rates since it  may take longer for a patient to get access to a doctor. In medicine, each second counts. The  longer the patient takes to access a doctor, the worse the condition gets. Other challenges are:

  • Limited access to healthcare facilities especially in rural set ups. 
  • Lack of adequate personnel and expertise to address the medical needs. 
  • Poor infrastructure where most facilities do not have proper facilities to handle the medical  challenges. 
  • Limited resources channelled to the health industry especially in the public sector where private  operates on a demand basis “Willing buyer willing seller” which can only be afforded by a small  fraction of the general public. 

ESTHER: How do you think these challenges should be addressed? 

Dr Mary: There should be Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to ensure that all people obtain the quality health  services they need without financial hardship. 

Also the Government and stakeholders should aim at improving infrastructure in hospitals  through public private partnerships (PPP). 

ESTHER: What is the vision of healthcare in Kenya? 

Dr Mary: The vision is to provide equitable, affordable and quality healthcare to all, and this can be  achieved through realisation Universal healthcare Coverage (UHC). 

As a country Kenya should focus more on preventive medicine rather than curative medicine and  this can be achieved through adequate community education and home based care. 

ESTHER: What is the vision of healthcare in East Africa? 

Dr Mary: My thinking is that there should be easy exchange of knowledge and best practice between the  countries in East Africa, which if incorporated can potentially improve better outcomes for various conditions . 

For a long time individual countries in East Africa continue to act solely which is a challenge  when it comes to advancement of knowledge and skills in the health sector.  A vision for Universal Health coverage (UHC) Will be strategic in addressing the unacceptable inequalities and inequities that have kept the East Africa region lacking far behind others in terms  of health indices and enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of life.

ESTHER: Thank you for your time Dr Mary.

Written by Esther Mugo.

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