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DOCTOR’S PROFILE: Sylvia Ntamwinja

Esther: Thank you Sylvia for finding time for this interview. We appreciate your time.
Please tell us more about yourself.

Dr Sylvia: Well I’m a first born out of six. I grew up in Eldoret. Completed primary education in Ancilla Catholic Academy. Then proceeded to Butere Girls High School. And here I am currently in Kenya Methodist University pursuing what I love, Medicine. One interesting thing is I loved leadership as I grew up but was never confident till I decided to step out of the comfort zone while I joined high school and I’ve never stopped since.

My childhood passion

Esther: Wow, that’s amazing. What was the greatest motivation behind you practising medicine?

Dr Sylvia: It started with compassion at a young age, seeing people in pain and I said I’ll grow up to be a doctor in order to create a vaccine for HIV and cure for cancer that was in class five. And as I grew, I just had the desire to help people especially medically and that’s what drives me 

Esther: A passionate child you were! Why did you choose Medicine and not other fields such as Public Health or Nursing?

Dr Sylvia: I chose Medicine first mainly because it had always been my dream since childhood. I think my mum played a key role in always reminding me to always work hard for the right grades to become a doctor. So it was automatic i was choosing Medicine and nothing else after my K.C.S.E. However I didn’t get the A of 84 that I was always told would grant me Medicine automatically. So when I got my results I had an A- my mum gave me a warning or was it advice…the way our African mothers do it.

I remember during selection she told me,” Sylivia if you want Medicine, choose for all the options given Medicine, only do a variation in the spot for university. If you don’t, please don’t come to me when you don’t get Medicine.” So I chose that gamble which was a good one and I thank God I’m pursuing my dream career.

Esther: Wow, your mum must be so supportive too. And what do you like most about practising medicine and why?

Dr Sylvia: I like how Medicine unravels the complexity of the human body. How I’ll get to learn the structure of organs and their functions the  relate it to disease and then on to possible remedies. I find this just exciting.

Medicine is the calling for me. Every aspect of it helps me discover purpose. In studying the human body, I just marvel at God’s power in creation.

Esther: What is the major thing you would want to accomplish in your medical career?

Dr Sylvia: I have a lot of things in my bucket list. But I’d love to get to the decision making tables for inclusive healthcare policies and push for their implementation.

Medical education

Esther: How do you visualise using your Medical education?

To render medical services which is more or less obvious.

To start an initiative that offers top-notch service even in our continent Africa that is by some standards not yet well developed medically.

To be able to advocate for better health care services for minorities and push for healthcare at grassroot levels. With that there’s a wonderful health cascade that will be experienced in our countries.

Esther: Wow, amazing. Which other medical field would you want to pursue and why?

Dr Sylvia: I’d love to pursue Public Health and/or Global Health. Other than rendering healthcare services in the hospital set up. I feel the gap and need to advocate for better health policies and ensuring primary level care in our countries.

Getting to know Dr Sylvia deeper

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

Dr Sylvia: Balance is truly a vital aspect. I’m not going to say I’m at perfect balance. Rather giving the best at the little time. For me school takes a huge chunk of time yet I have my own personal life plus health advocacy something I love doing. What I do is when it’s time to be in school I fully maximise then when I ought to go out even if it’s for a short while I ensure to give the best effort.

Taking breaks has been key. At times I just withdraw for a while from a lot of engagements in order to recharge.

Esther: And what do you do for fun?

Dr Sylvia: I love hiking and generally visiting new places.

Then just to relax I love taking nature walks. Sleeping isn’t necessarily a hobby but when I’m not hiking or walking I love naps.

Esther: What have you achieved in your career course?

Dr Sylvia: So far despite my small progress academically. I’m happy to be able to rally fellow medical students in health awareness campaign and medical camps.

1.I’m keen on health advocacy especially Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.
I love the aspect of leadership and growth in it

2. I’m a YALI (Young African Leadership Initiative) Alumnus. An opportunity I got From the various volunteering activities and Leadership in the Medical Field.

3. I service in the Medical Association as Public Health Chairperson.

4. I also am the current Organising Secretary for Redcross in the KeMU Chapter.

5. I’ve led in the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations as East Africa OFAC chair.

6. I volunteer with RESPEKT – Reproductive and Sexual Health Program for Kenyan Teenagers where I am the chapter coordinator in Meru.

7. I’m currently a Liaison Officer for Standing Committee for Reproductive Health and AIDS in the Medical Students’ Association of Kenya

8. In a bid to understand mental health even better and offer solutions, I’m part of the Kenya Methodist University Peer Counsellors Club.

9. I’ve organised health awareness walks in Meru such as HIV/AIDS, breast cancer awareness and an anti-GBV awareness during the 16 Days of Activism against GBV in 2022.

Esther: Wow, wow those are quite some achievements and leadership skills you got there. Go for it!

Medicine in General

Dr Sylvia: I love the advocacy aspect of Medicine it’s intriguing for me and being able to bring health care to the vulnerable 

Esther: Do you keep yourself updated with current trends?

Dr Sylvia: Yes of course information is very important. In a rapidly changing world it’s either you’re on the know or you lose relevance.

Challenges in the Medical Field

Dr Sylvia: They’re quite a number lemme talk of One .

Mental Health is really a vital aspect for Doctors and it doesn’t begin in the hospitals but in Medical School.The mental Health challenge for Doctors it’s due to the work overload and the emotional aspects attached to dealing with patients and Even losing them.

For students it mainly goes down to balancing in medical school especially at such a time as now with fast changes in life. The nature of the workload academically can also be frustrating.

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

Dr Sylvia: I’ll speak first for students being one of them. A proper induction into Med school and preparation will go a very long way.

Organising for constant mental health promotion with physical activities or just hangouts where seniors and juniors meet to share experiences. Creating interactive sessions with doctors in order to motivate and inspire the students

For Doctors, workload is very pressing. There’s a great need to work on the doctor: patient ratios. this way doctors will be less burdened. Employers should create favourable working conditions as well so that medics won’t be going to work without the zeal yet it’s something they should enjoy doing as they give back to their societies.

The future of healthcare

Esther: Where do you see Kenya in terms of Healthcare in years to come?

Dr Sylvia: If proper measures are put in place then we will have more allocation of the country’s budget to healthcare and get to have functional healthcare facilities from the primary level.

Esther: Where do you see Africa in terms of Healthcare in years to come.

Dr Sylvia: I see an Africa that has grown in research and is able to offer solutions to medical challenges not just those affecting Africa but the world as well. This will be if we continue mentoring and moulding upcoming doctors.

Esther: Thank you for your time Dr Sylvia.

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