The unlived life is not worth examining -Sheldon Kopp

Know your doctor- Dr. Catherine Nyongesa Watta

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Born with zero silver spoon, Dr. Catherine Nyongesa is a radiation oncologist who has had to literally earn her place among the very successful health professionals and entrepreneurs of our time. As the director of Texas Cancer Centre, she was recently listed in The Business Daily as a top woman taxpayer. Looking at her now, and all she has accomplished, one might erroneously assume that money has been around her for as long as her age.

Dr Nyongesa is your typical village girl, a first born in a family of ten siblings, born to unemployed teenage parents. Her mother, a class five drop out was thirteen years old when she was born. Her father was in form one. If you say she had a less than humble up bringing, you will be absolutely right!.
She attended a little known Mungeti R.C primary school where she emerged the best student with an aggregate of twenty six points in CPE! This was no mean considering all the hurdles she had to overcome. She says, ‘I had to walk all the way to school and back bare foot. Going to school in an empty stomach was also pretty common. What kept me going was president Moi’s milk.’ Like most of us who grew up deep in poverty, she knows exactly what it means to walk with pieces of old clothes stuffed between your legs. She too has had to take little careful steps, has had to sit on one buttock in class just so she doesn’t soil her uniform. ‘My unemployed parents couldn’t afford to buy me sanitary towels. I had to make do with sponge, pieces of cloth and old blankets. There is however a friend of our family who used to own a tuck shop and once in a while would buy me some pads’, she says.

She joined Misikhu Girls for her High School education. ‘Coming from a remote primary school, I had a culture shock’, she confesses. ‘I was so afraid of those girls because they had come from boarding schools and they knew how to speak proper English. I remember being position thirty six that first term. That was my worst performance through out high school. However with time, I realized that I was as good as them if not better, my grades subsequently improved. I was the best student in both O levels and A levels. I scored a distinction of sixteen points for my O levels and managed three principals and a subsidiary in my A levels, this enabled me to join the university of Nairobi to study medicine.

Hers has been a steady rise from an intern, to a medical officer then to a consultant radiation oncologist who earned her masters degree from the university of Witwatersrand South Africa. A radiation oncologist is a specialist physician who uses ionizing radiation in the treatment of cancer (Wikipedia). Not everyone was enthusiastic about her decision to pursue radiation oncology. “People were more comfortable with me specializing in pediatrics or obstetrics but not oncology, certainly not radiation oncology!” Having taken care of her sister, who had been diagnosed with choriocarcinoma while she was still a medical student, she had made up her mind and there was no turning back.

As an expert in the field of oncology, she acknowledges the fact that Kenya not doing so well as far as the fight of the menace that is cancer is concerned. ‘There is little skilled man power, that compounded with the prohibitive cost of treatment, general lack of awareness and presenting when the cancer is at an advanced stage continues to pose a challenge to the success of treating cancer.’ Public hospitals are known for booking cancer patients for radiotherapy on ‘a wait basis’, because there is always an overwhelming number of patients all requiring the service. Sadly, most patients die while waiting in line to have their radiotherapy.
Doctor Nyongesa confesses that patients breaking down in her consultation room, begging her to “do something”, so they could receive their therapy soon enough is one of the main reasons why she started Texas Cancer Centre- a one stop hospital for cancer patients.
Texas Cancer Centre was started in June 2010 in response to a gap in the East African Region where clients were unable to promptly access specialized cancer treatment  services.’
She says. ‘Since its inception, we have assisted a little over 10,000 cancer patients.’ Texas Cancer Centre is a well-equipped hospital that offers inpatient, and outpatient services to cancer patients, some of the services they offer include; Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy, Cancer screening, Palliative services, Physiotherapy and rehabilitation, Nutritional counseling, Ambulance services, Radio- active iodine treatment. Texas Cancer Centre is located in Nairobi along Mbagathi way, behind Total petrol station. It has grown over time and now has branches in Eldoret and Kisumu towns.

The services are offered at an affordable fee, and promptly. She confirms that these services are available to clients with the following health insurance covers; UAP, NHIF,RESOLUTION, CIC, AON, APA, MADISON, BLISS GVS, IMARISHA SACCO, AAR , BRITAM and JUBILEE.

Her typical day starts at three in the morning with a prayer. She leaves the house at a half past four for her daily rounds seeing her patients admitted in various hospitals in Nairobi including Karen hospital, Mater, South B, Nairobi South, Nairobi West, Meridian, Equator, Coptic, the Nairobi hospital, etc. She then rushes back home, to prepare and see off her children to school. She spends the rest of the morning seeing patients at KNH then at Texas cancer Centre during. With such kind of work ethic, it is therefore no wonder that she has won several awards. In 2007, she was awarded The Employment Excellence Award of Kenyatta National Hospital, in 2008; she won the IGCS Travelling Scholarship Award (IGS-international Gynecologic cancer society). In 2009, she won the IDEA {International development award} from ASCO-American Society of Clinical Oncology. In 2011, she won the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Passport to the World of Oncology Program award.

Spending lots of her time around terminally ill patients has not been without a toll on her. When asked if she has ever been depressed, she answers in the affirmative. ‘It is easy to drain in the sorrow and the pain of patients dying of cancer’. Since making it her life goal to help cancer patients, the success stories are what drives her these days. There was a time when the desire to escape poverty is what used to drive her. These days however, the desire to put a smile on the face of her patients is what keeps her awake at night.
As her way of contributing to society, she brings friends together in order to support cancer patients financially, and emotionally. She also works beyond office hours for the benefit of cancer patients. Busy as she is, she creates time to mentor young doctors.

‘As a doctor, I am constantly reading so as to keep abreast with new developments in the world of medicine. I still refer to my Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology by Carlos Perez, chemotherapy handbooks and Google.’

She credits her success to God and to her family that has been supportive through and through. While some men made their wives to quit their jobs so as to take care of the children, hers has been her number one cheerleader!
The top three adjectives that describe her are; humble, hardworking and persistent!

 

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4 Comments on "Know your doctor- Dr. Catherine Nyongesa Watta"

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Juddyth
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Wow. Another stroke of genius.

I feel as though I have already met her and got to know her over a hot cup of green tea. Her dedication is amazing and so commendable in this day and age.

I simply love the way you have brought out her passion through your narration. Kudos.

Babji
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‘I had to walk all the way to school and back bare foot. Going to school in an empty stomach was also pretty common. What kept me going was president Moi’s milk.’

So inspiring where people come from!!!