PROF. OMOLO; FROM A PREACHER TO A CHILD PSYCHIATRIST
Name: Prof. Omolo Otieno Erasto MBChB, MPH, Mmed Psychiatry
date of birth: 15th May 1948
Current Recidence: Kisumu city
Current Employer: Maseno University
Finally, theDoctor managed to catch up with one of Kenya’s most revered professors of medicine. Having practiced medicine for almost half a century, professor Omolo has gathered more than enough experience in the field of medicine. He has worked in multiple hospitals and held multiple positions in various places all over the county.
Professor Omolo, currently working as a lecturer in the department of psychiatry in Maseno University School of Medicine, is no stranger in the medical field. He has taught many and mentored many. Those we managed to talk to described the renowned professor as a strongly opinionated yet deeply caring and loving doctor with nothing but passion for what he does.
He is a delight to his students, always leaving them in stitches as he drives the point home. His logical explanations for even the toughest of human and society issues is what stands out unique for Prof. Omolo.
theDoctor managed to have a chat with the great psychiatrist lasting close to two hours and prepared this exclusive one on one.
Childhood and Early Life
theDoctor: Thank you very much prof. for agreeing to be featured on theDoctor.
Prof. Omolo: Thank you too it’s my pleasure.
theDoctor: Please tell us about your early life, where were you born?
Prof. Omolo: well, I was born in Homabay county in a polygamous family, my mother being the elder wife and me as the 9th born, well technically the last born since the 10th child died in infancy.
theDoctor: what year were you born?
Prof. Omolo: May of 1948.
theDoctor: How was it like for you, growing up in Homabay.
Prof. Omolo: Who tells you I grew up in Homabay (laughing). I actually grew up in Musoma, Tanzania. From the age of 5 until I was an adult.
theDoctor: oooh! Interesting, So, did you go to school there as well?
Prof. Omolo: Of course, I was staying with an older brother of mine, who was working there as a clinical officer, so I went to school there.
theDoctor: Which school did you attend?
Prof. Omolo: I went to two primary schools; Mugango mission school, from class 1 through to 4 then Bumangi middle school from class 5 to class 8.
From there I attended secondary school at Alliance Secondary school, Mudoma, still in Musoma; I passed very well at my O level examination and was called to Dar es Salaam for my A levels.
theDoctor: which school?
Prof. Omolo: St. Francis, Pugu, Collage: the same school, in fact the only school Nyerere taught in. It was a catholic school but it was very liberal. It even had protestant teachers. It was a really nice experience.
theDoctor: Which Medical school did you attend.
Prof. Omolo: I went to the University of Dar ES Salaam. I was among the pioneer medical students because I was in the 3rd Lot. I joined in 1970 and graduated in 1975.
theDoctor: How many Kenyans were you and how was it for you there.
Prof. Omolo: I was not Kenyan (laughing) I was Tanzanian. I mean I had spent all my life there. But we had a few Kenyans, some Ugandans. You see back then East Africa was Just East Africa, with the same leadership, same currency, even the education system was basically the same.
theDoctor: Did you ever work in Tanzania after you had qualified?
Prof Omolo: No. once I had graduated I decided to come back to the motherland. I did my internship in Kenyatta National Hospital.
theDoctor: oooh! I see, what about your Masters?
Prof. Omolo: I did masters in Public health in 1977 to 1978 at the university of Minnesota in the United States of America.
theDoctor: Public Health! Not psychiatry?
Prof. Omolo: No first I did Public health. Back then the government was sending us for various scholarship trainings, so I was sent to study public health. However, I did enroll into a Psychiatry Mmed training in Chicago, while in the US. But the government recalled me before I could finish.
theDoctor: So, when did you do Mmed psychiatry?
Prof. Omolo: I did that in Kenya, at The University of Nairobi. Between 1981 and 1985. We lost one year though due to the attempted coup of 1982, I could have finished in 1984.
theDoctor: I see. By then the program had been established.
Prof. Omolo: Yes, in fact I could have done it earlier only that it was among the last of the master’s programs to be established at UON and i was in the first post graduate class.
theDoctor: Child psychiatry?
Prof. Omolo: Yes, that I did in the UK.
Prof. Omolo: its nothing big actually, it was a world health organization initiative, they wanted to have more psychiatrists not just in Kenya but in all the developing countries. So they gave us a paid working scholarship to the UK.
I studies child psychiatry at the University of Manchester and Lancaster for 3 years.
theDoctor: wow that’s amazing. What year was that.
Prof. Omolo: that was between 1987 and 1989. Before I came back and settled in Kenya.
theDoctor: I Understand you have worked in a lot of places. Do you mind sharing that experience.
Prof. Omolo: That will take us the whole day here (laughing) I have worked in almost every part of this country:
Let me see, before I became a psychiatrist I worked at KNH, Nyanza provincial hospital, Siaya from where I went to the states for MPH.
When I returned I went to Mathare hospital, started Makueni hospital, I went to Kilifi from where I went back for Masters in UON in 1981.
After that I went back to Mombasa as the chief regional psychiatrist from where I went to the UK.
theDoctor: Then you came back in 1990, is it?
Prof. Omolo: Yes, I came back and I was supposed to join the university but I didn’t, I was posted to Mombasa as the PMO. From there back to Mathare as the chief specialist psychiatrist.
From there I worked at the ministry of health in the division of research, health standards and inspectorate. Then took an early retirement from the ministry and went to Join Moi university.
theDoctor: So that’s where you started your teaching career.
Prof. Omolo: Yes, I was the head of the department of psychiatry for more than 10 years. Until around 2008. Before one of our former students came back and became head, professor Gakinya. So, I continued to be there as a lecturer up to until 2015.
theDoctor: From there Maseno?
Prof. Omolo: Yes, but not directly, in 2012, 2013 there I joined Uzima university briefly, they were just starting, I was there as the head of behavioral sciences as an associate professor. Though Moi was still my primary University.
I joined Maseno in 2015, became a professor fully, and, here we are.
theDoctor: How do you find teaching
Prof. Omolo: Oooh! I love it. Teaching is very fulfilling to me.
theDoctor: what about practice of psychiatry? Did you always want to become a psychiatrist?
Prof. Omolo: It’s just the same thing. I enjoy teaching psychiatry very much, I find the mind very intriguing. No, I didn’t always want to be a psychiatrist. You know as you go through medical school and the medical career you realize your passions, your likes your dislikes an you choose accordingly.
theDoctor: What are your future plans in terms of your career.
Prof. Omolo: A day hospital.
Prof. Omolo: A day hospital is simply a psychiatric hospital where patients are taken care of during the day and they go back home in the evening. So, they are saved from being a burden to their families, kept away from the streets, given medication and rehabilitated accordingly: they can be taught a life skill like carpentry and horticulture. They also get meals 3 or 4 times a day.
That is one thing that is very close to my heart. And I hope I can partner with some relevant authorities like the county government and open that. I think it would be a very good thing for Kisumu. But I’m trying to look around and I just shrink.
According to Prof. Omolo
theDoctor provides a platform where doctors can air their views on any matter affecting the entire medical family. Prof. Omolo is one very opinionated doctor and its only fair we hear some of his thoughts on various issues.
theDoctor: Prof. what are your thoughts on religion? Are you an atheist?
Prof. Omolo: I’m not an atheist in the literal meaning of the word. I appreciate religion and its role in society in teaching morality to society but those believes of heaven and salvation I do not subscribe to that (laughing). Both heaven and hell are right here.
I think people need to study and understand religion properly. You see for me, I went to Christian schools throughout in fact, at some point in school I used to preach but then I realized it was useless.
theDoctor: So, you don’t believe that there is a God.
Prof. Omolo: No. but i like the teachings of the bible, they really help shape society. and all religions are the same by the way (laughing). Its only ignorance that makes some people believe that their religion is superior.
theDoctor: Ok. What do you think of the health sector in Kisumu.
Prof. Omolo: I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Medical services are still far below optimum. First of all, there needs to be more staff, for example in Psychiatry there are only three doctors in the whole region. And the psychiatry nurses are even fewer.
The medical schools were supposed to help but so far, I think there is a lot of mismanagement and we are not moving forward as fast as we should be. Compared to my former university, there is a huge disadvantage to the students.
theDoctor: For example?
Prof. Omolo: even the structural organization; I mean the pre-clinical years are very far away from the hospital. there is no clinical interaction until they are in forth year. Then still in the clinical years there are no student hostels near the hospital. I don’t think the students are getting enough clinical exposure.
Plus, all those doctors teaching anatomy and physiology would be available to teach the senior students too and participate in patient care at the hospital.
Then the hospital needs to be turned into a teaching hospital proper, currently its just a name. but I believe if the university collaborated optimally with the hospital and the county government all these can be sorted out.
theDoctor: tell me a little about your family.
Prof. Omolo: Well, I am married. In my first marriage there are four children one of them, the only boy passed away. The girls are working in various parts of the country. Then in my second marriage I have two boys they are still pretty young.
Then my siblings we were 9, 4 males and 5 females. Two of my brothers have passed on, one of them just recently at 93.
theDoctor: What do you do outside medicine and teaching?
Prof. Omolo: I have a family I like to spend time with them. I also enjoy music a lot and generally just talking to friends addressing various issues, logically and ideally.
We can never say enough of the 70-year-old accomplished professor. All we can do is learn from him and hope that his charisma inspires even more in this field to aim for excellence and to never stop. theDoctor wishes Prof. Omolo the best in his life. We thank him on behalf of the medical family for his enormous contribution and wisdom. Having made more than 10 publications with even more research ongoing we can only hope to learn and gain more from him
By Nyadimu Festo