ONE ON ONE WITH DR. JACkTONE OMOTO THE GYNECOLOGIST
Full name: Dr. Omoto Jacktone(MBChB, Mmed -UON)
Date of birth: 10th August 1966
Occupation: Consultant gynecologist/ obstetrician
Current employer: Maseno University (Associate dean)
Spouse: Dr. Lenah Nyabiage (MBChB, Mmed- pediatrics)
He is described by those who have had the privilege of working or closely interacting with him simply as “the one who gets the job done.” His charisma is that of a leader who will stop at nothing to see the job done. His students at Maseno University describe him as very firm, strict and orderly. theDoctor spoke to one of his recently graduated students and she described Dr. Omoto as one who follows the rules to the letter. “He is a brilliant doctor,” she added, “and an excellent teacher with some of the best surgical hands I’ve ever seen.”
theDoctor had a chance to have a chat with Dr. Omoto at his office at the Optimum medical center where he is in charge of clinical services. Our meeting was set to begin at 7.30 AM and he was there at exactly 7.30 AM. He was very formal, as he always is, and went straight to the point. It was during this talk that I saw a part of him I had never noticed before: Dr. Jacktone Omoto was a story teller.
This is how it went down.
theDoctor: Thank you, doc, for agreeing to do this, it means a lot to me. Please tell me about your childhood.
Dr. Omoto: Well, I was born in a polygamous family in 1966 in a small village in Khwisero, in Kakamega county. I was the 7th born child of my mother who was the first of three wives. Initially I had assigned myself a birthday because my father had never told me my true birthday. I only came to learn of it when he passed on in 2009.
theDoctor: Please tell me more about your parents.
Dr. Omoto: my parents were peasants. My father went to school up to about class 3 and worked for the Kenya railways authority in Nairobi. My mom had 9 children but my father had two other wives; one had 7 and the other had 6 children.
theDoctor: What did your mom do.
Dr. Omoto: My mother did not have any kind of formal education, she can neither read nor write, so she was just a subsistence farmer in the village.
theDoctor: How was early education like for you?
Dr. Omoto: (smiling) Well, I never went to nursery school. But when I was around 7, we were taken to Nairobi to stay with my dad. That was the first time I went to school. I was really shocked to see the inside of a classroom for the first time, with one person standing in front talking to a group of children raising their hands. And the first word I heard was “finished” (laughing) and I had no idea what it meant.
theDoctor: what was the name of the school?
Dr. Omoto: Mariakani primary school. So I went there for about two years then went back to the village. But then my elder sister who was married in Kitale took me in and I stayed with her while schooling for some time. Then I went back to the village where I stayed until I sat my CPE in 1979. I went to school without shoes, by the way, and those days it was just normal.
theDoctor: where did you go to high school?
Dr. Omoto: I joined Mukumu boys’ high school in 1980 where I stayed until I did my form 4 (those days it was not yet KCSE it was KCE- Kenya certificate of education.) then after that I joined Mang’u high school where I did my A level. And sat for KACE at form 6.
Dr. Omoto: I then joined medical school at the university of Nairobi in 1986.
theDoctor: When did you decide that you wanted to become a doctor?
Dr. Omoto: When I was in form 3 is when I knew that I would do something related to biological science.
theDoctor: So you really liked biology!
Dr. Omoto: No, not really ‘like’, I liked physics. But I was good in Biology. So when it came to having to choose I chose the combination that had biology in it.
theDoctor: Do you have any regrets not choosing the subject you liked?
Dr. Omoto: I wouldn’t call it regret really but looking back I think I would have enjoyed being an engineer better than I enjoy being a doctor. Because up to date I’m interested in how equipment work.
theDoctor: So do you like the surgical part of obstetrics and gynecology more?
Dr. Omoto: Not really, what I know is that I’m more of a hands on kind of person.
theDoctor: Why OB/GYN?
Dr. Omoto: I knew quit early that I wanted to deal with women but it’s a long story.
theDoctor: I’m listening…
Dr. Omoto: You see my grandfather lived at a time, in his early age, in the 1900s, when young people in the Wanga Kingdom were being captured to be sold. Now my grandfather was captured but he somehow managed to escape.
theDoctor: From where was he captured?
Dr. Omoto: From Khwisero, in his birth home. Now, he escaped and settled somewhere in Mumias near the border with the Teso people. So, then he got married to a Teso woman, my grandmother. And they had children including my father.
theDoctor: So how did you end up in Khwisero?
Dr. Omoto: Now, you see many years after he was captured, one of my father’s cousins remembered that one of their uncles had been captured and he set out to look for him. And he found him and his family. So while there, he fell in love with my father (then only a small child) and asked my grandfather to let him return home him. So that is how my father found himself back to his ancestral home.
theDoctor: so how is that related to you deciding to become a gynecologist?
Dr. Omoto: I was coming to that. Remember I wasn’t there; I was just told these stories. Now one of the wives to this man who had taken my father, died during child birth but the neonate survived. Now as was custom, back then, when your wife died and you had already paid dowry, her family had to replace her. So he remarried the dead wife’s younger sister.
theDoctor: (listening keenly)
Dr. Omoto: Now what intrigued me was the fact that this newly married lady started breastfeed this infant and milk actually came out. I was very curios and I wanted to know how these “creatures” worked. And that was my motivation to do obstetrics and gynecology.
theDoctor: (Both laughing) it’s a beautiful story
theDoctor: where did you do your internship?
Dr. Omoto: I did my internship, in 1993, in Kakamega provincial hospital, and there after I worked in several mission hospitals. I first worked at Mwihila Mission hospital, then at Friends Hospital Lugulu. Then I went for my Mmed, and worked at Maseno mission during my electives, then I went back to Kakamega briefly. Then I came to Agha Khan, Kisumu. I spent most of my specialist practice in Siaya county Hospital for about 9-10 years.
theDoctor: From Siaya to Maseno…
Dr. Omoto: Yes, I was recruited when the school of medicine started but I came in 2014 because I wanted to teach obstetrics and gynecology.
theDoctor: How did you become associate dean?
Dr. Omoto: I became associate dean because the board ordered the university to appoint one. Initially, when we came, there was a lot of confusion, the structure of running a medical school was not established. There were only about 8 of us in the faculty and we were all new at teaching and academia yet things had to move; So someone had to step up. So, in the beginning, I was only doing what had to be done but I wasn’t holding any official position.
theDoctor: that must have been a tough time.
Dr. Omoto: yes, it was quite challenging. We were at constant disagreement with the university administration because just like us they were also new at this. They couldn’t understand why there were 8 of us handling only 50 students, and we still wanted more, yet in the school of education, for example, there was one lecturer handling close to 800 students. So it was a tough time.
theDoctor: I remember the agitation by students.
Dr. Omoto: The agitation by students helped very much. The administration wasn’t listening to us but when the students stepped in it helped stir up things and hence the change that followed.
theDoctor: So are you satisfied now, with the clinical years in the school of medicine?
Dr. Omoto: We have just released our first class and people are really liking them http://thedoctor.co.ke/kisumu-welcomes-its-first-own-doctors/so right now it has settled a bit, it’s at least manageable but we’re not there yet.
theDoctor: Any future plans?
Dr Omoto: After two years of constant pushing, the university finally agreed to sign the papers to allow us to build on the two acres behind JOOTRH. We have since fenced the place. When I see a structure; for administration, hostels and classes is in place, then I’ll have done my part. It’s quite a task to deal with the administration.
theDoctor: Are you going to become the dean after prof. Odero?
Dr. Omoto: No. I don’t think I would do well just sitting in an office at Siriba. I like to do what I do now; “the donkey work”. I have told the vice chancellor about that and I have proposed Prof. Ogendo Stephen instead. I think he is more suited than I am, because I am not confrontational as a person.
theDoctor: Would other people like that.
Dr. Omoto: No, people might not like him very much but he is what Maseno University school of medicine needs for the next few years.
theDoctor: Where did you meet your wife.
Dr. Omoto: The best thing I have gotten from the medical field is my wife. I met her in medical school, we were in the Christian union together. Her name is Dr. Lenah Nyabiage: she is a pediatrician but she is currently employed by the American embassy and working at the CDC.
theDoctor: You’re also a father…
Dr. Omoto: Yes, God has blessed us with 3 beautiful children: My first born daughter is doing law and going to 3rd year at Strathmore, my second born, son is sitting his KCSE this year and my last born daughter is in form 1.
theDoctor: How are you with your family? How do you balance?
Dr. Omoto: Balancing is not a problem really, we share responsibility with my wife and we spend as much time together and with the children as we can. Now that they are all in boarding schools we make sure we pay them visits and encourage them.
theDoctor: Do you encourage them to follow their parents’ career path? Medicine?
Dr. Omoto: I try not to interfere with their choices as much as possible. My first born is very artistic though she is doing law, she really liked arts as a subject. My second born seems to be inclined towards engineering. The youngest seems to take interest in medicine but we will wait and see.
theDoctor: how do you raise them?
Dr. Omoto: I am a very devoted Christian, we attend church at Citam in Kisumu, and I raise my children to follow the straight and narrow path.
Interviewing Dr. Omoto revealed a very well organized man who takes his time when talking and finally gives the best well organized, well thought answers. He is very passionate about his work at the Maseno University school of medicine. He shared with me the story of how he managed to issue examinations in spite of the lecturers strike and I saw a man with passion for his duties and a natural leader. His love for his family is also written all over his face as he talks about them. theDoctor thanks Dr. Omoto dearly for this interview and wishes him the best in his endeavors. May God grant him all his hearts desires.
By Nyadimu Festo