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how to treat without being a doctor HOW TO TREAT WITHOUT BEING A DOCTOR Dr Aruyaru Blog Post HOW TO TREAT WITHOUT BEING A DOCTOR


“Hello Daktari? Am [sic] so passionate to pursue medicine like you but unfortunately, I have a mean grade of C-? Which level can I begin with?” I got this random message through one of my social media accounts. 

I referred them to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) website to check the various diploma courses and requirements. 

This text took me back in time to a similar conversation. I had just left the clinic for a quick lunch. When I got the phone call from one of our staff, I thought it was a new patient who had been registered. It was the son of a staff member who would really wish to talk to me, I was told. Was I in a position to grant him some twenty minutes?

‘Sawa. After lunch. In my office’, I confirmed, crowding my always impossible schedule with another impromptu catch up. In my mind I thought it must have been a medical issue that they needed me to advise on. 

When the door was knocked, a lanky well-kept young man walked in. He had just received his form four results and he had done fairly well. His grade, however, could not guarantee him a regular university admission for a degree in medicine. He had been admitted for commerce. He was a needy student who had been brought up by a single parent assisted by well-wishers. Did I know of a way he could join university to pursue medicine?

“Why?” I asked. He replied that he always wanted to become a doctor so that he could serve people. It is a line I have heard, if not used, severally. 

After some discussion, my advice was that he could either apply for a self-sponsored position and seek a scholarship. Alternatively, he could get the admission offer from another university,  defer this offer, do his business course and come back to try medicine as a mature entrant having saved for his school fees (I do not speak as an authority so I am not certain that all these permutations are possible). All this was dependent on whether the prevailing circumstances would allow such arrangements. He promised to check out about these. 

I then challenged him to look at another angle. Being a doctor, you can only treat so many. If you treat fifty patients per day and you work all days, that is 1500 patients per month and just under 20 000 per year. If you work for 50 years non-stop, that will be a million people treated. Then you call it a day. Yet the biggest impact can come in a different way that multiplies the beneficiaries. If you start a charity that builds a hospital, that hospital could treat ten times that number in less than half the period. I gave him the examples of philanthropists who have funded healthcare and are not doctors. Bill and Melinda Gates and Dr James Mwangi of Equity Bank are quick examples. 

We parted ways and I asked him to come back with any further questions or clarifications and to give me feedback on his decision. I have not heard from him since though I learn that he has already cleared his first semester of his Business degree. 

Medicine, as we often witness, is one of the preferred post-secondary training paths. The rough reality is that many wish but few make it to join medical school. Even after joining, the attrition rate is significant in medical school. I remember during my class, we must have graduated around 50% of the group that we joined university with. Others either quit, repeated classes, had academic discontinuations or shifted to other courses. 

If every young Kenyan’s intention of pursing medicine is to make better the lives of citizens suffering ill health, there are numerous alternative routes if training as a doctor is not available. Being a health manager in charge of running a health facility or formulating a health policy will give one a pedestal not available even to many doctors. You could become a hospital administrator or the leader of a business conglomerate that runs hospitals. Your impact would be heavily felt by the policies you institute, if the charitable desires of yester years will still be residual. You can make enough money and as part of giving back to society, you could sponsor a poor child through high school and medical school. You will still be impacting the health of your people. You can make money and establish an endowment fund to support hospitals or research centres or community centres to tackle health problems.  

The end justifies the means. Everyone can contribute in their own way to improve the health of our people. 

Imagine all the current executives of private or public hospitals. If all had the same desires of making the health of our people better by becoming doctors, they now wield more powers than the doctors they employ. They can still alleviate peoples’ suffering through welfare programs, free medical interventions and pro-poor financial policies.

Research shows that almost half of certain sectors of Kenya healthcare are funded by foreign donors. This means there is more room for Kenyan citizens to plug in and fund certain programs in our health sector. 

You do not need to become a doctor to improve the health and well-being of our citizens. You just need to maintain that desire even after taking on a non-medical career. There are always opportunities. That twists the question back to ‘Why do you really want to become a doctor?’ 

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About the Author

Dr. Stanley Aruyaru

Dr. Aruyaru is a Consultant General and Laparoscopic Surgeon and a Healthcare Manager. He has solid experience in managing busy surgical units and leading clinical teams to deliver in the lines of quality health provision and evidence based surgical practice.

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