"When I Lose a Patient, I Call up My Dad and Cry," says Dr Claire

Dr Claire Kinuthia

Behind every great daughter is a truly amazing dad, a dad a daughter can call and cry out her life frustrations. But probably, the best gift a dad can pass on to his daughter is inspiration to join his profession. Dr Claire Kinuthia is a 32 year old obstetrician/gynaecologist. You would probably recognise her from the local dailies or the TV interviews she has done recently. Although her medical training has taken her more than 10 years, her claim to fame is her new and upcoming blog -They Call Me Daktari – that won her an award in this year’s BAKE (Bloggers Association of Kenya) Awards in the New Best Blog category.

“My dad inspired me to become a doctor. He is a doctor himself but when I completed high school and decided I wanted to study medicine, he was hesitant, aware of the long, tedious and challenging profession that characterises the profession!” remarks Dr. Claire, the first born in a family of three; two boys and a girl who are all working in and towards the medical field. Dr Claire Kinuthia in her office.

But first things first: an obstetrician/gynaecologist is a specialist who provides surgical and medical care to women and has particular expertise in pregnancy, childbirth and disorders of the reproductive system. This means that besides the standard five years of medical school, an additional four years masters training is required to become a specialist. Her blog however, brands her simple, young, relatable, laid back and ambitious.  She writes on her work, travel, cooking and things she enjoys.  From her photos, she gives you the bestie kind of impression; someone you can just call up and hang out with probably in a park. However, entering through the corridor that hosts their family clinic, PrimeCare Health Services in Upperhill, Nairobi where she practices, gives you a totally different perspective. Straight out of the elevator, a big signage engraved in black over brown boldly announces her accomplishment. The entire clinic gives you an aura of success and order but not until you meet the young lady sitting behind a desk in her office. The society often equates age to experience; does that come up often when she introduces herself?

“Most patients who come here for the first time always ask about my age,” she quips. “Most of my patients are young female adults. With them I try to be relatable as possible so they can feel like they are talking to their sister. When they realise I know what I am doing, they relax and we are able to work together to restore their health. “

We knew her age from prior research; our curiosity however was whether introducing herself as a doctor scares her? How does she manage patients’ expectations?

“Doctors are no longer seen as gods anymore. Patients walk in with very high expectations from you; but the era of technology has introduced Google. Patients walk in with their Google search results and try to compare them with your diagnosis.”

Sitting behind her desk, she could pass for a typical young professional in Nairobi; with her MacBook and iPhone meticulously placed on her desk. The clinical devices on her desk however tell you there is more. She is clad in a black skirt suit that goes slightly past her knees, her pink blouse breaks the black monotony and matches her warm personality.  She is eloquent and with her curvy features and hair that flows graciously over her shoulders, she could be standing before a camera and working her way into the hearts of  Kenyans keen on catching the latest news bulletin.

Dr Claire Kinuthia at work.

“If I weren’t a doctor I would have been probably a creative,” she remarks. “When I was young, I used to act in plays. I would be so elated when they cast me as a doctor. I had serious stage fright but behind-the-scenes roles such as make-up artist or wardrobe would work perfectly.” It’s hard to picture her as a behind-the-scene person. Her office feels like we are shooting a scene from a medical drama where the star is an attractive young female doctor and all the medical devices in her office are just but props.

“My bad days are when I lose a patient. My most memorable one was of an expectant mother from the Northern part of Kenya. She came in in a critical condition having been in labour for days obviously. She was not able to access medical help in her locality and was then referred to the Government hospital where I worked at the time. The fact that we couldn’t do much was so heart-breaking,” she laments. “On such instances I call up my dad and cry. My dad then reminds me of all the successful deliveries I have done and all the young mothers I have helped over time. I applaud what the First lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, is doing in the maternal healthcare. Women often come secondary in accessing healthcare but that one thing I hope can change.”

There is an obvious need to make healthcare accessible to the everyday Kenyan especially women. So what can be done?

“People need to start caring!” she commands. “They need to start caring about the government they put in place. The officials they elect in positions of power. That’s the only way we can have a turnaround in policies and the state of healthcare in Kenya.”

Her good days she says are when she is able to walk a young mother through the process a pregnancy all the way to delivery. In her profession, hardly would doctors go around the web posting selfies of their successful operations and their day to day endeavours.

“When I started my blog, I wanted to demystify the common misconceptions about our profession. Doctors are normal, just like people in other professions. I wanted to make doctors more relatable. In my blog I write about my experiences as a specialist without going into the clinical science details like they teach in med school. A certain disease is caused by this, when this does this…” she says. “My goal is to inform people, equip them with knowledge that would in turn make them seek medical care.”

It must have been great winning the BAKE Award, right?

“The award came to me as a surprise.  When I started out, I didn’t know whether people would read, a part of me was scared of putting myself out there. A friend of mine forwarded me a link. I was shocked to see my blog on the list of nominees. I still don’t know who nominated me,” she chuckles. “When voting began, I asked my readers and followers on social media to keep voting and that’s how I eventually made the win.”

Through her blog and social media sites, people are able to message her with questions and concerns. Some end up becoming clients and even friends. She has as well, through the help of BAKE, undertaken speaking engagements that are paid for, proving the world’s old philosophy of giving and getting back. She has been mentoring young girls and as well works towards helping women access healthcare through Ladnan Hospital that offers subsidised services in maternal health.

“With me, when I want to write I just write,” this she says about her creative process. “However, when I set deadlines for myself with writing, that never works. I don’t like the pressure of feeling obliged to write.” Being a very independent and do-it-yourself person, it took her over four months of research on how to self-host and run a website. “I searched for people and tutorials on running a simple website. We emailed back and forth and I was eventually able to set it up.” Her win has however, brought her some unwanted attention from online bullies. “Every time I do a TV or print interview, my inbox is flooded with messages from stalkers and strange people. I never pay much attention to that though.”

With so much on her plate as it is, she enjoys reading, travel and cooking. “Rather than go out partying, I prefer dinners with family and friends.” Her weekends see her running at Karura forest and it’s hard for her to ignore the courage and input of one of her mentors, the late Wangari Mathaai. She finds that “Running through Karura is the ultimate evidence of what one courageous woman can do.”  


Dr Claire Kinuthia 
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Sally Mbuthia


Sally Mbuthia is Freelance Journalist and Filmmaker. Her company, Freedom Films Kenya, creates video content about women that seek to inform and inspire generations of women.

Website: www.freedomfilmske.com

Blog:  asallie.blogspot.co.ke




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