Dr. Caroline Ngugi concluded her four-year term as the Chairperson of the Department of Medical Microbiology (MMB) recently, a tenure characterized by commitment and resourcefulness. Her outstanding leadership has left a positive impression in the department and has encouraged global cooperation.
During her tenure as the Chair of MMB which began in 2019 to 2023, the department forged valuable collaborations with esteemed institutions worldwide. Notable among them is the partnership with Nagasaki University, which facilitated online exchange programs on planetary health for 12 undergraduate students. To strengthen the ties further, one student visited Japan in September 2023, while Japanese students reciprocated with a similar exchange visit to Kenya.
Additionally, Dr. Ngugi’s leadership saw a groundbreaking research collaboration between MMB and Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. Jointly, they conducted webinars on Business Continuity Management in disaster management, shedding light on the significance of critical infrastructure systems in Kenya and Thailand.
The focus remained firmly fixed on the public healthcare system’s resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries.
Under Dr. Ngugi’s guidance, the department witnessed a surge in international postgraduate enrollment from Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and Rwanda. This enriched the academic environment and illustrated the department’s global appeal.
Her tenure also prioritized quality service delivery as MMB became the first department in the College of Health Sciences (COHES) to fully implement the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This accomplishment streamlined administrative processes and marked a significant leap in the department’s operational efficiency.
In 2020, she was selected as a fellow of the prestigious Africa Science Leadership Programme (ASLP).
Amidst her achievements, Dr. Ngugi also dealt with challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when universities could not hold physical classes. Adapting swiftly to online teaching and dealing with the loss of two members of staff, she demonstrated resilience and leadership during those difficult times.
“Serving the university was a great opportunity for growth and character development in areas like communication, innovation and creativity, resource management, budget planning and implementation, critical thinking, agility and adaptability, relationship building, to mention but a few,” Dr. Ngugi stated during the handing over function.
Dr. Ngugi was a passionate advocate for research throughout her tenure. Despite a demanding schedule, she conducted research and published several papers. Her commitment to research was underscored by the successful acquisition of a research grant in collaboration with Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) and Manchester University.
The grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NHIR) established the “NIHR Global Health Research Group for Improving Oesophageal Cancer Survival in Kenya.” Her involvement in the project promises to keep her busy in the coming months as she continues to explore new research opportunities.
As Dr. Caroline Ngugi passes the baton to Dr. Edinah Songóro, her record of international collaboration, innovation, and commitment to research will undoubtedly continue to shape the future of the Medical Microbiology Department.