Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has made history, becoming the first University in Kenya to confer a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Health Communication during the institution’s 36th graduation ceremony, conducted virtually on Friday, April 9, 2021.
During the graduation ceremony, Dr. Agnes Mercy Wahome, the first female Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) became the first person in Kenya to attain the PhD degree.
After working in several health facilities including Kenyatta National Hospital and Nazareth Hospital, Dr. Wahome experienced a big gap in how medical doctors communicated to their patients especially when it came to conveying bad news and decided it was time to change the narrative.
“After experiencing a gap in diagnosing patients, I aspired to study this course,” said Dr. Agnes during an interview.
“Medical doctors need professionals who can understand and communicate to them issues such as risk reduction which is the main training in this course,” she added.
Having been brought up in a strict background where her father was in the military and her mother a teacher, she learned never to quit, became principled, strong willed and focused.
These virtues, she notes, enabled her to be the only graduand in a class of ten (since the rest gave up due to various reasons) after six years of study.
Besides her government duties, she is also a farmer. Together with her gynecologist husband, Dr. Wahome Ngari, they own a large-scale farm in Subukia, Nakuru County, dubbed “Ole Neema Farm” where they practice dairy, pig and dorper farming, they supply over 100 liters of milk on daily basis.
“I decided to set up a farm in Nakuru County since it was one of my hobbies and that at least once in while we can get out of the City and enjoy a different environment as well,” explained the strict mother of three and a grandmother to be.
Having worked as a volunteer in various Non-Governmental Organizations such as Child Society of Kenya, she says, trained her to serve others diligently even if there was no pay.
“This led me to extend my services to the Catholic Church where I became a member of Justice and Peace Commission and as a result, I became a very staunch catholic follower,” Dr. Wahome states.
Balancing family, work and school was very challenging but this only motivated her as she was focused on achieving her goal. As a class representative of the JKUAT PhD class, she had to lead by example and demonstrate resilience. She decided to be persistent, which culminated in this milestone achievement.
“Young people should be patient until they reach their goals. The most disappointing thing in life is when you are not achieving your purpose, knowing this made me resilient, morally upright and with integrity” advised the Communication and Sociology graduate.
Dr. Wahome, an alumna of St. Teresa Primary School in Eastleigh as well as Moi Forces Academy, Lanet, has some advise on the need to study Heath Communication. She is urging universities to offer the course at all levels even as short courses so as to get rid of communication barriers being experienced in the health sector.