My journey to become top hospital executive

AIC Kijabe Hospital turns 103 years this month. BRENDA KERUBO had a chat with Dr Ken Muma on his rise to head the faith-based institution

QUESTION: How did you get to be the CEO of Kijabe Hospital, tell us about your journey to the top?

ANSWER: My journey as a health  professional and leader in a healthcare organisation started in primary school. I have always had the desire to serve humanity and my parents and mentors at different stages always encouraged me to follow this path. Specific to surgery, the desire developed in my latter years of medical school where I observed that noble yet simple acts could relieve a person’s suffering almost immediately. I then worked and gained experience in diverse backgrounds i.e. both public and private sectors. It is my surgical background and nurturing that led to my recognition and appointment as the director general. The journey to CEO is wholly attributed to my upbringing as a surgeon.

Q: How do you balance management and surgery duties?

A: The two roles are inseparable. But I believe in empowering people, distributive leadership and systems-driven performance. I work with a team of very competent and supportive people who are able to take a huge load off my back. The senior management team and the executive assistant are able to make high level decisions making my load lighter. From the clinical side, my consultant partner, who is also my boss has also demonstrated a lot of support especially when the director general’s role becomes overwhelming. At individual level, more roles have made me more efficient in my activities and a better time manager.

Q:  What are some of the challenges of the job?

A: As a surgeon, the relationship between poverty and disease is a daily reality that is difficult to get accustom to. Coming in contact with sick children who have delayed presentation of various conditions which would otherwise be classified as preventable in a well-functioning health care system is an example of the interaction between poverty and disease. The ability to offer hope and love to care givers and sick children where the situation seems so bleak from their perspective is another challenge.

Q: What exactly makes a good doctor?

ANSWER: Compassion is the ability to be empathetic to another person, this is perhaps the most important element for a doctor -patient relationship. Patients can usually distinguish a compassionate doctor from one who is not. Passion is an intense enthusiasm or love for the nature of the job and not for what the job can give or do for one. This is the single most important element that will make a doctor run the whole nine yards. The profession of medicine can be a daunting marathon, not an exciting sprint.

Q: Affordable healthcare is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Big Four” economic agenda. How is Kijabe Hospital positioning itself in relation to this?

A: For universal health coverage to be achieved it needs to be done in an efficient and cost conscious way and this is already at the core of AIC Kijabe’s operations. We are currently in discussion with County government and Ministry of Health on how to include and tap into Faith-Based organisations’ role which is estimated to be 40 per cent in East Africa in achievement of the national and global health agendas. We are committed to training more healthcare providers. This is our contribution in bridging the physician to patient ratio in Kenya and Africa at large to meet  WHO standards.

Q: Do you believe in mentorship? If yes, who is your mentor and what advice can you give to students in medical schools.

A: Yes I believe in mentors. One of my mentors was the late Prof Hassan Saidi, who always reminded me that life is a rat race, but we have to remember that all the achievements we attain mean nothing if they do not result in a positive impact to the society, especially to “Wanjiku”.

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