Brother’s sickness paved way for medical career
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2023/02/brothers-sickness-paved-way-for-medical-career/
By Pauline Luba
A 2007 incident in the family of Jethro Odoi Okoth was the impetus for a medicine career choice for Odoi, now age 23 and a year away from becoming a doctor. Odoi, then a teenager, saw his younger brother suffer a fractured skull, necessitating surgery in a country where neurosurgeons are scarce.
Odoi, who hopes to specialize in neurosurgery, is pursuing Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) School of Medicine in Mengo, Kampala.
By 2007, Uganda had only four neurosurgeons for a population of about 30 million people. By 2020, thanks to interventions through deliberate strategic partnerships, that number had more than tripled, to 13 until one neurosurgeon, John Baptist Mukasa, died of Covid in 2021. At that, the country’s population also increased to more than 40 million people, meaning each neurosurgeon was serving slightly over three million Ugandans. The World Health Organization recommends one neurosurgeon for every 100,000 people.
Odoi’s parents — the Rev. Denis Odoi and Mrs. Harriet Eve Odoi — finally obtained a neurosurgeon for the brother, but after a long struggle.
In 2007, when Odoi’s family made contact with the neurosurgeon who eventually performed a surgical procedure on the family member, they discovered that at the time they were looking for him, he was not even in town. However, when he learned of their need, he “came specifically to help my brother.” That gesture, Odoi says, left an indelible mark in his memory. When his brother got healed, Odoi made the decision that he would pursue a career in neurosurgery, to reduce the high specialist-patient ratio. At year four in medical school, he seems to have walked the longer part of the journey towards achieving his dream.
Odoi, who has always been a high performer in class, attended Victorious Primary School and the elite King’s College, Budo for both O’level and A’level Both schools are in central Uganda. Since joining university, Odoi says he has learned to be more outgoing, a virtue he will need in his profession. This has been helped by the fact that the “people in the university have a warm personality” and that the lecturers are down-to-earth and more engaging.
Had he not opted to study human medicine, Odoi says his love for reading would not have spared him from pursuing a course in literature. During his leisure time, if he is not reading a book, most probably one will find him writing an article or engaging in a brain game of chess or in the field playing hockey. It would not be surprising also to find Odoi participating in boat rides or doing nature walks.
Asked about whether he would consider working abroad, Odoi said: “Four years ago, if I had been asked that question, I would have said my goal is to study abroad, get a job and stay there.” However, his position has since changed.
“Witnessing my relatives, my friends and my brother struggle to get medical attention, I would prefer to stay in Uganda and help all those who would need my services.”
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