CHAPTER 12: Nairobi Medical School, Kenya 1974- 78


By 1974 half of our kids were well into their college careers and we felt the call back to Africa. So, I joined the Department of Community Health (DCH) of Nairobi University Medical School. Most medical students, understandably, had visions of lucrative careers in surgery or cardiology etc. We in the DCH hoped to inspire a few into “peripheralizing” (my label again) their vision to include preventive medicine in rural Kenya. Our most important activity was in  field exercises with groups of 30 students, teaching epidemiology, demography, immunization, water supply and infectious disease control. Our youngest, Betsy and Gini attended Nairobi schools and finally RVA for eventual graduation. During this time Betty served for a few years as Headmistress of Nairobi Baptist Church Kindergarten. Two of her students were sons of the future Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Wangari Maathai.1977 included a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro with Marilyn.

No numbered topics. Just brief yearly notes for 75 and 76

My Nairobi Med. students atop Land Rover, headed out on epidemiology exercise 1976

Nairobi University Medical School

1974-1978 was spent living at our “chalet” and working for Nairobi U. Med. School. I was a Tutor in the Dept. of Community Health (DCH). Part of my time was supervising the students’ field work in demography, epidemiology and development, doing field exercises in places like Alupe, Machakos, Wajir and the Coast. We enjoyed considerable collaboration with the Royal Dutch Tropical Institute (RDTI). A particular friend/colleague from that organization was John Mahieu MD. The Head of DCH during the second two years was John Bennett MD. He had been a faculty member at Makerere Medical School in Uganda. That pre-independence faculty included some “greats” in the field of medicine in East Africa e.g. Dennis Burkitt (epidemiology), ­______ (pediatrics) and Cicely Williams (nutrition).

One satisfying connection was with Tenwick Hospital in Kericho District, Kenya. The founder and Medical Director Ernie Steury was a good friend and facilitated my taking a group of student  for a ten day field exercise working out of one of Tenwick’s Health Centers. Also giving moral support was Dave Stevens MD. He later became the Director of Christian Medical & Dental Society. This organization has a tremendous influence both in US and abroad.


We renewed our connection with Nairobi Baptist Church and friends there such as the Sales, Etheringtons and Hindleys.




Dec 28 ’75 Jan 2 ‘76

Our neighbours in US in Loudonville were Skip and Matey Rice. They came on a trip to E.A. We took them to Gatab Mountain east of Lake Turkana/Rudolf to visit the Teasdales. We also visited Ngurnit and Loyengelani on lake Turkana.

TOT Training courses
Jan 6-7 Ilkerin and Pusimuru

Jan 10 flew to Ilkerin w Norton Griffiths and Bill Eddy   re. MoiYoi’s family

See extended note in Ch. 13 on Ole MoyYoi

Jan 17 -25 w Millbank at Mks

I had gotten a scholarship to the “London School” (of Hygiene and Tropical Med.) from the Millbank Foundation. Their Chairman came to Kenya for a visit and I took him out to visit CHW programs in the Machakos area.

More training settings

Feb 1-3 Lodwar, Ileret, Loyengelani, Gatab

Feb 22 – Mar 8 Mks.

Mar 21-26 W Kenya

Mar 29-31 CORAT

June 27-30 W.Kenya

TOT Training courses

West Africa then to US

July 4, 1976   Fly to W.Africa
We boarded our plane in Nairobi and noticed an unusual collection of military planes on the runway. Then once aloft the pilot laconically remarked that we would not be stopping as scheduled at Entebbe.
Then gradually the news filtered in that there had been a raid the preceding night on Entebbe airport. The Israelis had stormed the place and rescued the plane-load of people held hostage there by Idi Amin. This was the famous “Entebbe Raid”.

July 10 Cal and David wedding in Cameroun
Our oldest daughter Carolyn had served two years as volunteer in Peace Corps in Lambarene, Gabon and then joined Peace Corps Cameroun staff as trainer. She had fallen in love with David, a Camerounian staff colleague in Peace Corps. Their wedding was in Yaounde and the reception at a Peace Corps facility out in the country.

July 12 Arr. US Albany for leave.

Sept 16 – Oct 1   Coast w students Kaloleni n Kwale

Nov 28 – Dec. 10 W.Kenya Vogel farewell. Dr Vogel had been the Chair of the Dept. Of Community Health.

Dec 27 to Loitokitok,   Marangu  and   Moshi


Kilimanjaro climb with Marilyn

Machame Hut and View of “Kibo”
Success! Uhuru Peak 19,341 ft. Highest peak in Africa. Roy (2nd from L) Marilyn (middle)

In April 1977 I joined Marilyn and some of her ISM colleagues in a climb up Kili. We took the Machame route which is quite a direct approach from Mwika Wildlife College to Gillmans Point. After two night stops in climbing huts we reached the top i.e. Uhuru Peak (formerly Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz). After taking photos we started to return. But one of the party, a young Dutchman couldn’t walk properly. He had symptoms of cerebral oedema, a variant of “HAPO” (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema), a not-uncommon complication on Kili and Kenya. The Tanzanian guide and I took turns supporting  his very lame walk. As the day wore on we realized that he couldn’t make it to the hut by nightfall.  So we arranged to bivouac him and his wife in a rocky shelter to await porters we would send up from the hut below. I put on him all my top clothes except t-shirt and wrapped them in some plastic I was carrying. I put a cloth marker on a stick to show their location.  Back at the hunt (now late afternoon) I sent some of the porters up to  rescue the couple. The porters returned a few hours later saying they could not find them. So about 1 AM I started back up with another porter to find them. But my physiology rebelled. When my heart rate stayed above 100 I decided my efforts were futile. We returned to the hut to await the dawn. Then re-ascending, we came upon the couple descending. They had survived the night physically and emotionally. He was still incapacitated but we now had fresh porters to help half-carry him. While the main party struggled down the mountain  I  ran down the mountain to summon medical help from MDs from KCMC who were experts on HAPO. By the time I got these MDs up to the lower edge of the forest we came upon the descending party. The Dutchman had recovered his ability to walk and showed no residual evidence of the oedema. He was lucky. HAPO is a constant problem and has produced a number of fatalities on Kili. The morbidity and mortality has been reduced some by climbers taking a diuretic. But that in itself is playing games with ones natural physiology.

Link to Photos of this Chapter (12: Nairobi Medical School 1974-78)

Link to next chapter (13: Back to Flying Doctor Service (AMREF) 1978-86)



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