Brief History

The history of medicine in Kenya is intertwined with that of medical education in the East and Central Africa region through the Makerere Medical College, Uganda.  The subsequent evolution of the college saw the establishment of the University of East Africa in June 1963 with its constituent university colleges in the three East African states namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  In Kenya there was the University College of Nairobi which later became the University of Nairobi when it on 1st July 1970.

The faculty of medicine had been established earlier as part of the University College of Nairobi on the 8th March 1967 and the Department of Surgery was one of the seven founder departments as the Faculty opened its doors to students on 2nd July 1967.  The Kenyatta National Hospital was the teaching hospital for the medical school, a situation that exists to this day.

The first chairman of department was Professor Douglas Roy appointed in 1968 having joined the university from the Western Infirmary, Glasgow.  He left the country in 1972 for a position at Queen’s University, Belfast.  During his time in the department he also actively involved himself in surgical visits to the districts through the flying doctors service.  In his eulogy in 2003, he was described as the surgeon who headed three departments in three countries (Kenya, Oman and United Kingdom).  Subsequent departmental chairmen can be found in a different section of this webpage.

Staff establishment in 1972/73, click here.........

(Departmetn of Surgery, mid 80's)


(Department in 2013)

(Division of Surgery mid 70's)

For some time postgraduate training in surgery was conducted in collaboration with external colleges and universities notably those in the United Kingdom namly the Royal College of Surgeon of Edinburg and Royal College of Surgeon in Ireland.   The first four local postgraduate students were admitted in 1972 and graduated in 1975.  These first four students were; the late Professor Peter Ochola Abila, Professor Gershom M. Sande, Professor Benjamin S. Mbindyo and Professor Peter A.Odhiambo.

Over the years the department has given birth to sister departments separating off to become independent departments.  All these departments initially had their disciplines taught from the department of surgery.  These departments are departments of orthopaedic surgery (1972), dental school (1974), ophthalmology (1990) and anaesthesia (2013). 

The department has also grown in staff establishment over the years and currently is the largest department in the college with forty six academic and seven administrative and support staff.

The Master of Medicine (Surgery) programme still runs to-date as an exit programme in which general surgery trainees get full hands-on exposure.  Upon completion of the course successful candidates exit as general surgeons ready to work in their various disciplines and in Kenya are registered as specialists by the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board after two years of work under the supervision of a consultant surgeon.

Specialty training in the surgical sub-specialties was started along the way and the department has for many years produced specialists in Ear Nose and Throat Surgery (ENT) and neurosurgery.  Neurosurgery training was started 2006 and the first batch of post-graduate students graduated (Masters of Surgery in Neurosurgery) in 2011

Specialist training programmes in Paediatric Surgery, Thoracic and Cardiovascular as well as Aesthetic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery all commenced in 2013.   

The Department of Surgery has trained surgeons from other countries such as Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Liberia. There are also collaborations with centres of excellence from all over the world.

pdt history.pdf4.99 MB
history of dep in word.docx13.77 KB