History of neurosurgery and the department

History of neurosurgery in Kenya

The history of neurosurgery in Kenya cannot be described for the department without the overall national picture as the majority of pioneer neurosurgeons were associated with the department.

Neurosurgery in the traditional context has been in existence since time immemorial especially amongst the Kisi community.  This will not however form the focus of this description.

At the level of scientific hospital medicine, there were sporadic reports of general surgeons carrying out neurosurgical procedures.   These examples were of course limited mainly to the King George V hospital (later Kenyatta National Hospital).  For example Dr. J. F. Jarvis, in the late fifties to early sixties is reported to have performed anterior encephaloceles, and anterior third ventriculostomies for hydrocephalus.

Peter Clifford,an Irish surgeon and an ENT specialist also performed a number of procedures but documentation is scarce.

In 1967 Dr. Renato Ruberti joined the staff at the Kenyatta National Hospital.  He graduated and also undertook postgraduate training in neurosurgery at the University of Padua Medical School, Italy.  Joined the Kenyatta National Hospital on an honorary basis and is accredited with founding neurosurgery in Kenya.  He was actively involved in training. 

(Prof. Ruberti with west african counerpar Prof Adeloye)

He invited other Italian neurosurgeons to join him, Dr. Poppi (1970), and Dr. Carmagnani (1971)

Ruberti is also accredited for initiating the foundation of Pan African Association of Neurological Sciences PAAS

In 1972 as he loved the country so much he took up Kenyan citizenship.

In 1972 Dr. J. Nabwangu emigrated to the United Sates early in his life as part of the Kennedy airlift programme.  He was the first student of African descent to graduate from the Johns Hopkins Medical School. 

(Dr. James Nabwabgu)

He returned to the Kenyatta National Hospital as the first indigenous Kenyan neurosurgeon.  Unfortunately he returned soon thereafter to Canada and we did not benefit from his expertise.  He is currently located in Rapid City, South Dakota and is affiliated with Rapid City Regional Hospital.  

Prof. D. Harold Paxton joined the Department of surgery in 1973 while on sabbatical, and he was the first person to secure separate beds for neurosurgery patients in the hospital. 

(Dr. Harold Paxton)

After leaving the department he also served as an advisor to the University of Nigeria, Benin City where he helped establish that country’s first medical school.  

However it was not until (1974 – 1983) Dr. Jawahir Dar from India, joined the department and became unit head.  During his time the neurosurgery unit within the Department was formally recognised.

(Prof. Dar with final year class of 79/80 academic year rotating in surgery)

Dr. Gerishom Mudanya Sande was the first locally trained general surgeon to be selected for neurosurgical training, joining the unit in 1976.  He joined the department and rose up the ranks to professor till the time he left to peruse a career in private practice.    He is currently on retirement in Western Kenya.

(Prof G. Sande)

Thereafter the service has grown gradually with Dr. Kahwa, (Ugandan), and Drs. A. Maingi and Nimrod J. Mwangombe as trainees in 1976, 1979, and 1982, respectively.  The former returning to his native country, Uganda and Dr. Maingi unfortunately passing away soon after his return in a tragic road accident.   Dr. Mahmood Qureshi 1986, Drs. Patrick Akuku, Christopher K.  Musau, and Reuben P. Lubanga in the nineties.   In 1999, the unit was further strengthened by the return of Dr. David Oluoch-Olunya.  To date all are still currently serving t the Kenyatta with the exception for Dr. Qureshi who is in private practice.

(David Olunya, forground, and M. Qureshi in background)

A further four trainees have since trained abroad following initial basic training at University of Nairobi include Drs. Peter K.  Wanyoike, Peter G. Mwangi, Julius G. Kiboi, and Florentius Kipchirchir Koech,

(Dr. F. Koech)

In 2007, Dr. Koech took up the post of unit in-charge at the Second Medical School in Eldoret, in the Rift Valley, serving a population catchment of more than 4 million.

Still others are Dr. John K. Bore and Dr. Gichuru Mwangi 

Training programmes

The department commenced the Master of Surgery (MMed) in neurosurgery programme in September 2006.  This was the first subspecialty training programme for the department of surgery (excluding ENT and anaesthesia).

In 2011, Dr. Wekesa Dismus graduated through this programme as one of two totally locally trained neurosurgeons.  He has since become a member of staff within the department of surgery.  Dr. Kaguri S. Kanja was his counterpart in class.

2013   Wasike Godfrey Baraza

            Njiri Samuel Gichihi



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