Prof Ogada Brief Autobiography


Professor Tom Ariba Ogada was born 12th January 1936. Tom Ogada started his schooling at Komulo Primary School in Kisumu Town in the early 1940’s. He grew up in the Kisumu Railway Landis where his father who was a railway locomotive driver. He was an active, friendly boy who was fond of playing “abisidi” with friends in the open grounds on his way to the school. Married to Margaret 2nd November 1963 blessed with 5 children.

Prof Ogada went to the prestigious Kenya Alliance High School from whence he proceeded to the East Africa equally prestigious University of Makerere. He was awarded MRCP London 1972 and become a fellow of the three colleges London 1982, Edinburgh 1983, Glasgow 1984. Had several diplomas in Tropical medicine from the United Kingdom.

Prof Ogada spent his life doing medical research, clinical practice lecturing and administration. He had several publications in tropical medicine. His professional and social life took him through the several appointments including:-

  1. Medical Researcher at East African Trypanosomiasis Research Organization (rose to level of Principle Medical research Officer), 1968-1972
  2. Lecturer, University of Nairobi Medical School, 1973-1979
  3. Chief of Service, Haematology and Oncology, Kenyatta National Teaching Hospital, Nairobi, 1978-1984
  4. Professor of Medicine, University of Nairobi, 1980-1996
  5. Founder, Chairman of National Radiation Protection Board, Kenya, 1982-1987
  6. Attended IAEA Annual Assemblies from 1983-1991
  7. Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nairobi, 1984-1986
  8. Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, Kenya 1986-1989
  9. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to UN in Geneva and Vienna, 1989-1992

An incident which occurred during his appointment as a Registrar in Medicine under Dr. Forrester Senior Medical Specialist at the KNH illustrates an aspect of his character. When provoked, he could be defiant and at times, almost aggressive. He was late to attend to an emergency and Dr. Forrester, his boss had to be called to see the patient. When Tom eventually arrived at the Emergency Room, Dr. Forrester reprimanded him in rather disrespectful manner. Tom reacted equally indignantly and threatened him that he could influence his deportation. This was a few years after independence when it was not uncommon to resent authority of the few former colonial officers who remained in the Kenya Government service.

As a result of this incident, his position as Registrar became untenable. He therefore got an appointment as a medical research officer at the EATRO in Tororo where he was eventually granted a scholarship to study for MRCP in the UK.

During his work as a Consultant Pysician and Professor of Medicine at the KNH, Tom earned an enviable reputation as perhaps the most dedicated clinician and teacher at the hospital. He took little interest in private practice. His main interest was in the care of hospital patients and teaching of his students at the KNH from which he derived a sense of contentment which was quite unusual among his peers.

As the DMS, he was keen to promote the status of the medical profession rather than his personal standing. He played a vital role in granting autonomous status to the KNH. As a mark of his modesty, he did not wish to be a member of KNH Board as many a DMS would have wished.

Tom was liberal DMS and under a special provision of the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Act, he issued practice licenses to several senior members of the Nursing Profession. This had not been done previously. He was unique in being the first medical doctor in Kenya to be appointed an ambassador. To his credit, there was no indication that he held this position with any less dignity and honour.

His dedication to the care of sick of sick people continued even when he retired and settled at his name in Kano. He devoted time every morning to attend to sick people in his home and provided transport for those that needed further care to go to New Nyanza General, Kisumu. He also made an important contribution to community health in his village by providing clean water from a borehole in the village.

I remember Professor Tom Ogada as a modest, kind and friendly man who among others things, became a dedicated clinician, a reputable medical educator, a successful administrator and an active community health practitioner. Though much is taken much a binds and though we are not now that strength which in all days moved earth and heaven that which we are. It is safe to say that Prof Thomas Ogada was one of the most influential teachers in medicine, influential in that his leadership was strong, articulate and had a lasting value to the teaching in the Nairobi University Medical School.

As a Dean of the Medical School he quickly established his role as a thoughtful leader in the formulation of pedagogy for the teaching of Medicine. Prof Ogada took upon himself to successfully serve as the Medical School Ambassador to many organizations. Many will remember him as firm and no nonsense

gentleman as he oftened said to me life is in a sense a life long process. Many things come into it and many things go out of it. Changes occur everyday if it takes a life time to live, how can it be that one single event can change a life so drastically for better on for worse. He served in many divisions within the medical school and Kenyatta National Hospital as a coordinator and a teacher. A particular interest of his view of the depth of his intellect. Despite his restlessness which was his trademark characteristic which was known to many who were close to him. Despite his brilliant leadership, despite his many publications and mastership and local history he was first and foremost a teacher.

For him teaching was a balancing act engaging with students. A balance that he struck with flexibility finding the right mix that made him a great teacher who taught without preaching and carried the cross without complaining. Honest and reliable servant loved everybody cared for everybody. He was simple. He often said education is expensive let them try ignorance. Be very careful on what you put into your head because you may never ever get it out. The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say the students are working as if I do not exist.

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