For this week’s Alumni Profile we spoke to Dr Elizabeth Wala (Liz), who graduated from the School in 2011 with an MSc in Infectious Diseases by Distance Learning. Liz now works as the CEO of the Kenya Medical Association.
How did your studies at the School help you in your career? Very much so! The insights in public health, the analytical thinking and the international exposure have had an impact directly on my career. The flexibility of the distance learning programme helped me balance my career and my family.
Were the relationships formed during your time at the School useful? Yes. I had a very supportive supervisor who walked with me especially during the project work. Coming from a developing country where timelines are not kept as required, I almost got time barred due to delays outside my control but she was patient enough to sacrifice her time during her holiday period to guide me. I also studied with a fellow doctor, Dr Margaret Wambui, and we would link up for study sessions and share experiences in juggling motherhood, career, studies. We’ve remained very good friends since.
The Kenya Alumni Chapter has also linked me up with quite a number of useful social contacts.
What challenges did you face during your studies? The discipline to study alone without someone overseeing. I developed a routine of studying in the early hours of the morning. I had to manage taking care of four kids, amongst them triplets, a demanding career, and studies! But the experience was worth every single coin and drop of sweat.
What has been your proudest moment so far in your career? Using my technical knowledge to apply it during my work. I was instrumental in the introduction of new vaccine antigens (pneumonia and rota virus) for my country’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation. These catapulted the country to being amongst the first in the region to introduce life-saving vaccines for the children of Kenya. I still remember the official launch of the pneumonia vaccination programme which the then president of the country officiated. The data on reduction of mortality and morbidity of pneumonia and diarrhea in children, makes it worth every single moment spent in gearing up for the introduction of the vaccines.
What would you like to go on to achieve? I want to keep on making a difference in the health care sector arena of my country and the region. I want to use my international training to come up with local solutions for the issues plaguing our health care sector. To be a trail-blazer by proving that Africans can change their destiny.
Any advice for current students? Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Keep on at it, even when the going gets tough.
My proudest moment was throwing off my graduation cap in London. Focus on that and you will get through!