Prof Pauline Samia, Chair of the department of Paediatrics and Child Health
Prof Pauline Samia grew up as a very inquisitive and energetic child who decided she wanted to be a doctor at a very early age. She attributes this to the positive influence of the doctors she encountered while growing up and the primary school she attended.
“I grew up loving books and I was helped along because my primary school entrenched a reading culture early on. We were required to complete a set of 12 books of increasing complexity between the ages of six and eight years. I completed my set by class two and had a great deal of fun doing that. I also grew up in a home surrounded by books because my parents were very passionate teachers especially my late dad who taught mathematics, physics and chemistry,” she says.
She adds that her parents had a great interest in her education and achievements right from childhood to adulthood.
“My biggest cheerleader was my late dad. The last celebration I had with him was during my promotion in 2020 which was right before our joint birthdays in August.”
Recently, Prof Samia was appointed as the Departmental Chair of Paediatrics and Child Health within the Medical College, East Africa. She shares with us her journey so far.
How are you settling in as the Departmental Chair?
I was interim chair for quite some time prior to the appointment so it has been relatively easy to implement some of the changes we have longed for as a department. Although some plans such as the groundbreaking for the children’s hospital have been pushed back as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have formally widened the scope of care for the department of paediatrics to include adolescents to 18 years which is a significant issue for those with chronic illnesses given that majority are not psychologically ready to transition to adult services at 14 years. This has come with the need for re-organisation of which the senior leadership have been very supportive. During this time, we have continued to solidify strategies to expand the fellowship programme in the department to include pulmonology and gastroenterology.
What has been challenging so far?
My outlook in life is that nothing is insurmountable. The challenges have mostly been system-based because sometimes teams get used to doing things in a certain way so getting them to change perspective, embrace proactive behaviour and prioritise client needs takes some effort. We believe we have largely met our needs as required and shall be making further improvements on our operations.
What is your vision for the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health?
I would like to see a significant expansion in the department’s level of operations and impact in East Africa in the coming years. Medicine is a practice where despite advances in automation, we still need highly skilled manpower to deliver appropriately on its mandate. The wider the number and scope of practitioners we have among nurses and doctors, the more we can achieve because the need for high quality care in paediatrics is very high in this region. I would also like to see a robust parallel funding model in place that ensures needy children who require subspecialty care access it at the specialty children’s hospital. Importantly, I would like to see an exponential increase in the research contribution from the department and we are taking solid steps in that direction.
We look forward to the completion of the children’s specialty hospital which will enable us to serve a larger number and wider scope of clients in the region. We also need to have fulltime services in dermatology, child and adolescent psychiatry, molecular and human genetics, adolescent medicine, a family counselling center and social worker services.
What has been the contribution of the Department to the overall vision of the Medical College?
We continue to deliver a high-quality paediatrics residency programme where for the last five years, all our residents have been facilitated to complete their programme on time and graduates have gone on to provide exemplary clinical care and leadership in various capacities across the region. In addition, we offer fellowship training in Paediatric Neurology and Neonatology. It’s important to note that these were the first such programmes in East and Central Africa and we are very proud of this unique achievement.
What motivates you?
I believe there is a larger world out there beyond our immediate circumstances. We need to develop resilience, embrace change, and seek at least one purpose greater than your personal needs; something that contributes to the improved well-being of our community and humanity.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love painting, art and crafts, reading autobiographies and hiking.