PART 2: How I began my dental career – DR OLIVER WALA

Born in Mombasa, Dr Wala was raised alongside his seven siblings – three boys and four girls. He completed his primary schooling at Loreto Convent Primary School, Mombasa, and thereafter proceeded to Shimo La Tewa Secondary School. He undertook A-levels at St Patrick’s Boys School, Iten.

It was at St Patrick’s that his inclination to the medical field was sparked. “The subjects I selected gravitated me towards medicine, and specifically ” he says.

And so it was that he enrolled into the University of Nairobi to pursue a Bachelors degree in Dentistry. “From high school, there was a gap of about three months and I just knew that I needed to join campus to achieve my career objectives as quickly as possible,” he says.

Why the hurry? Well, the obvious reason would be that medicine, in general, takes plenty of time to train and practice to the point of expertise, but even so, being that Dr. Wala had gone through the 7-4-2-3 system, he felt that he had been in school for too long already. “Dentistry took four years, so I thought it would be a good idea to take the short course and finish as quickly as possible,” he says.

His conviction for dentistry, despite not having interacted with it before, is very inspiring because not many people looking to join campus are as decisive down to the area of , as he was. It seems his ability to decide quickly was a huge factor in his current success as he had an early lead over his peers.

But as it turned out, the course was not nearly as smooth sailing as he had anticipated. “It was quite challenging,” he says, “The course itself is quite involving and I had totally underestimated how difficult it was going to be.”
His family, like many Kenyans, initially misunderstood dentistry as a field of medicine, and struggled with the idea of such a course. “The concept that people have of dental treatment in Kenya is simply extraction, but it is so much more than that. I really thank God for my family’s support and the fact that they stood by me through it all,” he says.

Dr. Wala reveals that there are not too many dentists in Kenya at the moment but reckons the country has come a long way in this field as more and more individuals are taking up dentistry as their line of training. He says despite the fact that the recommended World Health Organization (WHO) ratio of dentists to the general population is 1:2000 against the 1:150000 experienced in most African countries like Kenya, Dr. Wala notes that there has been a significant increase in students getting training in dentistry.

“I believe that ratio will be bridged in the next five to 10 years,” says Wala. The dentist notes that Kenyans have increasingly become aware of the importance of preserving their teeth regardless of the looming universal feal procedures. “Things have changed. The injection is less painful and there are other options like sedation – the act of administering a sedative drug to produce a state of calm and sleep,” he
explains.

After his four years of training, Dr. Wala did a one-year internship at Kenyatta National Hospital and then later went to work at AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital for four years. The hospital experience was different as he was also on call for emergency situations most of which were of school-going children. “This was basically my residency because I got most of my work experience there,” says Dr. Wala.

PART 1: A dentist with to serve

PART 3: What keeps me going – DR OLIVER WALA