Nicole is a Nigerian-British entrepreneur with a background in medical research and a passion for using technology to improve healthcare across the continent. Having worked in start-ups most of her professional life in business and product development roles, she decided to combine her interest for technology, business and healthcare in Africa by launching Medixus.
How does Medixus bridge the gap in healthcare, in a country like Kenya, where health provision is wrought in so many challenges?
Health provision is a complicated beast. Globally, hardly any governments have gotten it totally right as there are so many moving parts. As in any country, Kenya has its own unique context-specific challenges to overcome – at Medixus, we recognise we can’t solve all of them but we can solve some of it. What we do is use technology to help healthcare workers communicate securely and confidentially about challenging patient cases.
Our belief is that if we can share knowledge among medics, we can reduce professional isolation, improve clinical decision making and as a result improve the quality of patient care delivered. We aim to help share the knowledge of our wonderful workforce and create a pan-African community among medics.
What key policy changes, in Africa, would you suggest, to improve healthcare provision as well as reduce brain drain by medical personnel?
I’ve actually just written about this in a blog post for Universal Health Coverage Day, https://www.medixus.co/blog/doctor-burn-out-the-barrier-to-uhc-that-no-one-is-talking-about, at the moment, I’m really keen to see more done around burnout of healthcare workers (preventing it, recognising it and supporting those who are suffering with it).
We can’t achieve UHC without our medical personnel, but they are burning out at an alarming rate or leaving the continent before they get burnt out. I think finding ways to make the day-to-day less draining for medics would go a long way to both improving healthcare provision and retention of healthcare workers.
What would you name as the highlight of Medixus since its inception in 2016?
There have been a few. I think all ‘firsts’ when growing your business are always pretty special, so the first moment the app was available on Play Store was a definite highlight – seeing the thing that was my far-fetched idea, incepted after personal loss in the Nigerian healthcare system, which had been nothing more than an idea on a whiteboard, finally as an actual app was pretty special.
Another was the first time a doctor posted a case – I called my co-founder in excitement and texted my parents to say “it’s real!” (I still get excited now!)
What is your dream for your company?
I have many dreams for it. One of the big ones though is creating a proudly Pan-African medical community. For Medixus to be a place where we can challenge the narrative that African doctors are not good enough or needing help from outside, and instead utilise the vast knowledge that exists amongst our medics.
Creating space for our healthcare workers to learn from each other, specifically from others who understand the realities, treatment pathways and disease burdens locally. We want to scale the product globally one day, yet it will be known as an African product first and foremost.
Do you struggle to connect your interest in science and your passion for business?
Not at all, as I think the two are so closely linked. The ways of thinking, problem-solving, data driven and creative approaches used in science and research map really nicely into business. I do sometimes miss the ‘pure’ science, as I’m quite a biomedicine nerd, but Medixus helps me stay close to the research and latest goings on in medicine.
When did the tech bug bite?
I think growing up in the 90s, I very much grew up as technology did – things like the internet really came of age the same time as me. So it’s been a background influence my whole life. Also, with two parents who work in tech and who made sure their daughters were literate in it, I’d say the tech bug bit when I was a toddler. It’s now become an everyday part of life, and what I love most about all forms of technology is its ability to connect people, change lives through seemingly small but simple methods and the (relative) democratising of things like access to knowledge that it has created.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career so far?
My parents. Being raised by two intelligent, proudly Nigerian parents who led by example and taught me (perhaps in a typically Nigerian way) that no goal, dream or ambition of mine was too big. They are my counsel, my business partners, career mentors, my cheerleaders and my reality check when I need one.
What was your favourite part of university, undergraduate or graduate?
My Masters year was definitely my favourite time at university! I absolutely loved the autonomy and ownership over my own research project and the extra modules I took – which meant you could really curate your year around your academic passions. My project was cardiovascular focused, and I spent most days in the lab (including Christmas Eve!) taking care of my stem cells. I was looking into cardiac differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (in English: making human heart cells in a petri dish, from human stem cells) – it was a great experience and valuable stuff to be working on.
What has been the greatest lesson in your career?
Learning that failure and rejection are part of your growth. With every no, or every mistake you have a real opportunity to learn something and be better for next time. A huge part of this is being brave enough to take risks, brave enough to allow failure to be an option by stepping outside of your comfort zone.
One of my favourite feelings professionally is when I take on a role or project and feel like I’m completely out of my comfort zone – it means I’m about to learn a lot about business and about myself – how much more capable (or perhaps less) I am than I thought.
What would you say to young people working to use tech to solve problems in the community?
Don’t be afraid to try. Try and think around problems – we started Medixus with no money, so had to be creative about how to build the product and how to market it. It meant being patient because building tech solutions is either expensive or slow (sometimes both) so we went for a slightly ‘slower’ build as we didn’t have the luxury to pay people to build it for us. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t, sometimes you see the solution more clearly than others and that is okay.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
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Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.