Kenyan gov’t official wins academic excellence Award in the US

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Dr Peter Cherutich delivers a speech shortly after receiving the Gilbert S. Omenn (PhD) student award for academic excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA., United States. PHOTO|BMJ MURIITHI|NATION MEDIA GROUP
Dr Peter Cherutich delivers a speech shortly after receiving the Gilbert S. Omenn (PhD) student award for academic excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA., United States. PHOTO|BMJ MURIITHI|NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Kenyan government official is the recipient of this year’s prestigious Gilbert S. Omenn (PhD) student award for academic excellence conferred on him by a US university.

Dr Peter Cherutich, a deputy director of medical services in the Ministry of Health who was pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of Washington, was the sole recipient of the award in the whole campus.

The coveted honor is bestowed on a PhD level outstanding student for global health at the Seattle based scientific research institution.

Dr Cherutich was feted at a ceremony held at the university’s School of Public Health last month.

A first generation PhD student in the implementation science and metrics tracking, the University of Nairobi educated medical doctor was picked from a class of 1,305 students primarily for the contents and feasibility of his thesis.

The dissertation explored efforts in data collation and management on HIV prevention interventions as well as incidence and patient survival rate on the African continent.

“Peter’s research on partner services demonstrated the feasibility, effectiveness and budget impact of HIV partner notification in resource-limited settings,” said a statement from the dean of the School of Global Health in reference to his dissertation.

Dr Cherutich was the first graduate of the pioneer PhD program in global health metrics and evaluation at the institution.

“I hope to apply lessons and skills from my training to help improve the health of our people on the African continent,” he told the Nation by phone on Friday.

Two years ago, Dr Cherutich was at the centre of a controversy occasioned by a government-sponsored TV ad which promoted condom use among married couples who had extramarital affairs.

Asked by this reporter to comment on the issue, Cherutich said it was the best option at the time.

“Something needed to be done and we thought that was the right thing at the time,” said the deputy director of Kenya’s National AIDS and STI Control Program.

The ads were eventually withdrawn after complaints from some Kenyans, some of who termed them as “graphic with the potential of encouraging extra-marital affairs.”

“I got in trouble for it, but I think it was well worth it,” Dr Cherutich said while delivering his commencement speech at the college. “In the long run, it’s better to be on the wrong side of bureaucracy than doing nothing at all,” he added.

Interestingly, the Kenyan condom debate found its way into the US College and even formed part of his dissertation.

A former student of Moi High School Kabarak, Dr Cherutich graduated with a degree in Medicine from the University of Nairobi before pursuing his Masters in Epidemiology in 2006 at the same University from where he acquired a PhD.

“Prof Ruth Nduati, who taught at the college, encouraged me to pursue my Masters while I was still working with the Ministry of Health,” he told the Nation.

“With the expertise acquired here, I hope I can make a difference when I get back home,” he added.

–Nation

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