BEGINNINGS OF THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION IN EAST AFRICA
A combined Kenya and Uganda branch was formed in the Baraza Hall Kampala on 2nd September 1913 with Dr Wiggins in the chair and seven other members present. Sir Albert cook the Beloved physician in Uganda a distinguished surgeon was made President and Dr Strathairn honorary secretary.
There was a little activity during World War 1.In July 1920 the branch was dissolved and two separate branches were formed in its place –the Uganda branch and the East Africa (Kenya) branch.
There is no record of the name of the Kenya president—Dr Gerald Walter of Mombassa was the honorary secretary.
It is interesting to note that the secretary’s name has come down to us –no doubt a measure of the relative importance of the two offices? The president goes to Aldinners and makes flowery speeches---the secretary does the work.
General meetings were held at the Native civil Hospital off Magathi Road Nairobi Medical business matters were first dealt with followed by a professional paper often given by one of the local practitioners as travel was much less easy in those days.
Attendance was not confined to doctors—local leaders at times attended. These includes the governor the Bishop of Mombassa the commissioners of Mombassa of mines dentists and veterinary surgeon.
By 1927 there were a hundred members; in 1961 330; at present we have members in all divisions.
In 1957 Dr K V Adalja became the first non-European doctor to be president. His son mohindra has been an active member being a member of National council for over twenty (20) years.
BUSINESS MEDICAL MATTERS
It is interesting to find that the same subjects keep cropping up over and over again. As early as 1923 Medical insurance schemes were being debated very much as are today. Terms and conditions of service of members of the Government Medical service provoked much discussion. A service sub-committee of the Association was appointed in 1924 and proved a valuable link between the Government and the Association.
Relations between the Association and the Medical department now the Ministry of health have varied—sometimes being good at others less good. On one occasion the permanent secretary for health/chief medical officer was asked to stand for president of the Association. He regretful had to decline due to pressure of work and he did not wish to run the risk of schizophrenia (split personality) when the President of the Association had to chide chief Medical officer of the ministry of Health.
FORMATION OF THE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION OF KENYA
By the early 1960’s with the approach of Unhurt there were three Medical Associations—the largest and oldest being the British Medical Association Kenya branch. There was an Indian Medical and Dental Association headed by Dr B P Patel and newly formed younger group of local African doctors—the Kenya Medical Association headed by Dr njoroge Mungai who was later the Minister of health in the first Independent Kenyan Government.
This state of affairs was understandable but to a number of us most undesirable.
I took the initiative in attempting to remedy situation and in 1963 the Medical Association of Kenya was formed by the a amalgamation of the above three groups of doctors with myself as President.
This was a half stage to complete independence as the Medical Association of Kenya was still a self governing unit of the British Medical Association.
The second president was Dr Samson Nathan mwathi first local African to be President of the Association.
He was also the founder President of the Kenya family planning Association. Dr Mwathi relates how President Jomo Kenyatta sent for him and told him if he kept quiet about what he was doing in that line he could continue. Full independence came with the information of the Kenya Medical Association as we now know it with Joseph Mungai Professor of Anatomy at the Nairobi University as President Dr James Nesbitt as secretary in 1968.
The objectives of the new Association as of the old were to promote the medical and allied science, to maintain the honour and interests of the medical profession, I support a high standard of medical ethics and conduct and to advice generally on health medical matters by means of periodical meetings and publishing a journal all for the benefit of the general population.
KENYA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION TODAY
The Association today is active and flourishing with a membership of grouped into 11 divisions scattered over the republic. The National Headquarters is at kma House in Chyulu Road near Nairobi Club Kenyata National Hospital.
We must thank His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya and our patron for helping us to obtain this valuable plot of land of three acres which has been gazetted a commercial area.
A committee has been formed to plan the development of this plot.
In the main room of the house are several panels of names.
One lists the name of various benefactors.
There is also a record of chairman and secretaries of the Association from 1968 onwards.
We are in the process of establishing a library. Some shelves have been already been fitted.
We are busy installing new technology such as computers and fax machines into the wood and iron house. Members are invited to visit their Headquarters and meet the staff.
The Association is taking more active part in social conditions of the country a social Responsibility standing committee has been formed to deal with problems such as the violation of human rights. We are actively encouraging Family Planning centres all over Kenya .We have inherited to combis from the pathfinder Foundation to help in communication towards this end. Divisions were formed in Nyanza, Nairobi and the coast fro the early days.
The coast has always been active division with Dr A U sheth playing an active part for many years. He was honoured in 1960 by becoming the first Kenyan Fellow of the British Medical Association. Other Divisions have started died and been reborn again as local doctors have moved a round. Nairobi Members for years were attached to the National Headquarters and secretariat and so provided most of the presidents and secretaries. It was felt that the two groups should be separated so the Nairobi division was Re-formed in.
There have been three chairmen from out side Nairobi Dr Dhillon from Mombassa and Rao from Kisumu. When this happens there are problems with the day today management of affairs of the Association with secretariat remaining in Nairobi.
However telephones and faxes help to reduces difficulties with communication these days. We now have 11 division is alphabetical order-- coast,Eldoret,Embu,Kisumu,Kitale ,Machakos,Meru,Nairobi,Nakuru.Nyeri and our baby Thika.
In the past National Council meetings have occasionally been held outside Nairobi. One was held in Mombassa in 1963 when the coast members felt unhappy about some of the provisions of the newly formed Medical Association in Kenya.
These were soon sorted out at the Council and general meeting. Over the last few decades the national council has made it a definite policy to have council meetings Annual general Meetings and scientific conferences in all the Divisions where local members are able to extend invitation. Such occasions provide a tremendous stimulus to the local doctors and also enable all members to mix and mingle.
How ever in this Country of vast distances separating the main towns, communication remains a problem.