Professor Fredrick Were was conferred with a degree of Doctor of Science (in paediatrics) of the University of Nairobi (UoN) during the 65th virtual graduation ceremony held on 24th September, 2021.
Prof. Were’s citation was read by UoN Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama before being awarded the DSC by UoN Chancellor Dr. Vijoo Rattansi.
Prof. Were was born on 30 August, 1958 in Busia County. He undertook his primary school education at Nambale (Busia) and Nabakholo (Kakamega) Primary Schools and later completed his O and A levels in Butula Secondary School and Kericho High School respectively.
He joined UoN to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery in 1978.
Prof. Were has not left the University since completing a Masters in Medicine (Paediatrics) and a Doctorate within the same field and becoming a member of the teaching staff. He was also a Fellow of Neonatal Intensive Care at the Monash Medical Centre in Australia.
His career has been a combination of contributing to medical practice, research, and the education of young medical practitioners. He has been a lecturer at the University of Nairobi since 1994, and through the span of over 25 years within the University he has become a Professor of Perinatal and Neonatal medicine, the Dean of Medicine and the Acting Principal for the College of Health Sciences. His role as an academic extends to Aga Khan University where he is an adjunct professor. He has taught both undergraduate and masters students and supervised 50 masters’ theses and 5 doctoral ones.
He is a co-founder of the Hurlinghum Children’s Clinic and has practiced in various hospitals notably the Kenyatta National Hospital and Mbagathi Hospital where he still practices despite having significantly slowed down his clinical practice in the private sphere.
Newborn medicine and health systems have been two central points around which Prof Were’s research has focused beginning with his Masters’ thesis on “Factors associated with growth faltering at Mathare North Clinic”, Doctorate in Long Term Outcomes of Very Low Birth Weight finally culminating in this higher doctoral thesis on “How Can Health Systems Research Support In-Patient Paediatric Services in Kenya’s Primary Referral Hospitals?”. In the 30 years between these two thesis he has completed 92 research driven publications, 17 book chapters, 62 conference abstracts and 12 policy documents. These publications have increased knowledge and awareness around the interaction between newborn health and public health systems. He has also acted as a reviewer for: the Lancet, BMC Online Journal, African Health Sciences, East African Medical Journal and was a member of the editorial boards of the East African Medical Journal and the Advances in Vaccines.
He has been a keen advocate on vaccination, particularly, early childhood vaccination acting as a joint chair to the Ministry of Health’s Joint Maternal and Tetanus Vaccination Committee; as well as the Chair of the Kenya National Polio Certification Committee; and more recently he has been appointed as a member of the National Steering Committee on the COVID-19 Vaccination.
His work in vaccines and neo-natal medicine has earned him international recognition and he is a member of the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts advancing access to vaccines around the world travelling to almost every continent to provide expertise on universal access to vaccination in early childhood. He has served in various advisory groups and taskforces internationally including: the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Measles; PATH’s Scientific Advisory Committee on whole cell pneumococcal vaccines; and as a Chair of the Data Safety Management Board on the Fractional Yellow Fever Vaccine trial among others.
Prof. Were is a firm believer in leveraging partnership and Hurlinghum Children Clinic was founded on an ongoing partnership with his teacher, MMED supervisor and fellow perinatologist/neonatologist (retired UON lecturer, Dr James Nyikal) and eventually incorporated his students and friends. He worked to establish the not for profit child health body, Kenya Paediatric Research Consortium (where he is the Chief Research Adviser and volunteer Executive Director). This organisation works in partnership with the Kenya Paediatrics Association to strengthen research and understanding around child health and paediatrics.
He has been an outstanding member of both the medical fraternity and our country; he was the best overall masters of medicine student in paediatrics in 1990; outstanding fellowship student during his fellowship at Monash Medical Centre; and was awarded the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Award in 2008. In 2009 he was recognised as Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear by President Mwai Kibaki for his contribution to medical education and child health in Kenya.
He is an active member of a number of professional associations including the Kenya and Eastern African Paediatric Associations; African Rotavirus Society; African Vaccine Preventable Disease Network; International Paediatric Association; and the International Society for Tropical Paediatrics among others.
He is a believer of servant leadership a quality which he showed in his term as Dean, and his tenure as Acting Principal; and a quality he continues to imbue in the many technical committees and boards (both nationally and internationally) he has sat in working to advance the sharing of knowledge and to improve the lives and health of others.