Health & Fitness

Health sector must back PhD research

PhDs can improve how we innovate around medical problems and service delivery. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

If you spend time in university libraries, one of the good sections is the Thesis shelves. For those with access, some universities also offer online snippets of the same and some learnings can be gleaned from Master’s and PhD dissertations.

In the just-concluded census, one of the questions asked was, “What is your highest level of education? It evoked memories of a discussion with a Chinese-American philanthropist visiting the country in 2018. A resident of Boston City, he intimated that Boston hosts the highest density of PhD residents, at least from the 2012 US census: a staggering 14 percent of residents.

Secondly, the city spends about 50 percent of her budget on education. No surprise, therefore, that it is also home to academic giants like Harvard and MIT among other top 100 universities globally.

While attempting to correlate per capita income and education levels across towns, our census question may have raised a concern with unemployed graduates wondering whether investment in their tertiary education yielded much given their unemployment.

Several universities are facing funding crises that has seen some scrap courses, closure of colleges and unpaid staff. On campus, worrying teacher-student ratios, lack of research funds and low wages compared to peers in private sector may see lecturers’ morale diminish.


At the same time, an inability to get bright students to local postgraduate and doctoral studies sees few dedicate their lives to research and academia. This is an alarm bell to those charged with nurturing future generation of teachers. The National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (Nacosti) and the Commission for University Education (CHE), are tasked with strategising on how to avoid this.

Do rich PhD ratios yield much to the health sector?

While not directly related to healthcare, PhDs could support health services consumption. They can improve innovation around problems in medical supplies logistics, econometrics, human resource and mathematical epidemiological modelling. The latter gives ability to be predictive.

However, data from the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMDPB) on PhDs earned in the field gives scanty information. The majority of the few PhDs are concentrated in private research institutions.

PhDs create a link between industry and academia, and in areas where this has worked, a symbiosis of patents and innovations yield a win-win.

Governments create well-funded vibrant university research hubs that attract motivated faculty and gifted students who churn out ground-breaking work that translates to patents, products or systems.

With manufacturing being on Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda, there is a need to improve the number and quality of PhDs.

Local industry giants should jumpstart the process.