Alex Gitau

alex gitau

A versatile doctor with nearly a decade of clinical experience in low and middle-income settings 

Community Bursary Award Holder

Joining us from: Kenya

MSc Applied Digital Health (2022)

I am a Chevening scholar who is passionate about achieving universal health and well-being globally, especially in the Low- or Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), through driving innovation in the fast-growing area of digital health.

My current study is applied digital health. I am looking at mobile health interventions in low and middle-income settings and trying to see the impact in these settings, especially in the field of cardiovascular disease. My interest in digital health stemmed from working in the public and private sectors, where I observed the over-reliance on manual data. I was challenged to visualise and present data at hospital board meetings, often struggling with huge analytical gaps and technical statistical skills. Despite these challenges, I analysed the non-communicable disease (NCD) burden at the district hospital for the period of 2017- 2019. From this, I derived that over 30% of our total outpatient visits were NCDs, and we established two clinics for hypertension and diabetes mellitus. However, most of the patients could not afford treatment. The prudent solution was to create a suitable package. Engaging hospital suppliers, I formulated one that would cater for the consultation, essential diagnostics, and treatment under £10. In addition, I initiated monthly health education seminars for these patients.

I have a deep interest in social impact. In late 2020, I founded “Afya Mtaani” which can be translated to “Health in the village,” a community-based organisation seeking to strengthen primary healthcare efforts in the public sector. In 2021, we launched our flagship nutrition program that provides a nutritious meal a day for needy families in Nyeri in a bid to combat the compounding factors of malnutrition and hunger when schools close.

During my free time, I enjoy reading books on modern and historical architecture and looking at the different inspirations behind the designs. These books expand my imagination and go so well with an outdoor space. I love nature and will take any excuse to walk in the park. I am also interested in ethical artificial intelligence and the use of AI in different industries. I am a member of the Oxford Artificial Intelligence Society.

I chose the University of Oxford because of its rich and diverse community. I was keen on working with John Powell and Chris Paton from the Medical Sciences Division due to their extensive research on digital health technologies, particularly mobile technologies in LMIC settings. St Cross is a hub of multinational backgrounds. Therefore, I was interested in the diversity of experiences and cultures I would explore through the people at St Cross. I have engaged with the rest of the St Cross community through  lunches and halls where one can share in conversation and a delicious meal. Knowing Kevin Marsh from Kenya, a great college ambassador, made me feel at home by giving me tips on living in Oxford.

The bursary has enabled me to grow my professional network and social impact. I have joined the Oxford Union and attended several conferences, namely the digital health conference in London and the health informatics conference. and plan to attend the Berlin conference on digital health. Additionally, I have supported my Afya Mtaani project in acquiring county government licenses so that we can register formally to authenticate our fund-raising campaigns with corporations willing to support our agenda. Through these licenses, the community project can register as a foundation to advocate for public health by pushing for neglected societies. In the mid to near future, I will support my home country’s digital health transformation strategy by developing the right policy frameworks and coordinating their implementation.