Dr JOHN ONG'ECH believes his is a call to serve women, he talks to GARDY CHACHA about the highs and lows of being a gynaecologist and what his wife thinks about his profession
Who is Dr John Ong’ech to a Kenyan who is yet to read or meet you?
I am a gynaecologist who is very passionate about women’s health. I am also a mentor to young and aspiring doctors. Is that enough?
Your undergraduate was in medicine and surgery. How did you chose to specialise in gynaecology?
As a student in medical school my mentor was a gynaecologist. I have to attribute this to him. But I had also witnessed lots of problems around child birth and women’s health. I knew I could make an impact and improve the situation.
Didn’t you feel awkward that it was a ‘female’ field?
Gynaecology is not a female field. It is the clients who are female.
And by the way you treat men too?
Yes. I treat men. Sometimes I treat a couple – husband and wife.
What kind of gynaecological conditions do men come to you with?
Men come with issues of infertility, reproductive tract infections, and erectile dysfunction. That said, I still recommend that men always accompany their wives when they visit gynaecologists.
At any point in your career did you ever feel shy when a female patient knocked at your door?
We recently heard of a gynaecologist who took advantage of his patients, what’s your take on that?
I don’t and have never looked at my clients as women. They are my patients. When I am within these walls I am here to treat and save lives.
Ideally, when female patients need to see a gynaecologist, how should they prepare?
They should be well prepared emotionally and psychologically. Gynaecological check-ups touch on the core of privacy.
They should avoid visiting gynaecologists when they are on menses. It makes check-ups a bit messy. Other things we can deal with.
Has your wife ever complained that you ‘see’ lots of women at work?
Pass. I can’t speak for her.
Being a doctor people would imagine that you didn’t feel the anxiety that new fathers feel when their wives are going into labour. What was it like for you?
It was probably worse because I was not only anxious as a new father but also as a medic. I thought of everything that could go wrong. With the first born it was tough.
The most difficult thing about your career?
These women like calling. They will call even at the most unholy of hours and you must answer all the calls. Maintaining your cool as you address their issues, even when it is something that could have waited till morning, is difficult.
Why don’t you then switch off your phone?
You can never switch off your phone as a gynaecologist unless you want to go out of business. It has to be on and in high volume, 24 hours, round the clock.
How easy would it be to treat your own wife?
It is not the norm to treat your own wife. You let your colleagues do it. There are situations though that will force you to act. It is difficult though having to play doctor and husband at the same time.
If you never became a doctor, which profession do you think you would have preferred?
I would have pursued finance. That is where all the money is. Plus, it is a career that affects every other career.
Having experienced gynaecology, would you wish that your son followed in your footsteps?
I do. It would be easy for him now that his father is one. But my son does not want to be a gynaecologist.
When your kids ask, ‘Dad, what do you do?’ how do you answer?
They are already taught a lot in school. I tell them that I handle reproductive health in women. And I avoid going into the descriptive details.
When a female patient shows interest beyond coming to you for treatment what do you do?
The rule is to stay focused. I make it clear that we are here for a purpose – which is medical. Any other thing is not welcome.
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