Pomp and colour marked the 40th, Kenya Medical Research Institute’s Anniversary Celebrations held on Monday, 10th February 2020 at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel.
The celebrations, which also marked the official opening ceremony of the 10th, KEMRI Annual Scientific and Health Conference (KASH was attended by over 1000 members of staff, collaborators, partners and other invited guests.
The opening ceremony was officiated by veteran Scientists and academician, Prof. Kihumbu Thairu who is among the Institute’s founders and the first chairperson of the KEMRI Board of Management.
In an animated hour-long speech, Prof. Thairu took his audience down memory lane on the establishment of the nascent Institute, the early challenges it faced before becoming a world class renown medical research Institute it is today.
“It has been a long journey, when I see what you have achieved I almost over joyed with tears,” Prof. Thairu said during the ceremony that also saw a number of long-serving members of staff and achievers honoured with various accolades and certificates.
Prof. Thairu’s observations were shared by other speakers among them, Director General KEMRI, Prof. Yeri Kombe who also attributed the Institute’s growth to not only “immense goodwill and support from the government, but also years of excellent partnerships from collaborators.”
“Slightly, more than 40 years ago, the Institute had only a handful of scientists and neither had no meaningful infrastructure to write home about but, today, KEMRI has grown tremendously to a world re-known Institution with research activities not just spreading across Kenya, but influencing regional and global direction with a staff strength of close to 4,000,” said Prof. Kombe in a speech read on his behalf by Prof. Sam Kariuki, Director in charge of Research and Development in KEMRI.
He added that the Institute through its various research programmes, is in the forefront of innovative methods for the control and treatment of diseases of public health importance and that research findings emanating from KEMRI’s work were now being applied in the management and control of diseases and other health challenges in Kenya and the world over.
Echoing Prof. Thairu’s views, the current chairman of the KEMRI Board of Management, Dr. Naphtali Agata lauded the efforts of KEMRI scientists noting that it had resulted into the Institute being ranked the top in Africa in terms of research output by analytics giants, Scimago Lab and Elsevier. He said that he was equally proud of the efforts by KASH Conference that “has grown steadily as a forum that serves to promote health science through dialogue and exchange among scientists.” As a Board of Management, we are pleased and honored to be associated with this unique scientific initiative that seeks to present high level scientific findings that will intern influence policy and practice that will have a direct impact in the lives of our general populations,” he said.
On his part, the 10th KASH Chairman, Prof. Charles Mbogo, welcomed participants to the conference, promising them a tantalizing menu of discussion.
The icing on the cake was panel discussions that addressed key issues in the area of Cancer and Gender and Science topics that was held in the afternoon. The Panelists for the first discussion, entitled, Cancer! a battle to be won! was addressed by Prof. Chite Asirwa, the Director of International Cancer Institute (ICI), Dr. Ann Chao, Senior Advisor for Cancer from US Embassy and Dr. Alfred Karagu Maina, the CEO, National Cancer Institute. Others are Prof. Natabona Mabachi from University of Kansas Medical Center, Dr. Zipporah Bukania Deputy Director, in charge of Center for Public Health Research (CPHR), Head of the Sexual, Reproductive Adolescent Child Health (SRACH) programme, Dr. Nelly Mugo, KEMRI Researcher, Dr. Damaris Matoke, Dr. Vera Manduku, Deputy Director, Center for Clinical Research (CCR) and host, Ms. Ann Korir, head of the National Cancer Registry in KEMRI.
The second panel titled: “Gender and Science: Harnessing the potential of women in addressing health”, was graced by a high-powered panel consisting of: Dr. Matoke, Dr. Evelyn Gitau from African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Prof. Kariuki, Prof. Mary Abukutsa Onyango, the Deputy VC in charge of Research at JKUAT and Ms. Millicent Liani from a DELTAS LRP Research Fellow of the Center for Capacity Research at LSTM, UK. Others are Dr. Halima Mwenesi from the Global Health, Population and Nutrition Group, KASH Chairman, Prof. Mbogo and Ms. Asiko Ongaya from the Center for Respiratory Disease Research (CRDR) in KEMRI.
The KEMRI Website and the Knowledge Management Platform were officially launched during the celebrations.
Prof. Thairu, Chief guest for the 40th KEMRI Anniversary Celebrations cake in commemoration of the event assisted by KEMRI Board of Management Chair, Dr. Naphtali Agata, Prof Bukusi looks on