There are only nine fellowship-trained and qualified interventional radiologists in Kenya, and only one of those is female.
Dr Felister Wangari Maina, who is based at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), attained this status after completing a fellowship in Interventional Radiology at the University of Nairobi (UoN), the first of its kind in Kenya.
“Previously you had to leave the country to attain such a qualification. I applied for more than three years before getting the fellowship which I eventually got in Singapore but unfortunately, the Covid-19 outbreak occurred so I couldn’t go,” says Dr Wangari.
Dr Wangari describes interventional radiology as a minimally invasive and targeted treatment option performed using imaging guidance. It is an advancement in medicine that often replaces traditional open surgical procedures.
“We can now give targeted chemotherapy to a patient, so instead of giving intravenous medicine, we go straight into the vessel and apply it into the tumour, meaning the chemotherapy doesn’t affect the whole body like was the case before,” she says.
Before becoming an interventional radiologist, Dr Wangari was a Medical Officer (MO) at the Accident and Emergency in 2009.
She did a Master’s degree in radiology and joined the radiology department in the same hospital, later developing a keen interest in interventional radiology. When the fellowship opportunity presented itself it was a no-brainer.
“The UoN fellowship came along. I tried and got it. It was the first IR class in Kenya and there were only two students. The fellowship took two years to complete,” Dr Wangari says.
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“It is a super specialisation since I was already a radiologist specialist. IR is a new frontier in medicine and keeps on expanding.”
Dr Wangari likes interventional radiology because it is a dynamic field and she gets to interact with all sorts of patients, with all sorts of diagnostics. “It is nice because most of the time you get to see results fast and see patients responding faster after procedures without going for surgery,” she says. “We meet most patients in their desperate moments and can offer hope that was not previously there.”
Interventional radiology was previously a last resort treatment option, but now specialists can apply it at various stages from the initial diagnosis to management and care.