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Joachim Osur: Grandma wanted me to be a pastor but I became a sexologist

AMREF International University Vice-Chancellor Prof Joachim Osur during an interview at his office, Nairobi, February 11, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

A sexologist in professional circles is a sexual health expert specialising in psychological issues around sexuality.

A sexual medicine doctor, on the other hand, is someone who prescribes or does surgeries and specialises in the treatment of sexual health problems.

I am both a sexologist and sexual medicine doctor. I am also a family therapist dealing in relationships and intimacy issues, besides being the Vice-Chancellor of Amref International University.

I run a sexology clinic where I treat patients with sexual problems and intimacy issues like sexual performance. It could be that they have a disease or psychological issues affecting their sexuality.

Most people have questions about their sexuality, yet sex is still an uncomfortable topic. I have relatives and colleagues who do not understand why I do what I do.

Sex is so stigmatised that if you are dealing with matters concerning sex, people think you are not a professional or you lack better things to do.

There was an incident when I was still studying. I had written material brought in the country from the US.

I sent someone to Post Bank with my identity (ID) card but they insisted they wanted to see me. I found a panel of three who told me that I was guilty of importing pornography.

They opened the materials and there were things around sexual orientation, masturbation, literature on sexual dysfunction and told me the material was not allowed in Kenya.

I told them I was in training as a sex expert and needed the material. When I told them my name, they asked if I was the doctor writing for a local newspaper. When I told them yes, they then allowed me to take the material.

I meet people who have problems but are not bold enough to seek help and we find a solution that gives them peace. When they are happy, I am happy.

I do a lot of talks in churches, I talk to couples, we go on retreats. The church has realised that there is a need and I appreciate that. Couples go to pastors with these problems and the pastors have realised that there is a need.

I grew up in Karadolo village, Sega in Ugenya, Siaya County. I went to Migare Primary school, then St Mary’s Yala.

I had a great experience at Yala. People did not like biology, chemistry and math but I loved those subjects. We were the second 8-4-4 candidates. Those days, getting an A was an uphill task. I think there were only 10 ‘As’ in the country that year. I got a B+.

I went to the University of Nairobi (UoN) to study Pharmacy. UoN was the only university offering Pharmacy and it took only 28 students. I changed from Pharmacy to medicine after being influenced by relatives.

Medicine is a rigorous training and getting supplementary is very normal. I was lucky because I never got one.

Gynaecology unit

I interned at Aga Khan Hospital for one year. I got registered as a practitioner and started my profession at Aga Khan Hospital’s obstetrics and gynaecology unit, which was also a training centre for the Royal College of Gynecologists in the United Kingdom.

I trained, then when I was to go to the UK for six months, I changed and started doing public health.

After public health, I started doing my sexology in the United States. It was a blended programme, for four years; both face to face and distance training.

 I finished and started the UK programme with the European Society for Sexual Health while also pursuing my PhD because I had finished my Masters in Public Health focusing on sexual and reproductive health at Kenyatta University.

There is a lot of knowledge, research abilities and specialisation in the medical area and that is why I found myself at Amref University as a Vice-Chancellor.

What I am today was greatly influenced by my late grandmother. She believed in me. She initially thought I should be an Anglican pastor, but when I told her I was doing medicine she was impressed and consoled herself that pastors and doctors serve people.

I owe a lot to her and also my very encouraging mum. I owe a lot to the women in my life. I lost my father while in my second year at the university. I later married my high school friend (not a girlfriend just a friend) who was in a neighbouring school. We had lost touch but met later in life.

She believed and still believes I am a very bright man and I should read more. When you have a wife who encourages you, you read more and get a PhD.

We have two children, twins, a boy and a girl. They read my writings.

The good thing is that they are very open with me. My girl talks to me a lot, she tells me older men are very aggressive and I tell her “If you are not a strong girl you can fall prey.”