Today we feature Dr. Kizzie Shako, 34, Senior Forensic Medical Officer, mother of one and blogger. She made it to the Business Daily‘s 2015 Top 40 Under 40 women. Dr. Shako is currently the only female police surgeon in Kenya.
Dr. Shako works at the Police Surgery Unit at the Traffic police Headquarters in Nairobi. She helps in filling P3 forms among other duties. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Forensic medicine. Her work entails some aspects of Forensic Pathology- Dead body management and disaster victim identification- she however clarifies that she is not a Forensic Pathologist.
She has been in the profession since January 2010. For three years, she worked at the City Mortuary, conducting autopsies, under the supervision of Pathologists. “I have never feared cadavers”, she says. “My ultimate goal is to be part of homicide investigations”, Dr. Shako reveals.
Here is our interview with the doctor.
- How long does it take to be a qualified forensic doctor?
It depends on the area of specialization. But generally one needs a medical degree, which varies between 6 years or more (depends on the country) and 3 to 4 years to specialize.
There are years in between like one-year internship, and working in the field prior to specialization. It varies according to your specialization. Forensic Pathology can take 5-6 years. Clinical Forensic medicine between 3 to 5 years. There are several arms in Forensic medicine and time spent studying for each may vary widely.
2. Which course did you take in University?
I acquired a Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery. Then I went on to study various courses in Forensics. These are Forensic Anthropology, Disaster Victim Identification and Clinical Forensic medicine which I am yet to complete.
3. How many (if there are) institutions in Kenya offer related courses?
I am not aware of authorized accredited universities or colleges teaching forensic studies. I urge anyone out there enrolling in these courses to do their research first on the credibility if these institutions.
Find out who will hire you after you are through with your course. Rushing into pursuing a course without prior research, has left many in debt and jobless. (She is on distance learning program, at an Australian University.)
4. Would you happen to know the number of forensic pathologists in Kenya and how many are women?
We have about 15 forensic pathologists. There is only one female among the 15.
5. How many cases do you handle a day/ week?
Oh my, very many! At the Police surgery, numbers vary with school sessions. The rate is much higher when schools are closed. However, on average, I can see about 10 Domestic violence cases though this can go up to 20. An average of 5-6 defilement cases daily, and about 40 other cases in a day. (She also attends court cases to testify as an expert witness.)
6. Do they always come to a conclusion/ Resolution or perpetrators brought to book?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to follow up on these cases as successful prosecution requires a multidisciplinary approach.
7. How do you avoid burnout?
I blog, I train, I spend time with my loved ones and self-analyze. Ideally professionals in this field, such as police, doctors, prosecution, judges, require regular debriefing but this is not always possible. So, I have found other coping mechanisms.
I also read a lot about issues in this field, and keep busy. My favorite pass time is spending quality time with my son, family and close friends and getting alone time whenever possible.
8. How long have you been blogging and what motivated you to start the blog?
I started in October 2015, after working with hundreds of victims. I realized that a lot of these cases were avoidable and happened because of ignorance.
I am pained listening to some of these stories and always want to ask “what were you thinking?”. I realized, these victims or some parents of victims didn’t know better. I also noticed that this ignorance cut across all socioeconomic groups.
Writing is not easy and can be quite tiring especially when multitasking, but once it is done, it is very rewarding.
11. Your mother seems to be your number one supporter, especially in blogging. Could you tell us a bit about how she has contributed in making you who you are today?
My mother. What would I do without her? She is by far the most wonderful kind-hearted human being I have ever met. She believed in me regardless of what was going on around us or how bad the odds against me were. She speaks highly of me and made me believe in myself. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t even have considered pursuing medicine, or learning to play the piano, drums and clarinet among others, or done half the things I have done with my life!
My mother is deeply involved in her children’s affairs and is always happy and ready to help us wherever and whenever she can. She is a prayer warrior, my Prayer warrior. We don’t do anything without speaking to Him (God) first! Her role in my blog is editing. I write, she proof reads and edits.
12. What advice can you give to young women trying to find their career path?
Follow your heart, follow your dream, learn to be decisive and not swayed by others. Listen to your gut feeling, that intuition is there to guide you. I have regretted many things because I didn’t listen to my inner voice. This applies in all areas of your life because one area of your life affects the others.
Remain focused on the prize. Don’t give up. Keep trying, and if you fall, get up and try again. You don’t have to take no for an answer, though there are times you need the wisdom to know when to invest effort elsewhere.
Seek a mentor to guide you through your journey in your field of interest. Be confident. Confidence makes a huge difference.
She recently featured in Citizen TV’s Strength of a Woman segment. Here is the video.