In Summary
  • Kenyan medic Betty Gikonyo’s story is illuminating, causing the reader to evaluate their own life circumstances.
  • She talks about the period from when she had her first child towards the end of medical school, to branching out from government employment to founding her own practice.
  • Born in Kiamabara village in Nyeri County in central Kenya, Gikonyo rose from humble beginnings.

Dr Betty Gikonyo’s autobiography, The Girl who Dared to Dream, is a deeply engrossing, well written narrative.

It not only chronicles Gikonyo’s life experiences but traces East Africa’s political, social and indeed, medical history.

Launched in Nairobi at the end of September, one of the strengths of this book is the manner in which the renowned Kenyan cardiologist openly shares her early struggles while raising a family and building a career.

She talks about the period from when she had her first child towards the end of medical school, to branching out from government employment to founding her own practice.

Gikonyo’s autobiography captures the situation of women in the 1970s and 1980s, and how they built their careers. Interestingly, she dispels the notion that patriarchy was an impediment to progress.

If anything, the men in her life were pivotal to her life’s journey: Her father ensuring that she and her sisters went to school; her brother acting as a role model and support system; and her husband, as a thoughtful and encouraging partner.

ROSE FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Born in Kiamabara village in Nyeri County in central Kenya, Gikonyo rose from humble beginnings.

She attended the prestigious Alliance Girls High School in Kiambu County; the University of Nairobi and universities in the US, where she specialised in children’s cardiology.

From a young girl who wore her first shoes at 13 when joining secondary school, she grew to become one of Kenya’s most prominent medical practitioners, founding the Heart-to-Heart Foundation — a medical charity dedicated to the control, prevention and treatment of heart diseases in children — and the Karen Hospital in Nairobi, jointly with her husband Dr Dan Gikonyo, also a respected cardiologist.

He was the personal doctor of former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki.

The book also details occasional humorous moments such as when the young family chose to return to Kenya from America despite friends trying to talk them out of it.

One American cardiologist who hadn’t paid them much attention during their time there, surprisingly invited them for a meal. He then told them out to order good American steaks and enjoy the meal, because it would probably be the last juicy steak they would ever have now that they were returning to Africa.

Page 1 of 2