Dr. Elizabeth Itotia has made history by becoming the first female radiopharmaceutical scientist in Kenya.
Itotia recently returned to the country after completing a master’s in radiopharmacy at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria, South Africa.
The 29-year-old is now stationed at Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) where she has been working for the past few months.
Dr. Itotia secured a fully sponsored scholarship by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to study the course in South African after graduating with a bachelor's degree in pharmacy from the University of Nairobi. She was a valedictorian (best student overall in the entire university) in the class of 2017.
A radiopharmaceutical scientist, also known as a nuclear pharmacist or radiopharmacist, is mainly tasked with preparing radioactive drugs in a safe and quality way. These drugs are mainly used for the diagnosis of diseases such as cancer.
Such drugs are prepared on-site since they expire in a matter of hours or sometimes minutes or seconds.
"They are also radioactive and therefore the aspect of radiation protection comes in," Dr. Itotia, who hails from Limuru says.
Radioactive drugs are injected into patients who are then imaged using a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan or a Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (Spect) scan.
"It's exciting that Kenya now has a public facility with a PET scan (KUTRRH). This is actually one of the main reasons people travel to India seeking treatment," Itotia told Nation.
Her skills will come in handy in the running of the upcoming Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre (IMIC) at KUTRRH to promote quality cancer care, particularly in regards to early diagnosis.