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Why MKU’s medical lab science programme is far from ordinary: Charles Rombo Testimony

When Charles Rombo informs you that he is currently working while also pursuing a Master’s degree, you may dismiss the talk as nothing much, since millions of others have done so.

Let him explain further and you will appreciate the weight behind his excitement.

Mr Rombo, the National Quality and Safety Director at the National Blood Transfusion Services, belongs to a small group of professionals who luck has favoured.

He was among Kenya’s first medical laboratory science higher national diploma holders for whom Mount Kenya University opened the door to university education. His lot is the first in independent Kenya to gain a medical laboratory science degree from a local private university.

“When we completed our diploma studies in the late 2000s, the path to university education was basically a dead end, a cul-de-sac,” he reminisces. “If you had the money you could travel abroad to join an expensive foreign university. This is because only one public university in the country offered very limited degree chances. Most of my colleagues and our predecessors were resigned to fate. Many in this profession desired to progress academically, but accepted that there was no way up. People have worked and retired without ever getting the opportunity to acquire university training.”

Matters took a positive turn when Mr Rombo learned that MKU was offering a degree programme in his area of specialisation.  He joined the pioneer class of 2009 to pursue his degree in medical laboratory science, and as he says, “the rest is history.”

According to Mr Rombo, two things enabled him to enrol for the course. “First, the cost was affordable,” he says. “Secondly, the study programme was flexible – starting on Friday and running through Saturday and Sunday. It meant that I could work and study with ease. Mount Kenya University mounted some unique programmes that had never been offered in Kenya before, and the Medical Laboratory Science degree programme was one of them.

Mr Rombo continues: “The common perception has been that you cannot offer medical science programmes part-time and also that they are costly. MKU smashed this myth and has proved that medical courses are affordable to the masses, too. This made us run to the university.”

For his Masters in haematology and blood transfusion, Mr Rombo decided to return to his stomping ground: MKU Main Campus in Thika.

He has vast experience gained from working with the Government of Kenya, USAID/ CDC funded programmes, health care facilities and the community. He has also worked outside Kenya.

He is trained in quality management by American Association of Blood Bank (AABB) and South African National Blood Service (SANBS) in Nairobi and Johannesburg, respectively.

Says he: “I am a qualified Strengthening Laboratory Management Towards Accreditation TOT (trainer of trainers)… I am a certified internal auditor of ISO 15189-2012 with Kenya Accreditation Service. Currently, I sit in Medical Laboratory Accreditation Technical Committee at the Kenya Accreditation Service, where I have participated in the development of assessment criteria for laboratories. I have participated in the assessment of over 18 facilities in Kenya.”

Mr Rombo is a member of the Association of Kenya Medical Laboratory Assessors and also a certified medical laboratory assessor with the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM).

He further wears several professional hats. He is the Deputy Country focal person for Stepwise Laboratory Quality Improvement Process Towards Accreditation (SLIPTA). He is also Vice President, African Society for Blood Transfusion (AfSBT), where he champions for good blood transfusion service standards across 15 countries in East Africa.

Mr Rombo credits his recognisable leadership skills to the training he underwent at MKU. This, he says, has given him the knowledge and confidence that make him stand out in international conferences on blood transfusion. “Participants realise that I have knowledge to share,” he explains.

This matters to him because he wants to serve Kenyans and the rest of humanity with cutting-edge knowledge.

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