To Late Doctor 'Jo' Okanga
MADE A HUGE CONTRIBUTION TO WELL BEING
OF SO MANY PEOPLE IN AFRICA AND THE COAST
Joseph Bhoe Otieno Okanga was
born in 1936 in Kitale.
attended his early schooling at Sector
before proceeding briefly to
, and finally completing his primary school
, where he would later return to teach.
proceeded to the
, Kakamega, for secondary school, where
he did his Cambridge School Certificate.
passed with distinction, scoring 9 points.
all accounts, Joseph was a bright student and was one of the
leading light of his time.
it came as no surprise when he was admitted to Makerere
University Eastern Africa.
the Forest Service had wanted him to join as a Forestry
Officer; on the other hand, the Armed Forces wanted to send
for military training.
Late Dr. J. B. O. Okanga.
admission to Makerere looked as though it would be derailed by the
British government’s decision to commit its allocation of Makerere
student education bursary funds towards the Queen’s state visit to
Joe’s mother refused to allow him to even contemplate being either a
Forestry Officer or a soldier, and so he began the patient wait for
awaiting admission to Makerere, Joseph and his brother Albert went off
to work on a coffee farm in Endebess.
they were away, Joseph’s admission to Makerere came through, but he
could not be traced at his parent’s home.
what was essentially a manhunt, he was found in Endebess and the
British Administration sent a
Rover to pick them up and return them to Uholo for
identity verification by the local chief and his parents.
being admitted to Makerere was an event in itself; it also was the
beginning of his realization that his decision to study medicine was
truly a calling.
this sequence of events he finally entered Makerere, from where he
graduated with a degree in medicine in 1966.
this time Joseph’s Uholo roots had been built upon, and he began to
form new friendships with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds,
races and cultures.
was truly a warm, loyal, dependable and trustworthy person, for whom
an initial friendship formed was sure to last a lifetime.
his time at
as an intern, Joseph met the love of his life,
Rebecca Caroline Mukhwana Malimba, whom he married on
31st December, 1966
were blessed with a son, Michael Okanga, followed a year later by
began working as a doctor, not only at
, but in all parts of
to Kiambu to Mandera.
had found his true calling in the care and healing of people.
with his young family to further extend his medical
on a World Health Organization scholarship.
family lived in
as Joseph pursued his post graduate medical studies
towards membership of the Royal College of Physicians between 1971 and
became a fellow in 1974.
Becky, Michael and Sheila returned to
in 1972 and initially settled in
after the Scottish cold, he was not about to settle in the cold of the
Kenyan highlands, so after only one month in Nairobi, he moved his
family to Mombasa where they lived in the house that is now the
Swahili Cultural Center, next to Mombasa hospital.
hospital was then called
and it was there, in January 1973, that Becky and
Joe welcomed their third child Nereah.
’s loss was
’s emphatic gain, as we were all to see and
experience over the next four decades.
began his career at the coast as the Provincial Physician.
was the start of his illustrious career at the coast, and also as a
pillar of the
did not just focus on his work, but dedicated time to his family and
to the community.
this time began what would become a revolving door of foster parenting
the children of those near and dear to him, as well as friends of his
children, and even total strangers who were in need of food and
are they who will tell you of the few days, or weeks, or years, or a
lifetime that they lived in the Okanga family home.
was also around this time that Joe’s life as a Rotarian began. He
joined the Rotary Club in 1973, becoming Chairman of the Rotary Club,
branch in 1977.
was a member until his death.
dedication and work-life balance was evidenced by the fact that around
this time he was also a founding member of the Medical Practitioners
and Dentists Board of Kenya in 1973, and was also the Chairman of the
Kenyan Medical Association in 1977.
1974, he left government to set up private practice as a Consultant
Physician specializing in Internal Medicine.
this time, he had become the preferred medical consultant for many
, not only because of his great knowledge and skill
as a medical practitioner, but also due to his caring nature and
commitment to patients.
the heavy work demands of these years, Joseph was a committed family
soon welcomed Keziah and Sharon into the world.
this time Joe’s international reputation as a top physician had
grown and he attended and presented papers at several local and
international conferences on medical and rotary related subjects.
led to him spending a year in 1977/ 1978 as a visiting lecturer of
Medicine at the Groote Schuur Teaching Hospital of the
attachment enabled him to work with the famed Dr. Christian Barnard in
treating a patient with heart disease.
patient was in fact, the first black man in apartheid
to receive a transplant of a heart from a white
the time this was very widely reported by the international media as a
breakthrough in medicine.
with his international recognition and accomplishments, he continued
his diligent commitment to his local obligations.
was a visiting Consultant Physician to the leading
hospitals, including the Aga Khan Hospital,
addition, he also served as Medical Director at the Aga Khan Hospital,
as well as being a member and Director of Mombasa Hospital
accomplishments, though great and impressive, are not exhaustive.
Joseph was also:
Region, International Diabetes Federation
Member, International Diabetes Federation
Member by special invitation, American Diabetes Federation
Association of Physicians
Overseas member, British Medical Association
Medical member, Legal Task Force on HIV and AIDS pandemic in
gave back to the youth, mentoring and being a role model to them in
his capacity as Chairman and member of the board of governors of Star
, and in the past, being a member of the board of
the years Joe was diligent in keeping abreast of medical advances and
used to read, write and visit with other medical practitioners
thus stayed at the top of his profession throughout the years.
was also the overseas external tutor for Master’s degrees and
post-graduate diplomas in Clinical Pharmacy for Queen’s University,
until 1998, he had been an editorial peer reviewer for the East
African Medical Journal and was a contributing writer to the book
in 2004, Becky passed away.
was a huge blow to Joe and his children.
following this loss, his faith in God was renewed.
children, his community, friends and his work also helped him
persevere during this time.
energy of the man was astonishing as he would always rise before dawn
and set out for work before the sun had barely risen. He almost always
worked throughout his lunch hour.
would ensure that he spent time with family, friends and community
members after work hours and on weekends.
the weekend of 8th October, he had hosted friends to a celebration
lunch for a relative who had recently been appointed a judge of the
function was very well attended and guests found him in good spirits
and appearing well.
was his custom, he exchanged jokes with his guests and gave them each
a hearty embrace as they departed.
the night of
Monday 10th October, 2011
, Joseph came home from work and as was his habit,
relaxed with his family, exchanging news of the day in conversation
and planning for the morrow.
the morning of the 11th October, he woke up early to go to work and
as he went through his morning routine he suddenly fell unconscious in
surprisingly, it took some time for anybody to realize that something
the time attention was drawn to his delay in leaving for work it was
too late; he was rushed to the nearest medical facility by family
members, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
so a great man lived, fulfilled his life’s work, and went to be with
issue 3441: October 14 - 20, 2011
Doctor 'Joe' Okanga
was a great philanthropist and rendered his
time and energy serving the less fortunate
was with profound sadness I learnt about the demise of Dr J. B Okanga.
as I preferred calling him was more than a friend since I joined the
Rotary Club of Mombasa in early 2000 where he had been a member for
more than 30 years.
was indeed an exempt member where your age and the number of years
served in Rotary exceeded 80 years. Despite his age he was always
there for rotary and Rotary friends.
was also my personal physician and many a times he will make ease up
whenever I went to see him for any health matter that was troubling me
and he will always ask me if I ever go on holiday.
recall every visit to his clinic was more than just a doctor’s visit
since he will catch up on how the hotel industry and my family are
long queues at his clinic were enough testimony that many trusted his
has been left poorer by his demise.
Okanga will truly be missed by very many people at the
was a very well trusted doctor and anytime you ask him about a patient
he will tell you that he will do what he can but the one who decides
is up there pointing up with his figure.
despite not keeping well in recent times was always available for his
patients, true one day we shall all have a date with death.
Okanga was a great philanthropist and he will render his time and
energy serving the less fortunate and for certain many people will
miss his caring healing hands.
equally spent a lot of time addressing diabetics and how best to deal
was a doctor who will never fail to pick your call no matter what time
of the day or night you called him unless his phone was switched off.
will miss his magic smile whenever I walked into his clinic and may
the lord rest his soul in eternal peace. Fare thee well daktari