•Prof Guyo Jardesa told the Star Patel’s death was heartbreaking. The MP was Patel’s student, and later his colleague at Nairobi Hospital.
•At his retirement in December, owners of Nairobi Hospital said his feats were full of “splendour and colour”, named him Honorary Consultant.
Sumant Rai Patel, a gynaecologist who helped deliver about 3,000 babies in Kenya, including the children of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sisters, died on Tuesday in Nairobi after a 57-year-long career.
He was 89.
His two children, Ameet and Preeti, announced the death in a statement.
They did not give the cause of death, but their father had been in failing health.
Dr Patel also helped found the first medical school in Kenya at the University of Nairobi in 1967 and taught the first class.
The Star held a lengthy interview with Dr Patel on January 16 to talk about his retirement from the Nairobi hospital, effective December 2022.
He told the Star that at 89 years, and having worked in a hospital all his life, he felt bored to stay at home and would go to the hospital daily to work for free.
“I come in the morning around 10am and by 1.30pm I leave. I'm mostly offering advisory services. So when doctors want to come and discuss their cases, I give free advice. I'm not interested in money now. It’s about imparting my experience to them, you know,” he said.
He insisted the interview could not proceed without the presence of his friend, Prof Guyo Jaldesa, a gynaecologist-obstetrician who last year was elected Member of the National Assembly for Moyale.
Yesterday, Prof Guyo told The Star Patel’s death was heartbreaking. The MP was Patel’s student, and later his colleague at Nairobi Hospital.
“SR, as he was well known, demonstrated and exemplified the dignity of the medical profession. He handled his medical students, colleagues and patients with etiquette, which benefitted our noble profession,” Prof Guyo said.
“I remember with nostalgia how he invited and gave us a lift in his car to assist and learn from him during surgery in various private hospitals. It was a privilege to be his student and later a colleague. Where shall we get another like him? May his soul rest in eternal peace,” he said.
During the interview last month, Dr Patel appeared a little feeble, but his eyesight and memory were strong. He walked slowly with a stagger and needed a hearing aid.
He expressed no regrets about studying medicine and specialising in gynaecology and obstetrics.
“It’s a very satisfying branch of medicine. And it's fulfilling. You will not get bored with it. There are always challenges coming, some patients come with a lot of challenges,” he said.
“Through the nine months they attend the clinic we make sure they're safe. There are no complications like pre-eclampsia and blood pressure. We screen all that and also make sure the baby is growing well.”
Patel was born in 1933 in Mombasa, where he schooled until Form 4. He went for his A-levels in the United Kingdom because there was no A-level education in Kenya at that time.
He returned to Kenya and began practising medicine at the Kenyatta National Hospital in 1959, just before Independence.
It was a privilege to be his student and later a colleague. Where shall we get another like him? May his soul rest in eternal peace”Prof Guyo Jaldesa
He then trained as a gynaecologist and obstetrician in 1966 and said delivering babies was the best part of his career.
He worked in the Ministry of Health between 1960 and 1980 as a medical officer and later as a senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the KNH.
He set up his private practice at the Nairobi Hospital in 1968 but moved there full-time after leaving government employment in 1980.
Patel told The Star that one thing that annoyed him is that gynaecology has neglected menopause.
Doctors largely focus on reproduction and childbirth, neglecting women after their childbearing years.
Yet menopause is a major life event which all women go through.
“I wish more doctors would take up this sub-speciality and focus on menopause,” he said.
During Patel's retirement party in December, the owners of Nairobi Hospital said his achievements were full of “splendour and colour” and awarded him an Honorary Consultant title for his service.
“It is because of the above splendour and colourful achievements, that the Kenya Hospital Association Board of Management decided to give him the highest level of professional recognition and honour,” the hospital said.
He is survived by his widow Ramaben and two children.
(Edited by V. Graham)