Pioneering Oncologist Dr. Catherine Nyongesa Watta: A Kenyan Hope in Cancer Care

Dr. Catherine Nyongesa Watta stands as a trailblazer in the field of oncology, particularly in Kenya where she is celebrated as the first female radiation oncologist. With over a decade of experience in clinical and radiation oncology, Dr. Nyongesa serves at the Texas Cancer Centre Nairobi and Kenyatta National Hospital. Her extensive educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Nairobi, a Master of Medicine in Radiation Oncology from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and a Fellowship in Radiation Oncology from the College of Radiation Oncologists of South Africa. She is an esteemed member of several professional organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and the International Gynecologic Cancer Society.

Dr. Nyongesa’s dedication and contributions to the field of oncology have been recognized through numerous awards, such as the Conquer Cancer Foundation award at the 2011 ASCO Annual Meeting, the International Development Education Award from ASCO in 2009, the IGCS Travelling Scholarship Award in 2008, and an Employee Excellence Award from Kenyatta National Hospital in 2007. Her MMED dissertation paper at the University of the Witwatersrand passed with distinction in 2005. These accolades highlight her exceptional commitment to advancing cancer care both nationally and internationally.

One of Dr. Nyongesa’s most notable achievements is co-founding the Texas Cancer Centre Nairobi in 2010, driven by personal motivation when her younger sister was diagnosed with uterine cancer. This personal experience highlighted the dire need for accessible cancer treatment in Kenya and spurred her to create a facility dedicated to bridging the cancer care gap. “The pain of my sister is what pushed me to start the Cancer Texas Centre,” Dr. Nyongesa explained. “I needed to contribute to my country; the country that allowed me to study medicine.”

In addition to her clinical roles, Dr. Nyongesa is the acting head of the Cancer Treatment Centre at Kenyatta National Hospital and an honorary lecturer at the University of Nairobi. Her journey from being the eldest of ten children, born to teenage parents, to becoming a leading figure in oncology, embodies resilience and determination. She wears many hats—daughter, mother of three, wife, oncologist, entrepreneur, and educator—and is deeply motivated by the mission to provide hope and improved care for cancer patients in Kenya and beyond.

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