My name is Immaculate Achieng’ Opondo, from Kisumu County, which is in the Western part of Kenya. I am a Pediatric Dentist working with Maseno University School of Medicine. I love working with children and I am passionate about Pediatric Dentistry. This passion began early in my career when I developed a desire to help children with dental problems, after I realised some reluctance by colleagues to treat them due to their behavioral issues. During this period of interest, I noticed that the children had high levels of dental caries, and I immediately started outreach activities in nursery schools. With time, I got motivated to enhance my skills which pushed me to the next level of master’s training in Pediatric Dentistry.
The decision to further my education opened a new window of opportunities for me. It is during this period that I appreciated the importance of research and the impact of HIV/AIDS on oral health. By taking care of HIV infected children, I began to understand the health, social and economic struggles associated with HIV infection. It is also during this time that I met Dr. Arthur Kemoli (University of Nairobi). Through him and Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario (University of Washington), I received funding from International Association for Dental Research (IADR) that enabled me to attend the Summer Institute in Clinical Dental Research in the University of Washington. This was a wonderful opportunity which not only whet my appetite for research, but also exposed me to a new mentor, Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario. Immediately after I got home from the Summer Institute, I was able to write a research proposal, get ethical review and start data collection on oral health status of under five-year-old children in Kisumu County primary schools. Unfortunately, this activity was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to continuing with data collection once the disease is controlled.
Ana Lucia Seminario and Arthur Kemoli have continuously encouraged me to pursue my research goals. Now, I am working alongside them as they guide me through grant writing and research work. I am hopeful that with this kind of exposure, I will continue growing my research skills to the point of being a mentor to other upcoming oral health researchers.