Dr. Karina Irusa, Dentist

Karina went to primary school at Westlands Primary School, Highschool at Pangani Girls’ School and did her Bachelor of Dental Surgery at the University of Nairobi (the UoN). She is currently a Graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing a Master’s degree in Operative Dentistry. After graduating from the UoN in 2014, she worked as a general dentist until mid-2018 when she left to pursue further training in the US.

I asked Karina a few questions about her and her career as a dentist:

What do you like about your profession?

I find dentistry particularly interesting because it is the perfect balance between art and science. My favorite thing about being a dentist is patient care. I really enjoy working with my hands and it’s exciting to how transforming your work can be in people’s lives. Also, I get to meet such a huge variety of people every day which is always stimulates the mind

What do you dislike about it?

With every job that involves human interaction, sometimes you will meet unpleasant people and you have to reach a level of discernment where you don’t sweat the small stuff. It is also a physically demanding job because you are always working with your hands.

How/why did you choose your profession?

For me, being a dentist was a no brainer. I have been going to the dentist since I was a toddler as I had a myriad of dental issues. I got used to the dental office. As I grew older, I knew I wanted to be a healthcare professional. What drew me to dentistry was the fact that I got to enjoy the title ‘Dr’ and still have a more flexible work life

Who is your role model?

Michelle Obama. I’m just about finished with her book ‘Becoming’. I find her story profoundly relatable to every woman of color. I truly see myself in her. The fact that she did not grow up in a privileged household and still managed to beat the odds, attend an Ivy League school, practice Law and become the First Lady of the US is inspirational. Her grace and composure are characteristics that I definitely strive to emulate. She is really the #storyofmylife (Hopefully).

What has been the highest point in your career?

The highest point in my career at this time would be getting accepted into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is one of the top ranked Dental Schools globally. Getting accepted into this program was a big deal to me.

What has been the lowest point in your career?

The lowest point in my career would have to be the 2017 Kenyan Doctors strike. The strike was a fight for better healthcare and better pay for the Kenyan doctor. However, the backlash we received in general was quite discouraging. I remember feeling extremely disillusioned and defeated.

What mistakes have you made in your career?

In healthcare, there will always be mistakes.

How did you get over them?

Earlier on, I would lose sleep over the smallest errors. Over time, I have chosen to view mistakes as a learning point. Every time I blunder I always tell myself ‘Well, at least you won’t do that again.’

We live and we learn.

Which was your best moment of your life, and why?

I have had so many ‘best moments’. The one thing all these moments have is that they involve me beating the odds. There’s a certain level of euphoria that comes with rising from the ashes.

What motivates you?

Being the best version of myself. Reaching my maximum potential is not just a service to myself but to my family, my community and the world.

What is your best quote?

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind ~ Dr Seuss

If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?

A bird, so I could fly all over the world and soak up new experiences. I’m a true Sagittarius for the astrology believers.

What does mentorship mean to you, and what do you do to mentors others?

For me mentorship means setting an example, giving advice/guidance and offering a hand when in a position to.

Though I do not have a specific mentorship program, I do my best to give advice to young people regarding career choices, advanced education and the dental profession.

I also hope that I do live my life in a way that is an inspiration to others.

What do you do for fun?

I do swim as a form of exercise 3-4 times a week. I enjoy a good book on a lazy afternoon. I like the outdoors and frequently go on trail hikes.

What advice would you give young professionals seeking to join your profession?

They say luck happens when preparation meets opportunity so never stop preparing. Also, say yes to every opportunity, especially when you are young and do not have too many responsibilities. You never know where it may lead.

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