Health risks and dangerous conditions such as malaria, pneumococcal infections, viral induced encephalopathy, and bacterial blood diseases continue to affect African populations, particularly children, across the continent. These matters also constantly keep Dr. Evelyn Gitau, a cellular immunologist from Kenya, busy in the lab and the field. Dr. Gitau believes that clinical immunity to malaria and other diseases can be achieved at the cellular level; this is one of the goals of cellular immunology and it is one of the many pursuits to which Dr. Gitau has dedicated her life. In 2016, Dr. Gitau was named one of Africa’s foremost innovators in the scientific arena for her research into the development of an effective and speedy diagnostic kit to detect a number of infections in the field; this would allow health workers treating children for malnutrition to expand their scope of intervention by coming up with various diagnoses.
Proper treatment of disease at an early age is a stepping stone for a more ambitious goal that Dr. Gitau is working on. As a child growing up in Dagoretti, she caught the chemistry spark from an early age and became fascinated by researching the building blocks of life. She would later earn a PhD at the Open University of the United Kingdom and eventually joined the African Academy of Sciences. Dr. Gitau considers that her upbringing and exposure to the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields should be encouraged among all African youth.
Dr. Gitau is deeply involved in a project called “Next Einstein,” which was founded by Neil Turok, an African scientist who believes that the vast youth demographics of the Continent could be empowered by STEM education for the purpose of incubating great talent and innovation. Informally, Dr. Turok wishes that Africa could yield scientists whose work could be as significant as that of Albert Einstein, a man who was not only brilliant but also in tune with social justice, equality, and development. Einstein had great faith in humanity, and it is very likely that he would have greatly approved of the Next Einstein initiative that Dr. Gitau supports.
Although major philanthropic efforts such as those conducted by the Gates Foundation have reduced public health risks in Africa, the work that remains to be done must come from within the Continent. Dr. Gitau thinks that the time has come for African governments to become more involved with efforts such as the Next Einstein, which require healthy children in the first place. This socially-conscious and brilliant woman is willing to continue working on both endeavors simultaneously.