After his university education Aggrey Otieno returned to the slum, his birthplace, and decided to save the lives of mothers and babies who lack emergency obstetric care.

Photo courtesy of: Rolex Awards/Tomas Bertelsen


Aggrey Otieno, pictured fourth from the left, stands with Dr. Steve Howard, fifth from left, and others in Korogocho, Otieno’s home and headquarters for his medical non-profit Pambazuko Mashinani.

Photo courtesy of: Steve Howard

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Alumnus earns international accolades for innovation, shines spotlight on Ohio University’s Center for International Studies

Communication and Development Studies alumnus Aggrey Otieno earns Rolex Award for Enterprise

Ohio University graduate Aggrey Otieno is transforming obstetric care in the slums of his native Nairobi, Kenya, where maternal mortality rates are currently more than 50 times higher than those of the United States.

On June 13, 2012, Otieno joined four other global visionaries selected as 2012 winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a prestigious international honor that supports today’s greatest innovators as they confront tomorrow’s greatest challenges. As one of five winners selected from a worldwide pool of more than 3,500 applicants, Otieno will receive a grant of 100,000 Swiss francs (approximately $104,000 USD) in support of his efforts to improve obstetric care in Korogocho, Nairobi’s fourth-largest slum and Otieno’s birthplace.

As the founder and executive director of the medical non-profit Pambazuko Mashinani, Otieno is employing an innovative approach that combines medical practice with community outreach and education programs.

In 2011, he received a master of arts in communication and development studies from Ohio University’s Center for International Studies. In that same year, he founded Pambazuko Mashinani and received an award from the Clinton Global Initiative University and funding from the Ford Foundation Fellowships Program.

“We’re always saying to the graduate students in this program that they should be working on getting published, looking for grant money, writing proposals, and making the connections that will serve them once they graduate. Aggrey was getting grants before he even finished here, and he was a terrific role model for everybody,” said Director of Ohio University’s African Studies Program Steve Howard. “Aggrey’s education began a life of commitment to using tools at hand to address a series of social problems, always built around the theme of communicating the issue and proposed solutions. Bringing the world’s attention to this type of grassroots effort and to the dynamic force behind it is important.”

Howard, a member of the Pambazuko Mashinani board, understands the influence of innovators like Otieno in Ohio University’s classrooms and presented a paper about the Kenyon practitioner’s process for innovation at a Health and Development Communication Conference last year.

“It is important to raise awareness of the importance of encounters with individuals like Aggrey in the classroom as having great benefits for potential innovators,” said Howard. “It is through observation of such exemplary human agency that we are able to understand and be better ready to contribute to this revolutionary era of positive engagement for social change.”

Howard added that “it goes without saying that we’re very proud of Aggrey. This is a great beginning to what I hope will be a wonderful career for him in poverty eradication and improving the quality of health care in his community.”

Funding from the Rolex Award for Enterprise will support Otieno’s intended establishment of a telemedicine center in Korogocho, which will bring to the neighborhood a new state-of-the-art medical facility with a trained obstetric staff on call at all times.

Otieno’s fellow recipients of the 2012 Rolex Awards for Enterprise include:

  • Barbara Block of the United States for her work to preserve part of the Pacific Ocean by tracking marine predators off the California coast.

  • Mark Kendall of Australia in support of his development of a “Nanopatch,” which would replace the use of needles for vaccinations.

  • Erika Cuellar of Bolivia for training indigenous people in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina to conserve one of South America’s last truly wild environments, the Gran Chaco.

  • Sergei Bereznuk of Russia for his use of technology and education to protect the last Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East.

Learn more about Otieno’s project at: http://www.rolexawards.com/profiles/laureates/aggrey_otieno/.