Marking the Loss of Two DGHI Partners in Kenya

Edith Kwobah and David Ayuku were instrumental in launching partnerships to advance mental health care and research in Kenya.

Edith Kwobah and David Ayuku

Published May 29, 2024, last updated on May 30, 2024 under Around DGHI

The Duke Global Health Institute community is mourning the deaths of two of the institute’s long-time collaborators in Kenya. Edith Kwobah and David Ayuku, two of the pioneers of mental health research and care at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, both passed away in recent months, leaving significant legacies of leadership and partnership on mental health care. 

Kwobah, a psychiatrist and head of mental health at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, was a tireless advocate for those living with mental health issues who led the creation of a mental health care program through AMPATH, an academic consortium to advance health access in Kenya. She died on March 22, at the age of 42, after a battle with cancer.

“Dr. Kwobah was truly a magnificent psychiatrist, friend, teacher, leader, mother and wife,” noted an announcement of her passing on the AMPATH website. “Her passion for her patients and work motivated many of us to join in her vision. We can only hope that we can carry her vision forward in her name.”

Kwobah joined Moi in 2014 and received a Fogarty fellowship through Duke to increase access to mental health care at the hospital. Her death”has left a void in everyone’s heart who knew her, worked with her, learned from her and loved her,” says Peter Kussin, a Duke professor of medicine who worked closely with Kwobah at Moi and AMPATH.

Ayuku, a professor of clinical psychology of the Moi University College of Health Sciences, was one of the few Ph.D.-level clinical psychologists working in Kenya. He led an undergraduate program in medical psychology and spearheaded the development of a master’s program in clinical psychology, giving Moi two of the most unique mental health training programs in the country. He died on Sept. 29, 2023, in Eldoret.

Eve Puffer and David Ayuku

Ayuku led research that helped identify mental health needs for orphaned and separated children and adolescents in the country and was the co-principal investigator, with DGHI associate professor Eve Puffer, on  a novel family therapy intervention delivered by non-specialist counselors from the community. 

“Professor Ayuku was an insightful clinician and researcher and a pioneer in building the profession of clinical psychology in Kenya,” says Puffer. “He was also a close and supportive mentor for me as we built our program of research together through AMPATH.”

Puffer, who directs the Duke Center for Global Mental Health, says the loss of two such influential pioneers is felt profoundly among the partner institutions. But she adds that they both worked diligently to train others who are capable of carrying on their legacies. 

“They conducted groundbreaking work while training and supporting the next generation of mental health professionals,” she says. “I hope that DGHI can play a role in supporting the talented colleagues there who are following in their footsteps."