By Kamau Kuria
Dr. Patricia Kingori is a Kenyan-born British academic who has made history as the youngest woman to be awarded full professorship at Oxford University in its 925-year history. The professor of Global Health Ethics holds the record of the youngest Black professor at an Oxbridge institution and the youngest woman at the Ivy League institution to hold a full professorship. Out of the 21,000 full professors employed at UK universities, only one percent are blacks. Here is the story of Patricia Kingori as told by WoK writer.
Background And Family
The scholar was born in Kenya to a Kenyan father while her mother is from Saint Kitts, an island in the Caribbean. Her formative years were spent in Saint Kitts before moving to London. Her parents met in London when her mother aged seventeen bumped into their Kenyan father.
Patricia is a single mother of two mixed-race children and has a sister (younger by two years) called Vanessa Kingori who is the publishing director of British Vogue Magazine..
Dr Kingori went to schools in the Caribbean. She later on joined Royal Holloway, University of London to study Sociology for her undergraduate degree and master’s in medical sociology at the same institution. Her interest in the field was inspired by her experiences growing up in various parts of the world making her think about the varied nature of societies.
After her undergraduate degree, she spent eight years as a research fellow in two institutions and as a research assistant before a Wellcome Doctoral Studentship funded her Ph.D. in Sociology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. She however deferred for a year since she had just given birth to her first child.
She then moved to Kenya where her research “The good, the bad, and the ethical: a sociological examination of Kenyan fieldworkers’ ethical perspectives and practices of medical research” was based.
Her Ph.D. period was not easy as she felt unsupported at work and did not find the working environment positive. She talks of feeling like her colleagues did not expect her to return after her maternity leave.
With her interest centred around frontline workers, her research studies explored the situation in other countries including the Gambia and Uganda. She also published several articles and papers that revolved around the topics of pseudoscience, fakes and facts, misinformation, and ethics in the profession. Some of the articles were on fieldworkers in clinical trials in East and West Africa, Ethical preparedness of frontline workers in humanitarian crises, WASH staff in Ebola treatment units in West Africa, Frontline healthcare professionals and their concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, and A&E healthcare professionals in contexts of austerity in Greece and the UK.
Patricia’s work over the years got her to serve on committees such as the White House Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa Initiative initiated by President Obama’s administration, the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, Medecins San Frontiers, World Health Organization, and Save the Children. She is also an independent and expert behavioural science advisor of the UK government on matters relating to Covid-19.
Additionally, Patricia Kingori is an avid champion for inclusion, diversity, and equality in academia. She thus leads initiatives such as sponsorship opportunities for Black academics and offering mentorship to younger researchers.
Miss Kingori’s research on a project won her a Wellcome Senior Investigator Award. She has also won several grants and in 2020 was part of a 6-persons trustee team for a Medical Research Foundation grant. Patricia was also awarded a place on the Powerlist recognizing her among the less than 1% Black British female academics employed at an Oxbridge Institution.