Paul Kasenene is a medical doctor, who specialises in nutritional, functional and lifestyle medicine. He is also a nutrition educator on health, lifestyle and wellbeing. Phionah Nassanga had a chat with him about health and career and family.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a semi perfectionist who pays attention to small things. I am an outgoing person and very optimistic about life.
What did you want to become when you were a child?
I wanted to become a pilot. As I grew older, I started to admire accountants. Eventually, my mother, who is a nurse, inspired me pursue a career in medicine.
What are some of your childhood memories?
We lived in a small kingdom in Southern Africa called Swaziland, now known as Eswatini from the age of two to 14.
One day, we embarked on a road trip from Swaziland to Uganda, driving through the Krugger National Park in South Africa, through Zambia and Zimbabwe.
We made stopovers at the magnificent Victoria Falls and national parks to see wild animals. I have never forgotten this experience.
You live and breathe nutrition. What’s your driving force?
There are a number of things that have led me on this journey. But my turning point was my own personal experience. When I completed the medical school, my first job was in medical research, specifically HIV research.
While there, I gained a lot of weight and I wasn’t exercising. One day, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels were higher than normal.
A physician that I worked with prescribed a cholesterol lowering drug and wanted to prescribe one for high blood pressure. That’s when I woke up. I had never known what patients felt like when we prescribe drugs. At that point, I decided to change my lifestyle.
What do you do when you are not teaching people how to eat right?
I love to read. I spend a lot of time reading and listening to audiobooks. I am particularly interested in the mind and quantum physics.
These two fields provide information about life, not just physical wellness but also emotional and spiritual wellness. I also like to write and put down my thoughts in a journal.
But you make nutrition such a big deal…
Food is the leading cause of disease and death globally. With the rising numbers of diseases everyday, we cannot afford to ignore what we eat. Think about it. If you eat junk food, what kind of cells will your body have?
We see young people and children eat themselves to ill-health and even to their graves.
When I see a 10- year old boy who has adult onset diabetes, a 16- year old boy weigh 148kg, a 28 year old woman with advanced breast cancer, I get depressed.
When I a 35-year old recovering from a debilitating stroke or hear stories of a 40-year old dying from a preventable clot or stroke, I can’t help but speak out about the simple things about wellness.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Learning about functional medicine and integrating it into my practice. This has enabled me to help people with conditions such as chronic migraines, autoimmune disease, long standing digestive problems, infertility and many more that patients had given up ever getting help for.
Are there moments when you regretted your profession?
When I see how people in the medical profession are supported to do their work, I wonder whether I made the right call. Medical professionals literally give their lives but are often blamed even when problems are beyond their control.
Are you married? What has parenthood taught you?
I have been married for 12 years now and we are blessed with three children. I have learnt that children appreciate our time and love more than gifts and material things.
I am deliberate about creating time for them amidst the busy schedule.
If you were asked to give relationship advice to any couple, what would you tell them?
Everyone is different. People are shaped by environment or family. When you love someone, appreciate that they won’t change overnight. We should not expect our partners to think or act the way we want them to. It takes time to adjust to understand each other.
What’s your philosophy in life?
Live in the present, learn from the past and plan for the future.
Which book would you recommend a friend to read?
There are two books that I believe everyone should read: How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnergie and The Success Principles by Jack Canfield.
If you had to change anything about the health system in Uganda, what would it be?
Utilisation of resources for the common good. A lot of money is spent on non-essential things such as vehicles and workshops while many health facilities lack essentials such as medicine and protective equipment.
What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
I want to give back what I have received. The greatest good comes from what you can give, not from what you receive.
What would you tell a university graduate who wants to join the medical industry?
It is not intelligence that matters, but the ability to care for those in need.