AAR Healthcare (AAR) is one of the largest private healthcare providers in East Africa. Since Swedfund invested in AAR 2013, the company has expanded rapidly and now has 35 modern primary healthcare centres in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, 12 ambulances and a hospital in Uganda. The almost 1,000 staff care for more than 700,000 patients every year. Dr Joyce Sitonik is Head of Clinic Business Operations at AAR in Nairobi, Kenya.

Joyce Sitonik wanted to become a doctor from early age. So as soon as she graduated from upper secondary school, she started training to become a doctor at the University of Nairobi. After her work experience at Kenyatta National Hospital came the opportunity of a job at Kiambu District Hospital, one of the public hospitals just outside the city.

In 2010, Dr Sitonik was 23 years old and she had had her first child a year earlier. She decided to send her CV to AAR Healthcare, and six months later, she was working as a Junior Doctor at one of AAR’s clinics in Nairobi. AAR strives to give every patient as much time as they need with the doctor, the availability of medicines is good,
the work at the clinic is structured and the hours are predictable.

After three years, her career began to take off. Dr Sitonik was appointed Healthcare Manager at one of the smaller clinics, and soon after she was promoted to Executive Manager at one of the AAR's larger clinics. Dr Sitonik now works at the head office in the centre of Nairobi, as Head of Clinic Business Operations. In practice, this
means she is responsible for the clinical operating activities of all outpatient centers in Kenya.

A role model for other women

Dr Sitonik has always had an aptitude for, and an interest in, leadership and wants to be a role model for other women. In Kenya, it is common to continue further education after having worked for a few years, and Dr Sitonik considered taking an MBA in Health Care Management. AAR's CEO encouraged her to apply. Studying while keeping up with work and family commitments is a challenge. However, with the support of her employer and her family, she managed to combine her job with studying, and Dr Sitonik is very grateful that she completed her studies. The training helped her both to develop as a leader and to qualify for the role she currently holds
at AAR.

It has not always been easy. Competition is fierce, but Dr Sitonik feels she has been successful. She did not know anyone when she started at AAR, and she has worked hard to get to where she is today. What really helped her is the unique supportive corporate culture at AAR. There is a clear and transparent structure for employee career
development, and the corporate culture is characterised by openness towards new initiatives. The management is open to trying out new ideas from the staff, and if the ideas prove to be successful, the management is quick to implement the changes throughout the organisation.

Developing a health care programme for one of the biggest banks

One of the major projects that Dr Sitonik has developed at AAR is a health programme for the empolyees at Kenya Commercial Bank, one of the biggest banks in the region. AAR carried out health checks on 2,500 of the bank's staff in order to offer care for pre-existing conditions and to contribute to preventive healthcare. The
programme has been a huge success and for Dr Sitonik, who is no longer a practising doctor, it means she can really make a difference and contribute to good health care for a large numbers of people.

Dr Sitonik believes that AAR, with its diverse shareholder base reflects many different experiences and utlooks that are beneficial to both the company and its stakeholders. Having a development finance institution like Swedfund as a shareholder has also given a broader perspective on business and emphasis on employees. The
company has been professionalised and there are now more requirements to monitor and follow up qualitative targets, such as environmental and social issues.

Female Future Programme

Since autumn 2018, Dr Sitonik has been participating in a leadership development programme aimed at enhancing the leadership and board skills of women in private companies, to help them qualify for senior positions in the company management and on boards. The programme, known as the Female Future Programme, was
originally an initiative by the Confederation of Norwegian Industry, which has been taken to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Like the Norwegian development finance institution Norfund, Swedfund sponsors a proportion of the cost of female employees in our portfolio companies who attend the training through TA funds.

Participating in the programme and continuing to learn and develop is another step for Dr Sitonik towards becoming the role model she has always strived to be – to pave the way for other women by showing that there are good opportunities out there for women to succeed in working life. It is about daring to take advantage of the opportunities that are available in order to achieve your goals. 

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