Sylvia Kaaya (Doctor of Humane Letters)

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At the 2018 commencement ceremony, Sylvia Kaaya received an honorary degree from Dartmouth.

Sylvia Kaaya at the 2018 commencement ceremony
Sylvia Kaaya receives an honorary degree. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

SYLVIA FLORENCE KAAYA, as a caring physician, dedicated teacher and outstanding scholar, you identified the critical link between physical and mental health and significantly improved the health and welfare of Tanzania’s most vulnerable populations. 

Your passion for your profession was born when your sister’s tonsillectomy piqued your interest in medicine.  Trusting your father’s conviction that you could be anything you wanted to be, you set your sights on becoming a doctor.  Soon thereafter, you were accepted into medical school at the University of Dar es Salaam.  Always an exceptional student, you furthered your training in England and the Netherlands before returning to your home country. 

As one of the few practicing psychiatrists in Tanzania, you recognized, early on, that even widely proven medical interventions would fail if they didn’t address the untreated mental health issues of those they were designed to help. Your path-breaking research on adolescents and women has led to implementation of new interventions at all levels of care, including successful community-based interventions focused on the psychosocial issues associated with post-partum depression, STDs and HIV. 

As Dean of the Medical School at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, you became a role model to aspiring women physicians and health scientists in Tanzania. Further, your commitment to international collaboration on grant-funded programs and research has made you a highly valued and critical partner to Dartmouth’s DarDar research team.   

For your leadership and mentorship in teaching, research and practice, for your compassion and advocacy for underserved patients, and for your courageous support of the mental health infrastructure in Tanzania, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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