Dr. Mathai graduated as a physician (MBChB) from the University of Nairobi in 1983, was awarded a masters’ degree in psychiatry (M. Med Psychiatry) at the same university in 1990 and a PhD in psychiatric social work in 2005 at the University of Kassel in Germany as a recipient of a scholarship by the Heinrich Boell Foundation. In 2007, she returned to Kenya to take up a teaching position at the University of Nairobi, College of Health Sciences.
Her current Research Activities include being co-investigator of the NIMH-funded project: “Strengthening Mental Health And Research Training” (SMART)- Africa; principal Investigator of “Depression and Primary-Care Partnership for Effectiveness-Implementation Research”; co-investigator of NIH/Fogarty-funded “Partnership for Health Research Training in Kenya” (P-HERT) and “Health-Professional Education Partnership Initiative” (HEPI). Dr. Mathai was PI of the now-completed NIMH-funded Project: “Research Capacity Building in Mental Health for Better Health Outcomes.” She was the mental health key personnel of the NIH-funded Medical Education Program Initiative (MEPI) Project at the University of Nairobi. She has collaborated as a local investigator in the project, “MHealth-Enhanced Economic Empowerment Initiatives for HIV Prevention among Youth Living in the Urban Slums of Kenya”, a CFAR award to Larissa Jennings of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Currently she is in the process of engaging with the global project CitiesRise as a researcher for Kenya.
Dr. Mathai was a Board Member of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry from 2015-18 and the secretary of the Kenya Association of Psychiatrists for 6 years and continues to be active as a member. She is also a member of the Kenya Medical Association and the chair of the Board of one of its housing investments.