Ojo Abimbola, 27, was the best graduating student from the Department of Medicine and Surgery, Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, in the 2013/2014 academic session, Punch reports.
In this interview, she reveals her dreams, motivation, and shares advice on how to be successful.
What was your attraction for Medicine?
Mine started as a childhood dream, just as many other children used to echo it when asked what they would like to be in future. As I grew older, I had interest in health related sciences (medicine, nursing and pharmacy). By the time I finished secondary school, I knew I would study medicine because I wanted to help save lives. Then, my parents indirectly influenced me, not in a forceful manner though. My dad is a pharmacist, so I saw how his profession gave him the opportunity to help others; not only their health but also in every other area of life, like counselling. I used to visit the hospital where he worked and I think those visits partly inspired me to be a doctor. So, when I told him my wish, he encouraged and supported me. Medicine gives one an opportunity to impact lives, so I love it.
What about the fact that it is not as lucrative as some other courses that are less difficult?
In my view, Medicine is more of a help ministry than a lucrative business. Most of those who need the service of doctors, especially in this part of the world, cannot afford it due to poverty. Most people think doctors are rich but I think that has changed. Politicians and business tycoons are richer in our own country. However, being a doctor gives one a fairly comfortable life, which is good enough. So, I am not worried that Medicine may not be as rewarding monetarily but being able to help others is pretty rewarding, and like our teachers would say, ‘be a good doctor first, the money will come later.’ Someone who studied Medicine thinking it is lucrative may end up being disappointed because the pay may not be commensurate with the time and effort invested.
But some people think that only brilliant students can study Medicine. From your experience, is that true?
Any student that has the interest, well motivated and diligent in whatever he or she does can study medicine. One doesn’t need to be very brilliant to do it. It’s an erroneous view that only the best students in secondary schools should be admitted into medicine. The main qualities that I think are needed to be a good medical student are interest, diligence and consistency.
How was your performance in your previous schools?
It was quite easy. I was the best graduating student in my secondary school. I passed my West African Senior School Certificate Examination once; I had distinction in all the subjects. I wrote the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination twice but I passed on both occasions. The first one I scored 256, and the second time I scored 280. I had to write UTME twice because the first time I wrote the exam, I chose Ekiti State University. I was actually offered Medicine and Surgery but that was the time the state government decided to cancel the medical programme in the university, so I lost the admission that year. It wasn’t a nice experience but I had to rewrite UTME the following year and applied to LAUTECH. My name was on the merit list.
How was the experience the first time you had to work on a cadaver (dead body)?
I don’t think there was anything spectacular. People do have funny stories whether real or imagined (mostly imagined) about cadavers but I told myself that if the cadaver was to try anything funny, like rising up, I wouldn’t be there to witness it. I also felt that because I wasn’t responsible for the person’s death, the cadaver would have no right to harass me. Eventually, none of the cadavers tried anything funny. That first experience opened my eyes to see how helpless human beings are once there is no breath in us again. It was an eye-opener. So, unlike what some people used to say, I didn’t have any bad dream or lose sleep because of that. When anybody dies, the a person remains dead until resurrection, so there is no way a cadaver could stand up to hold my hand. They are helpless, and we have to move them to the position we want them to be on the dissecting tables.
What about the sight of blood?
I don’t dread the sight of blood but I still have feeling when I see it, especially when I see very gory sights (usually from road crashes brought to our teaching hospital emergency unit) but I quickly get over it and do what I am instructed to do. I don’t get scared to the point of running away.
What was your most memorable day as a medical student?
I will always remember the distinction in pathology and surgery viva (oral examination). I sat in front of professors and ‘elders’ in the profession and I was wondering what I could ever say that would impress them enough to award me a distinction. At the end of the day, I think they found my performance satisfactory and I had a distinction. That day was my most fearful day. However, my happiest moments were my matriculation and induction days. On those days, I had joy that my dreams were fulfilled. However, my saddest moments were when I lost some loved ones.
What were your most interesting and most difficult courses?
I love the psychiatry aspect of my course. I found it very interesting. The fact that they (psychiatrists) could manage ailments in the mind intrigues me and they are trained to be able to relate with everybody no matter how strange the person is. I really didn’t have an aspect of medicine that was challenging. I just love the course.
You must have worked hard to be able to achieve such a feat. What was your reading schedule like?
I didn’t have a definite reading schedule, but the number of hours I read was dependent on how busy my day was. However, I made it a goal to read whatever I was taught in class before the end of the day. I also believe in knowing something about everything as against knowing everything about something, even though knowing everything about everything is the best in medicine because half knowledge can be dangerous. So I make it a duty to read most of my course work whether we were taught or not. Thus, before any test or exam, I would have finished all my work. It is usually difficult to finish coursework in medicine but setting a goal makes it achievable and helps one to remain focused. I studied hard but I didn’t do all night reading.
How often did you use the library?
I did use the library, but not often. I preferred reading at home where I would have my textbooks around me and I would be able to check anything I wanted without disturbing or intimidating others. If I needed any book in the library, I would rather go and borrow it for a few days and maybe photocopy the required sections. Medicine is one of the professions that you can’t do without having textbooks. Apart from the basic textbooks, internet has always been of help.
What was your typical day like?
Not as busy as being a doctor now. Then, we used to attend ward rounds, clinics, surgeries, tutorials and even if our supervising consultant was on call, we had to attend, usually in the evenings or weekends. All those activities were opportunities for our teachers to teach us. Sometimes we could spend the whole day on our feet. Even our lectures were usually intensive, usually between 8am and 6pm. It was worth it anyway.
What did you do differently to emerge as the best?
I don’t think I really did anything differently from my colleagues. I worked hard and enjoyed God’s favour and grace. When it comes to reading, I envied the diligence and resilience of some of my colleagues. An average doctor anywhere in the world didn’t get the certificate on a platter they must have been hardworking and paid the required price. I believe I didn’t work to earn it, but a gift from God.
People believe that most medical students don’t have time to socialise, what was the experience for you?
I consider myself social, but not in terms of going to all night parties. I participated in some social activities like birthday parties of my colleagues, wedding ceremonies of my senior colleagues and I travelled for various Christian conferences. They gave me the opportunity to visit other states and other medical schools. Actually, when I gained admission, I decided to enjoy myself as much as possible, but within the confines of being a Christian. In fact, one needs good human relations skills to practise medicine effectively, and a social setting is a good place to have that, not by spending all the time with big books.
How did you handle gestures from your male colleagues?
I didn’t receive much attention from most of my male colleagues. I guess they were all busy with their books. They were all good friends though, I didn’t really have to handle gestures from them. We were all busy.
What are your aspirations?
I plan to be a specialist and become active in research, get married and serve God and my country in whatever capacity I can. I would like to work anywhere in Nigeria though I hope to also travel outside the shores of the country to see how things are done in more advanced climes.
What is your advice to students?
They should have a dream. They should be focused, believe in themselves, put in their best, understand what works best for them and they shouldn’t be discouraged. I advise them to honour and acknowledge God, build relationships because lives impacted positively last more than trophies.