Practicing medicine in Nigeria currently is fraught with many challenges. Why do it, then? Given the challenges on health care infrastructure and the drain on Nigeria's health work force where not only doctors but many other health care workers plan to 'japa' (a popular term meaning to hurriedly leave the country for greener pastures), is there still hope for its health care system?
From the choice to study and practice medicine, to the challenges of managing the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa's most populous country, Dr Anne shares her candid thoughts. Enjoy...
- Setting The Scene
- Why Did You Choose To Study Medicine?
- What Made You Choose A Career In Public Health?
- Providing Health Care In Nigeria - Challenges Around Covid-19
- What would you consider to be some of the major Public Health challenges in Nigeria?
- What Are Your Thoughts On The COVID-19 Pandemic?
- How Well Do You Think Nigeria has Managed The COVID-19 Pandemic?
- What would you consider to be the major challenges to access to quality health care in Nigeria?
- If you were in a position to advise the Nigerian government, how would you situate health care within the Nigerian economy?
- Last Thoughts
Setting The Scene
Why Did You Choose To Study Medicine?
"I always enjoyed the sciences and biology was my favourite subject. I loved learning about nature and all things related to life and living. Even more, I was particularly curious about how the body works, the inner structure of the body and how knowing intricate parts of the body can help solve the many health issues human beings encounter."
Where Did You Study Medicine?
And what was you general experience then compared to now?
"I studied medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. Studying medicine was a challenging but rewarding experience. I am grateful to have studied with fantastic human beings who have become reliable and trustworthy friends to this day. I suspect that the challenges we were up against in our time pales in comparison to what the younger generation currently experience consequent to the dearth in funding for health and education."
From Your Experience, What Advice Would You Give Young People Deciding To Study Medicine?
"Always give your best efforts to your learnings. Be ready to give yourself to lots of studying - consistency is very important; always show up for your lectures and take your ward rounds, clinic schedules and ground rounds very seriously. You will learn a whole lot from your older colleagues and patients. Be confident in who you are and never allow failure get the better of you."
Anne Olowu is a Public Health Physician with experience and expertise that spans close to two decades . Her core specialities are in Global health, Reproductive health and Health Promotion.
Her public health experience spans several countries in Africa where she has consulted for international, government, private and community organisations for health projects, trainings and consultancies. She earned her medical degree from the College of medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria and her Public health degree from the University of Manchester, Manchester UK.
A scholar of the West African Health Organisation where she had a post graduate internship in Reproductive Health and HIV management. She is also certified by the Wits Reproductive Health, HIV and Research Unit of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg South Africa in HIV, Sexual Reproductive Health and Research Management. Dr Anne is passionate about disease prevention, promoting wellbeing and through her health consultancy at www.anneaideconsulting.com and her blog @mums24 (on Instagram), she continues to influence her world.
What Made You Choose A Career In Public Health?
"I have always been passionate about disease prevention; enabling and empowering people to avoid ill health and disease as well as seeking early intervention to facilitate their wellbeing. As we know, the ten highest causes of death globally (communicable and non-communicable diseases) are mostly preventable. Helping people avoid ill-health and empowering them to identify early symptoms of ill-health and have an intervention that will facilitate their health and wellbeing gives me deep fulfillment."
How Would You Advise Young Medical Graduates About Career Opportunities in Public Health?
"If you want to build a career path in Public health, start early. There are many sub-specialties in public health that are fundamental to health and wellbeing. Moreover, each sub-specialty is as challenging as it is gratifying. Some of the specialties include Community Health, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, Global Health, Health policy & Management, Health promotion, Maternal & Child Health, Social & Behavioural Health etc."
Providing Health Care In Nigeria - Challenges Around Covid-19
What would you consider to be some of the major Public Health challenges in Nigeria?
"Nigeria has some of the poorest health statistics in the world. Certainly this is because it still grapples with a myriad of infectious diseases, alongside maternal and child mortality. However, the dearth in healthcare funding as well as brain drain of healthcare manpower are key contributors to these poor health indices."
What Are Your Thoughts On The COVID-19 Pandemic?
"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and world as we know. For one, it has helped us reassess our lives and value the most important things in life. Further, it has also helped expose the inadequacies in the healthcare sector globally. As a result, I wrote a compelling article about COVID-19 pandemic and how it has reset our world; which I'd recommend everyone read."
How Well Do You Think Nigeria has Managed The COVID-19 Pandemic?
What should we be doing for the next 12 months?
"First, I expected to see us closing our airspace a lot sooner than we did. Nonetheless, I believe the preventive and control measures adopted and executed by federal health authorities along with a number of state health authorities were highly commendable. Most importantly, I also believe that the cooperation and input of the private sector to assist in funding, human resources and health ancillaries contributed immensely in helping to curtail the spread and severity of the virus. This demonstrates that intersectoral collaboration and dedication to healthcare is pivotal in ensuring and safeguarding the health needs of the populace. This in turn will contribute to better health indices in Nigeria. Above all, in the next 12 months, I hope to see us applying relevant strategies combatting other infectious diseases being managed in the country."
What would you consider to be the major challenges to access to quality health care in Nigeria?
"The major challenges to access quality health care in Nigeria are very poor funding, lack of accountability and inconsistent health policies. In addition, the non-continuity of health projects as well as the brain drain of the workforce in the health sector compund these problems."
"A country is as healthy as the people within it. When people are healthy and health security is guaranteed, then they can commit their best selves to the growth of the economy. I would ensure that healthcare is one of the top five priority projects on the agenda. Next, I'd promote healthcare funding and partner with local and international organizations to ensure that quality healthcare is both affordable and accessible. In addition, I would create an enabling environment for healthcare workers to thrive. Finally, I will ensure that health promotion and health education have effective modern and traditional means of communication to the populace."
Strong thoughts of optimism and ideas! As Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Let us know what you think of our AskAwayHealth Personality Dr Anne Olowu - please share in the comments below.
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