‘Fulfillment resonates more with positive impact on humanity’
Dr. Abayomi Waheed, Medical Director, Crest Hospital, Isuti, Igando, Lagos, wouldn’t strike you as a medical practitioner with rich experience that could span 20 years, but an interview with him on Thursday afternoon brought forth his rich profile.
The native of Offa, Kwara State, was born on September 13, 1969 in Ghana. His parents were repatriated to Nigeria during the ‘Nigerians Must Go’ era, and that was how he became a full-fledged Nigerian that he is today.
“If not, I would have become a Ghanaian by birth. Upon return to Nigeria, my parents settled in a town called Otun-Ekiti, then in Ondo State but now in Ekiti State, where I had my primary and secondary education,” he said.
He attended Moba Grammer School in Otun Ekiti; which was then the leading secondary school in Ekiti, from where he proceeded to Kwara State College of Technology, where he did his A-Level.
“From the time of my housemanship to the setting up of this place, I have consistently enjoyed the Almighty God’s providence. Like it said in Muslim parlance, Kadara Hagga Kadirihi, meaning what has been written has been written.
“Much as I tried to raise funds for the overseas trip, I couldn’t. Somebody then told me, instead of travelling out, why not set up a private practice, which was the very last thing on the list of my plans. My plan was to travel out, do a residency, settle down there and never come back to this country.
“When you see the experiences your senior colleagues have had and it was not getting better, you would want to play safe; perhaps, for ego, you want to join others — this person is doing this thing, let me also do it,” he stated.
According to him, when one of his senior colleagues at the time heard he resigned his appointment with Subol, he asked what his next plan was and he told him, he want to travel out of the country, he said, “don’t go and be a brain in the drain.”
“We heard stories of colleagues who travel out and they end up doing menial jobs over there in bid to survive. Many stuck in that for years before they could pass their exams and some don’t even get to practice medicine again. Some branched into other areas of human endeavours. He then said why don’t you set up a facility of your own.
“With the help of God and family, particularly my wife, we scouted round before we finally settle for this place, Crest Hospital, Isuti, Egan in Igando,” Abayomi explained.
Rather than throw a lavish party for their 50th birthday celebrations, Dr Abayomi, who will be 50 on September 13, and his wife, Fasilat Ayobowale, also a medical doctor, on October 31, as humanitarians with passion for giving back to the society, decided to impact positively on people, especially those who cannot afford surgery expenses.
The medical director said, “as part of activities for the celebration, we — my wife and I, because she will also be 50 in October — will be carrying out 50 free surgeries that will span 50 days, beginning from September at our Crest Hospital Isuti in Egan, Igando.”
Asked the motive behind the free surgery initiative, Abayomi answered: “Success should not be quantified only in naira and kobo, it should also be seen as the number of lives you have positively impacted; lives that you have changed for better, especially when they least expected it.”
Aligning with the popular saying, the children of the poor you refuse to feed today as a rich man will not let you sleep tomorrow, Abayomi said wherever you are, whoever you maybe, to have happiness you must adopt the principle of giving.
“Even though it is not enough, you just have to give. Anyway, it can never be enough and that is truth. The basic thing is to have the heart of giving. It goes beyond just having the heart to give, you must mix it with projects.
“A lot of people will have a motive for doing something, maybe out of ego, greed or what they will get out of it. For us, we are doing it for God and humanity because without God, the people (the society) I wouldn’t have gotten to this level that I’m today. It is my own way showing appreciation to God and the society.”
According to him, it is not the first time they we are carrying out the free surgery initiative. “We did 30 sometime in May this year. In fact, this is not the third time we are doing this, but this particularly one is the most robust and the biggest so far.
“And coming at a time that we are clocking 50, we decided that instead of slaughtering cows and ram, buy expensive clothes and other provisions, throw elaborate party and all those flamboyant things, we decided to spend the little resources that we have been able to put together affect people’s live positively.
“We are not ruling a get-together but it will not be elaborate as people may anticipate because we are channeling the resources to what will be more beneficial to the people. No matter how big the meat people will eat at the celebration, if they don’t defecate it within three days there will be problem. If I don’t get the reward from man, I will get it from God and that satisfaction derived from helping somebody in need is ultimate for me. Even if we lay that aside, at a personal level, I found out that the more you try to give, the more you grow. Those are the motives,” he stated.
Commenting on the cost implication of the surgeries, Abayomi said, “We recognise the fact that all surgeries are not the same; hence we are trying not to bite more than we chew.”
“In the process of trying to do this, we do not also want make things difficult for ourselves empirically from all corners. We have chosen to do Cyst, Glaucoma, Lumps, Appendix, Scotch and Pop cast for fresh facture, emergency caesarian. It will depend on the number of each case stated. Give and take we will be taking seven cases each from the cases mentioned.
For the naira and kobo value, it will be unethical to mention such. Moreso, for security reasons but it is not two or three million naira,” he added.
On the life lessons he has learnt in his 50 years of existence, the average height and black in complexion medical doctor says: “Life has taught me that the best planner may not the winner at the end of the day. Life has also taught me that we can only plan but God is the ultimate and final executor. It doesn’t mean that you should not try or quit. Give your best shot and leave the rest to God.
Commenting on the state of the nation, especially the health sector with regards to the issue of brain drain and its effect on the sector, Dr. Abayomi explained that Nigeria from on set till date has never had and will never have enough of human capital development in the health sector.
“That is just the truth. When I finished from the University College Ibadan in 1998 and did my induction 1999, we were about 150 in number that graduated and swore to oath of allegiance to medical ethics, but it will shock you know that about 80 per cent of these colleagues are outside the shores of this country.
“These are very brilliant doctors trained in various specialties. Infact, if we have that number in the country, our health sector will not be the same way it is presently. It is disheartening to know that everyday people (doctors) leave this country in large numbers in search for greener pastures abroad.”
According to him, it will take a long time before the country will come out of the ropes, “unless we have people who are ready to stay and brave the odds; see how they can contribute their own quota in the development of this nation. We may not really blame them much for going outside the country.”
Asked what could be the reason for the brain drain in the sector, Abayomi hinged it on the poor standard hospitals were people could practice in the country.
“When we talk about standard hospitals were people can practice, we can count the numbers in Nigeria. The facilities are not there, and if there are no facilities to train and honed your skills, how do you grow? he queried.
He explained further that there have not been ground-breaking researches, inventions and patents from the nation’s teaching hospitals. He added that when you go abroad, especially if you lucky to get posted to do residency programmes because not all are lucky to get fixed in residency programme.
Abayomi said, “If you are lucky to go abroad, because of the rigorous nature of our academic system here, especially the medical schools, it is like you are putting hot knife through butter, but you know the racism, discrimination and others debilitating against us.
“So a well-trained medical doctor that cannot do anything and is involved in menial jobs, he is a lost to the country that trained him and those countries that cannot absorb him into their system. It is affecting Nigeria the more because we are losing more of them. It is a sad metaphor for us; government can and should do something.”
On what has changed in the medical profession in the country from 1999 till date, either improvement or retrogression, especially in terms of facilities development; the medical doctor said yes and no.
“Yes, there are more facilities now than before, because you have to look at it as how the sector has affected or is affecting the lives of people on the streets. We have more facilities now because universities are churning out more graduates; they open up practices, so there is just no way they can say they are practicing the way it was practiced in the 1960’s. So there is the improvement.”
However, he noted that the sector has also experienced or is experiencing retrogression. “It is going back because the best brains like I said earlier are leaving. In the 60s, 70s and even up to 80s there were researches going on.
“Our institutions conducted researches, developed products of potency, for example the vaccine production and others, but now, that is not just there again or rather it is not just coming at a price commensurate with our needs. It boils down to the poor state of the economy.”
Asked how to quantify how much would be been generated if the institutions were developing patents and product innovations, Dr. Abayomi says: “The money is so much; look at the products that they bring into the country that are being developed or research would have helped, look at the amount, the foreign exchange we have to pay for them.
“Patent is not only on product, it can be on services as well or rather research and findings. Talking about services, look at what Nigeria s losing because we don’t have that facility here, trillions. India alone is making a kill from medical tourism and a bulk of their patients come from Nigeria; infact in their healthcare system, they have so many bodies and organisation.”
He stated that Nigeria is losing trillions both in forex and time it takes to go to India. According to him, if a hospital in a particular side is doing well, other businesses around will spring up, for examples hotels, drug stores, and taxi services.
“Other businesses can also develop if we put our healthcare system in order and make it effective. We are losing huge amount of money in forex to India. We are not just looking at just the health sector alone, all the sectors are interwoven; when you lose this, you lose other things as well.
“There is a law now that encourages the patronage of our health institutions. Ordinarily cases that could have been handled in Nigeria, they want to go India because of some other things.
Beyond carrying out free surgeries, Abayomi believes in human capital development, hence, also as part of activities for the 50th birthday, he putting together a programme he called STEM CELl, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Challenge for Excellence Lagos Schools.
On the choice of the acronym, Abayomi said, “A stem cell is actually a potent cell that has the ability to develop into any tissue in the body. Stem cell is actually a cell in the body that can develop into anything. For example, your eyes, ears etc.”
He stated that STEM is a language of the future, stressing that whether we like it or not and if we don’t key into it now, just as we have been roaming in the jungle we still continue and don’t come out of the woods.
“I look at it that out of these secondary school lads there are professors there just waiting to be discovered, there are engineers that can develop many things for the betterment of mankind and Nigeria. So if we can discover them now, the journey to their desired destination will start.
“There are so many talents that remain undetected for life and that is just how it will fizzle out. So STEM CELL really intends to help discover these talents, stimulate their interest in STEM. Government can look into that, once they see you doing it and they see the merit in it.”
Abayomi explained that the programme for now is limited to secondary school students in Ikotun-Igando Development Area, particularly Isuti, Egan, Igando, Akesan and Obadore communities.
“We intend to have 32 schools in total. By the end of the fifth or sixth round a winner emerges and then our own way of encouraging such student is to give them some form of monetary gifts, prizes for the first, second and third, we also want to give the school that produced the student, because we need to thank the school too.”
Commenting on sustainability of the initiative, the Medical Director said, “If God willing and I am alive, the project be constant and everything be normal, we can then ask the winners what they want to be in life and them sponsor then up to certain level or be giving them certain bursary.
Those are part of the long-term plans, but it has to start from somewhere. I want to use this opportunity to give back to the society, but what I discovered is that there are students that much brilliant in the primary and secondary school, but they didn’t get to be discovered,” he added.