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Culture and Travel Housemanship Life in Medicine

Living & Working In Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Guys!!!! I had to write. And you need not say, I know I have been off this space (and social media) for a good while. I missed y’all. Did you miss me too?

I blogged about my new job here, and mentioned how housemanship can be stressful and time demanding, and even queried how often my showing up on the blog would be afterwards.

My first two weeks were hell! Literally. I barely had a life of my own. I was either in the ward, in the call room, in the theatre, in the laboratory (checking results) or seldom in the kitchen trying to grab dinner – call food.

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Culture and Travel

Africa Through My Lens

Tony

I might not have been to a lot of countries, but for the average Nigerian of my age, I daresay I have done well for myself and I am still pushing.

I have visited and spent a good length of time in eight African countries; seen the borders of four African countries; and the world through the stories of my friends who live in different parts of the world.

As a child, I got restless being in one place for long. It was not until I got into the university that I discovered that that was a pointer to who I was to become later – a “Traveler/Walker.”

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Housemanship Life in Medicine

First Day On Call As A House Officer: Four Doctors Share Their Experience

In your final year as a medical student in Nigeria, while you prepare and are being prepared to make the transition from medical school to medical practice, one of the goals of your teachers is to equip you for your first day on call as a house officer.

You will often hear case scenarios like this: “It is your first day on call as a house officer in the accident and emergency ward. A 25-year-old lady is rushed in. She is anxious, in painful distress and bleeding per vaginam. Her pulse is weak and blood pressure is 90/60 millimetres of mercury. How will you manage this patient?”

Your teachers need to be assured that you can be trusted with the lives of patients. As a house officer, you are the first doctor on call, that is the one whom patients come into contact with first. This is the reason every final year medical student must be armed with initial resuscitation and stabilization skills.

I have often wondered what my first day as the house officer on call would be like and prayed to have a good one. Today, four doctors share their experience. Enjoy.

Categories
Living

Event Recap: The Platform Nigeria

It’s been two weeks since the 11th Edition of The Platform Nigeria. For those who do not know of it, it’s a biannual event organized by Pastor ‘Poju Oyemade of Covenant Christian Centre (C3), Lagos, Nigeria.

It is a non-denominational and non-partisan event aimed at promoting good governance and nation building.

I first heard about it two years ago on TV, while in my final year at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I wished I could attend. I longed for it, and even considered traveling over the weekend for it but gave it up in the end.

Last year, I watched the event on TV and followed online as much as I could.

This year, I traveled to Lagos for a different event, and completely unaware that the 11th Edition of the event was around the corner.

I heard of it in a Sunday service I attended in C3. When I saw the flyer for the event, and it was two weeks away, even though I only planned to stay the weekend, I thought, “I wouldn’t be back to Lagos for this event in two weeks. I could extend my stay in Lagos by two weeks. It’s two weeks… I can stay.”

I must tell you, it wasn’t an easy thing to do. But somehow (I hope to write about my waiting process) I stayed, and attended the event. I took the photo I used for my birthday post at the event.

You can tell it was as fantastic as promised. It was, as one of the speakers put it, “a festival of ideas.”

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Life in Medicine Medical School

Observing The Medical Induction Ceremony From Three Angles – Medical Student, Inductee & Medical Doctor

Last week Wednesday, a fresh set of doctors from the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Nigeria was inducted into the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria. It was the immediate induction after mine and my first as a registered medical doctor.

It happened that I personally knew a lot of persons who were getting inducted. At a time I thought, “This feels like my own induction.” Having played a significant role in the success story of some persons, I revelled in their accomplishment like it was mine.

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– A set of happy, newly-inducted doctors. Spot me in the middle.

As a medical student

The induction ceremony was an event I looked forward to. Whenever I watched the new doctors pledge to the Hippocratic oath, I was motivated to study harder; to push through and become a medical doctor. Being present was always inspiring for me.

I also noticed how loud or silent the ovation was for different persons when they were called up to the podium. The intensity of the ovation was a reflection of the impact they had on others during their stay in the university. I tried to identify some factors that may explain this. Giving back, in form of teaching the younger colleagues, being a student leader and being an active member of an association, usually CMDA or FECAMDS were the three top factors I identified.

Another highlight of the ceremony for me was when the best graduating doctors in various courses were called up to be recognized. I enjoyed listening to the class valedictorian read her speech.

On the induction before mine, I cried. It seemed weird to me and I remember teasing myself, “So, you are in the category of people that cry on their wedding day.” That made me blush. I also remember chuckling at how funny I’d look when I went up to be sworn in with a smeared face because I couldn’t hold in my emotions. I cried because I could relate to their struggle and also anticipate the joy that comes from triumph.

My induction

My induction as a medical doctor stands out as the best day of my life yet. When I was having my makeup done in the morning, it felt like my wedding day. A colleague of mine voiced a similar feeling, and I also heard of a doctor who said, after being married, that his induction was still the best day of his life.

The ovation when I was called up to be sworn in was not loud. It was easy to see why. I was not involved in teaching the younger colleagues, I did not run for any leadership position and was neither a part of CMDA nor FECAMDS. My impact was little or nothing, but that is changing.

I did not get any award either. I felt an infinitesimal amount of disappointment for my parents who might have been delighted at the event but I focused on this:

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– Photo credit: @yourstudymate on Instagram

I was thankful for where I was and where I was headed; without God’s mercy and goodness I would not be where I was nor still hold dreams of where I was headed.

I didn’t cry. I was mostly excited, then sober and tried to pay attention to the words of advice given to us on the day. “Be focused. Know what you want and go for it,” one of the speakers admonished.

The day ended with me feeling ecstatic. I was overwhelmed with the love that was shown to me and found myself repeatedly saying aloud at night, “I am a doctor. I am now a doctor.” It was a surreal feeling.

As a medical doctor

It was beautiful seeing my friends pledge to the Hippocratic oath.

Indeed, everything that has a beginning has an end, and as the bible put it, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning.”

The highlight for the newly inducted doctors is usually when the provost of the College of Health Sciences addresses them as her colleagues, no longer students. That makes me realize that the difference between medical students and medical doctors is time.

Now, I see every medical student as a potential doctor. “Isn’t that what they are and what the training is about?” you may ask. It became more real to me in the past weeks and will positively influence my training of medical students. I will teach them with respect, love and understanding.

I observed at the last induction that some persons let the strain from medical school steal their joy. No doubt, the journey to becoming a doctor takes longer, can be more tortuous and harder for some, but I think it is all worth it in the end. NOTHING should steal your joy that day. You are a victor, don’t you see?

The dominant emotions, however, are happiness and pride, both on the part of the newly inducted doctors and their family and friends.

My dad often says that being a doctor is a calling. I’ll like to add that it is a higher calling. One of service and selflessness.

As you pledge to the Hippocratic oath, the sacredness of the oath should guide your conduct and practice.

I also noticed that the inductees were instructed to say, ” I, Dr. *insert doctor’s name,* hereby affirm the PLEDGE I have just taken. So help me God.” As opposed to saying OATH.

For whatever reason it was altered, it does not diminish the sacredness of the Hippocratic oath and goes to show that the medical profession is in a constant state of evolution and that in itself is impressive.

Love,

Annie.

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Uncategorized

To Stay Or To Go?

Hi, everyone. I hope y’all had a great holiday; time to relax, refresh and reconnect with loved ones. I had quite a full one myself.

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Unsplash

In the course of the holiday, I was able to visit both my paternal and maternal homes. It was beautiful reconnecting with some family members I had not seen in a while.

On the trip to our maternal home, my aunt (my mum’s last sister) kept going on and about how much grander their village is in comparison with our paternal home, which we were traveling from. My mum joined in. When it seemed as though she was trying too hard to convince us, she concluded with what shuts any Thomas, “seeing is believing.”

It was not our first time visiting. We visited about five years ago. I do not recall visiting earlier than that.

You see, my mum comes from a large home. Her father had two wives and 16 children. Of the 16, about 11 are based abroad, mostly in the United States of America. As such, most of the family can be said to be doing well.

Having recently graduated from medical school with a promising future, and in the face of the dwindling health system (and every other system) of the Nigerian state, talks of relocating me to the United States of America after youth service majored in conversations.

In the current state of the nation, anyone singing the song of patriotism or not talking about leaving the country would be considered a madman or woman, as the case may be. Especially when the table is almost set for you.

I came across a tweet and could not agree more.

It’s a valid choice to leave this country and go somewhere to flourish. It’s also a valid choice to stay and build. Just ensure that your choice aligns with your purpose. You won’t find satisfaction anywhere if it doesn’t.” – @supersanusi.

You see, I found purpose or a sense of it some years back. So far as is clear to me, my purpose is tied to Nigeria. One of my major prayer points this year is clarity of purpose; what to do and how to go about it.

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Amen. Photo credit: Unsplash

I am not yet sure how God deems it best for me to fulfill mine. This I hope to unravel this year, by God’s grace.

I attended the annual Global Leadership Summit organized by the Willow Creek Association last year, in keeping with one of my personal goals of becoming a better leader.

In the session pioneered by Bryan Stevenson Leading Through The Uncomfortable, I learned some things about leadership which I could apply to leading in Nigeria.

Stevenson_Bryan
Bryan Stevenson; lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and clinical professor at New York University School of Law.

He categorized his talk in four sub-headings:

1. Get proximate

“Leadership requires that we do not run away from the problems, however painful and difficult, but we get close to them.”

2. Change the narratives that birth the problem.

“We have to understand the narratives that sustain these problems.”

3. Stay hopeful.

“Hopelessness is the enemy of effective leadership. You are either hopeful or part of the problem.”

4. We’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things.

“Effective leadership only happens when leaders decide to do uncomfortable things.”

Prior to this time, the plan had always been simple: Graduate. Go to a place with a better system. Learn. Come back and effect change.

After listening to him, I began reevaluating my plan. I had, however, before this time, told myself that I would leave Nigeria if I had genuine reasons to do so, and not merely because everyone thinks that is the figurative “Noah’s ark” to get on.

As I write this, I fondly remember an uncle who is also a medical doctor and had to go to the United States of America for a heart surgery and refused to come back afterward. He stayed back, is currently practicing there and has had his entire family relocate to be with him.

I also hear you telling me matter-of-factly that if I go over, like my uncle, for a year, a month or even a day, my language will change.

Again, it boils down to purpose. Why we do what we do. I hope each of us finds our purpose. I hope we lead our purpose. Much more, I hope we give ourselves the liberty to live out our purpose without fear or favour.

Love,

Annie.

 

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Uncategorized

When Loving Her Becomes Difficult

In honour of Nigeria’s Independence day celebration, I will be throwing back to this poem I wrote seven years ago. Sadly, it still re-echoes the present state of our dear nation.

Recently on Twitter, someone tweeted: “So, 5 hospitals didn’t have oxygen and we lost you, Chris! 5 goddamned hospitals! Loving this country is HARD!!!” 

I didn’t know how to respond – or better put, had no response as it was touching two areas I am both passionate about: Nigeria, and her health sector. What’s worse, I could not take away the sadness from them. Could not. Even if I wanted to. With all the insecurity, strikes, poverty and hunger that threatens the intergrity and sanity of Nigeria and Nigerians, I can’t help but agree that indeed, loving Nigeria is HARD, as they put it.

NIGERIA

The land of my ancestors

A vault of many resources

The giant of Africa, they say

A name to us that seems stale

A hubbub of talented youths

Straining to unleash their gifts

But with no stage or audience

Their efforts prove futile

How corruption has eaten in deeply

Virtually all our leaders are greedy

Stealing the nation’s wealth in lump sums

For their daughters and even their son’s sons

The rarity of good paints wrong right

A nation where black is called white

It’s obvious our nation is decaying

What role are you playing?

Are you a force for correction or corruption

Nigeria, a nation that needs redemption.

I love Nigeria. I can’t help but love her. I am just wired to. And I believe in her. I believe in me, because I am Nigeria and so are you. Do you?

When I recently re-read 2nd Chronicles 7:14, I saw our problem AND solution in one verse.

2nd Chronicles 7: 14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NIV, emphasis added)

A 2015 statistics released by the Pew Research Centre data ranked Nigeria as the 9th most religious country in the world. So, it is not prayers I am talking about now. We have done too much of praying, and less of acting. Remember, faith without works is dead. So, our solution lies in turning from our wicked ways. First, as individuals and then collectively as a people. This is where the responsibility of building Nigeria into the great nation that it was and is supposed to be falls back on us.

So much degradation has happened to her in the past years. So much worth tearing her apart of recent. But somehow she still manages to stand tall.

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I’m not about to beguile you into joining the faithful that believe in all Nigeria carries, and is willing to deliver her future – even though I would enjoin you to, but I hope that before you point fingers at all her corrupt leaders and everything that’s not right about her, that you look inward and see for YOURSELF if you are truly different and any better. I do hope though that you can believe in her enough to fight for her. I do hope that you look on her inside, and see all the beauty she possesses and all she is capable of becoming, and  can point others toward that. Nigeria is ours, the land of our birth, the land of our fathers, the land of our children.

We are so much stronger, so beautiful, the pride of the African continent, when we stand together than when we fight against ourselves; when we are united and fight for her cause, than berate one another.

We can be better. We can love her even when it’s HARD to love her. Isn’t that where it all boils down to in the end? Love. The ones we love sometimes are not befitting of the love. But we hope that through love, they can begin to see themselves through the eyes of the ones who love them, and rise to become the truest versions of themselves.

Unity, Peace and Progress 🇳🇬

Someone just turned 57!

Happy Independence, Nigeria!

Annie. 💚

Categories
Culture and Travel Life in Medicine

First Outing As A Doctor x Practicing In My Village

When it was confirmed I was listed as one of the doctors and was going to travel, my excitement knew no bounds. The joy in my heart must have rung louder than a grade six murmur. The prospects of clerking in Igbo, and most importantly treating my own people was too exhilarating to keep calm.
Having trained in Rivers state, interacting with people from its various tribes, and even doing a compulsory one-month rural posting in a community in Rivers state – Kegbara-Dere, sometimes having a colleague who is a native act as an interpreter, and learning a few of their language to get by, this was much-welcomed opportunity.
As we approached the venue for the outreach, my aunt who was with me in the vehicle worried about my proficiency in Igbo; if I would be able to communicate effectively with the villagers.
I did not hesitate in letting her know how grounded I was for this. I boasted: “We have been effectively trained for this. One of the things you have to get right in medical school is the ability to communicate with your patient – whatever their level of education was. That included finding ways to surmount the barriers of language and religion also.” By the time I had gone on to lecture her on the expediency of passing the counselling station in the exam, and explaining a patient’s medical condition in the simplest of terms, she was forced to believe more in my ability.
I alighted the vehicle feeling comfortable in my ordinary attire, no white coat or stethoscope to give me away as a doctor, when to my uttermost amazement some other person alighting from a motorcycle greeted me, Doctor.
Poker-faced, looking down at my bag to crosscheck that my ward coat and stethoscope were safely tucked in, I stared back in his direction blankly, wondering what gave me away as a doctor. After he settled the bike guy, he repeated his greeting, as if to erase any doubt I had, concluding that I probably didn’t recognize him. The doctor who was to become a partner and a potential friend explained that we had the same Alma Mata and he knew me while we were in school. He was some classes ahead of me, had seen me a couple of times in the library and was currently serving in my village. Small world.
In no time, the patients were ready to start seeing the doctors, and the doctor and I were initially positioned in different consulting rooms.
“I mere añunu?” I started. The only Igbo Isuikwuato I was sure of.
The elderly woman began her compliant. At some point, I wanted to plead with her to stick to basic Igbo but decided against it.
When I had gotten all of her complaints and had an understanding of her condition, I proceeded to prescribe her medications.
One thing I didn’t do was fake knowledge where I would have used some guidance. That would be grave and foolish of me. So, I asked questions and sought clarifications when I needed one. If that made me seem “incompetent” or not schooled enough, that was your thinking.
“Better be humble and learn more, than prideful and kill innocent persons,” I admonished myself.
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Shortly afterward, we were joined by an older doctor who had been in practice for years. He was from my village and owned a hospital in a neighbouring town. I gave up my consulting room to share space with the other doctor who was serving in my village.
At intervals, my aunt came to check on me; to be sure I had no difficulty communicating with the patients and help if I had one.
I reassured her that I was doing fine, with a smile. The other doctor was from Akwa Ibom and didn’t understand a lot of Igbo. My aunt helped out when I was busy, and I took on the task of interpreting when I was less busy. I was too happy to.
He understood some words. When they said ishi/isi, he knew they were talking about their head… So, headache. When they said ukwu, they were referring to their waist. And so on.
The majority of the patients complained of headache, waist pain, leg pain, and general body pain. And of course malaria. This was to be expected considering their major source of livelihood is farming, my village is hilly, and the major age group of the presenting population elderly.
Children also came. If you have treated malaria, then the other most likely complaints were cough, ukwara and its accomplice, catarrh, mmiri ukwara.
Everyone that presented to the health center was dewormed.
Among the mpas and mmas, hypertension, as expected, was predominant and a few accompanying or isolated cases of diabetes.
There were few other random cases, and patients were referred to the General Hospital, and to be followed up when there was a need.
It was obvious some came for a refill of their medications, which was OK. That was why we were organizing the free medical outreach, everyone should make the most of the opportunity.
Of particular note was a certain old man, who looked vaguely familiar when he stepped in. On interaction with him, I asked him if he knew my grandpa and he answered in the affirmative, recounting some fun memories with him.
I was more than impressed when he took out a small note, where he had beautifully written down his complaints. I had to show my partner, he didn’t seem as impressed as I was, but I was and made sure the old man knew I was. He smiled and said he used to be a teacher. I scribbled his name on a paper and made a mental note to ask my uncle or granny when I got home.
I also met some other persons who knew me as a child or knew my family, and when they tried to place whose child in particular I was and were told “nwa Moses, Ada ya,” I could see them wearing the happiness in their hearts on their faces. Their own daughter was treating them. And I, too, found satisfaction and inexplicable delight and gave them my best.
We were joined by another doctor, who is from my village and works at the General Hospital.
His family is based in Port Harcourt, but he has a love for community medicine and enjoys working in the village to give back to his community. A lot of persons attested to his humanitarian and selfless service to the community.
The three of us soon got along and by the end of the second day, the last day of the outreach, we were heartily retelling stories of medical school. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was at the end of the day until I lay to sleep, but one thing was certain: The joy in my heart had no match, and my people were more than happy, blessed.
Tired, but surely excited, I managed to pose for photos at the end of the day:
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*I mere añunu? – How are you? (in my dialect)
*Mpas and mmas – Fathers and mothers (the elderly)
*nwa Moses, Ada ya – Moses’ child, his first daughter
Love,
Annie (or I should sign off with my Igbo name, Chioma? 😁)
Ps – This outreach was part of the infamous August Meeting, the annual meeting Igbo women attend in their village. Isn’t it cool that it has evolved to become an avenue these women seek ways to give back to the community? Shout out to the Onicha Amiyi-Uhu women of Isuikwuato local government area, Abia state. Onicha Amiyi-Uhu to the world! ❤