Aderinsola Adelaja emerged the Best Graduating Student of the College of Medicine, Lagos State University (LASU) for the 2019/2020 session. The medical doctor tells DAMILOLA ROLEOLA about her academic journey and how she attained this feat.
What was your admission into the College of Medicine like?
Getting admission for medicine and surgery in any part of the world, including Nigeria, is very competitive because there are a lot of people applying for the College of Medicine. It was really a competitive process, some of my colleagues didn’t make it but I got through eventually.
Many admission seekers denied admission into the College of Medicine usually ascribe their plights to lack of connection. What would you say about this?
There might be such cases in some places but as far as I know, there is a merit list and only the names of those with high scores are given admission based on merit, just like LASU. If you don’t meet up with the cut off mark, you’ll be given another course.
Surely, your emergence as the Best Graduating Student must have come at a cost. What did you forfeit or deny yourself in order to achieve this success?
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Some people might be able to combine some other things with their academics and still come out successful but for me, I had to forfeit some things per time. For instance, I had to stop watching movies at a level, stop sleeping excessively at 400 level and so on. The things I had to forfeit changed per time. I even forfeited reading personally at 500 level because I discovered that I learn better when I teach others, so I organised tutorials for people instead of reading personally.
Would you say your latest feat came as a surprise or a dream come true?
It’s a mix of both. I graduated as the best student in my secondary school; Genius Memorial Secondary School, and I started my first year with the same expectations. I even had some goals written out but then, in my 200 level, it dawned on me that I was in the same class with over 70 best students from various schools. I began to have distinction in some courses and there were some in which I didn’t do so well. So in 500 level, I gave up on the dream of becoming the best graduating student but I had to renew my desire and goals as I had planned in my 100 level. I started working on it and I was able to finish well.
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Initially, science was believed to be a men’s world and women usually found it difficult to fit it. Did you have to struggle with your male colleagues to achieve this success?
It wasn’t a competition of gender because we were all on a level playing ground. It was an individual journey; of course, it might have played out in various instances but not at the academic level.
Some medical students suffer mental fatigue trying to stay afloat; some even have mild disorder for being extreme. Did you ever come close to such crises as a result of pressure or better yet, how did you avoid this fate?
I experienced such and some of my colleagues did too. Studying a large curriculum for six years wasn’t easy; of course, you are bound to have some mental fatigues. At times, you have to read till the next morning without knowing, prepare for posting and those kind of things. Sometimes, when it becomes too much, I’d leave my room and go out to cry and clear my mind. I also called my parents at times but then, I was able to find my way around it by discovering what works for me. I found out that I do better by maximising the day with my studying and then resting well at night. So you just have to find out what works for you.
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What would you say you did differently from your colleagues to become outstanding?
I was able to harness what works best for me as I was advised by a senior. I realised that I don’t like reading in the library, I’d rather read in my room, then go out and discuss on what I have read with people, do tutorials and formed discussion group. I also discovered that I love audio-visual books; that is, textbooks with coloured pictures and for me, it wasn’t about reading for hours straight. If I want to read for four hours in a day, I’d break it down to some hours in the morning and some in the day. So, I basically found out what strategy worked for me.
One of the areas you had distinction was surgery. How would you describe the present and future of surgery in Nigeria?
Compared to other developed climes, I think we have a long way to go. Although, the teaching hospital in my school has some modern facilities and is up to date with some procedures that are new in Nigeria and not practiced in some other teaching hospitals. However, compared to other developed climes, Nigeria still has a long way to go when it comes to medicine and surgery and I believe we would get there.
What do you hope to achieve differently in the field of medicine in Nigeria?
Moving forward, though I have a distinction in surgery, I don’t want to pursue a career in surgery. I actually want to become a Nephrologist, which is the medical doctor that specialises in kidney related issues. This is because I’m fascinated by the kidney and I hope that in future, I’d be able to do a residency in internal medicine and become a Nephrologist. My main burden in that area is renal transplantation because we don’t have enough facilities and centres in Nigeria, therefore, the price of renal transplantation is very high and patients can’t afford it. This results to dialyses which they have to do like two to three times in a week and that itself is not the real treatment. So I hope to further research in that area and hopefully, set up a transplantation centre with affordable prices and maximum care.
Would you justify the brain drain among medical practitioners in Nigeria?
Is there really a justification? (Giggles). The reality is that the work situation for doctors in Nigeria is not suitable and it cuts across various professions too. People are drawn to an environment that offers job security, financial security and a mental stability. So, I don’t blame those who leave the country, I mean, some of my colleagues are already writing international examinations to practice abroad and every now and then, most of them do well and we congratulate them, although, I wonder who will stay back in Nigeria if we all left. But then, the justification is that everyone is just trying to find a better means of survival for themselves.
Have you nursed a desire to work abroad?
I plan to get further training and experience outside the country in order to return to develop the health scene in Nigeria in the area of Nephrology and renal transplantation.
How would you appraise the government’s investment in the medical sector in Nigeria?
Of course, the government is doing something but there is much left to be done. We have incessant strike actions from resident doctors because of default in payment agreement. Some hospitals are underequipped and some deaths are actually preventable, but then, some of the facilities are not there to save those lives.
What recognitions have you received for this achievement and how do you feel about them?
It has opened a lot of doors for me to apply for certain scholarships and job opportunities that I couldn’t have gotten access to normally. I’ve also received calls and laudable offers, connections and so on. It also placed me on a new pedestal where I can assist some students in Nigeria as a mentor.
What is your greatest fear concerning your career?
My fear is that I may not go into the conventional clinical practice of seeing patients, wearing robe and examining patients. I fear I may just choose to go into research and creating solutions to problems. I call this a fear because everyone has this expectation of me going into this clinical practice.