Late 1998, University of Benin: ‘ I will be a Neurosurgeon ‘ a 4th year Medical Student said to his classmates during some random discussion. “You?” reiterated those gathered. “You this very unserious boy?” and they burst out laughing.
In 2001, this same young man, told his friends while they were completing some forms that required indicating one’s marital status: ‘why am I filling in “single” as marital status when I will soon be married anyway?’ His friends again burst out laughing. “Who will agree to marry you? Just look at you!”
In 2002 when his final-year book for his class was published, this same young man wrote and I quote: ‘After school, I will be a Neurosurgeon’
Fast-forward to 2003 and the “unserious” young man, gets married to his number one ‘cheer leader’ – me. When he told me 3 years earlier that he wanted to be a Neurosurgeon, I looked him in the eyes and said ‘Why not? However, can you tell me why you want to specialise as a Neurosurgeon?’ The instantaneous response I got convinced me he had thought about this vision long and hard. ‘Do we have a Neurosurgeon now in this University of Benin Teaching Hospital? This South –South region of Nigeria has no Neurosurgeon now. Why should Nigerians die needlessly? “Okay then, a Neurosurgeon you shall become” I replied.
He looked at me a bit puzzled. ‘So, are you not going to laugh at me?’ he asked. “You are the first person I told about this who has not laughed at me”. I smiled because unknown to this young man, I myself had always wanted to be a Neurosurgeon since secondary school. However, somewhere along the line, in Medical school, my not so great a romance with Neuro-anatomy and the influence of my great teacher and mentor, Professor Friday Okonofua yielded the synergistic force that propelled me onto Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
“I am not going to do my Neurosurgery training in Ibadan,” he declared after a few minutes, ‘I will do it in the United Kingdom. This is not because Ibadan is not good enough, but because with my very non-conformist personality, I will be greatly misunderstood in Ibadan. ‘Why not America why United Kingdom?’ I asked? ‘America is too far. I need to be somewhere close to home – remember I need to come back home and help fix a few things?’ he said in a tone that signalled finality.
February 18th, 2006 he arrives the United Kingdom. Hard work, challenges, sacrifices and multiple episodes of ‘nearly giving up’ ensued over the next 9 years. It was his doggedness, passion and single-minded focus on how to make a difference in the Nigerian Healthcare landscape that kept this man going.
On the 4th of September 2015, the man described as “unserious” by many, Mr Douglas Chukwuemeka Okor in now a Neurosurgeon and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (the oldest Surgical College in the World).
I cannot forget to acknowledge the many persons God sent our way to make the journey bearable. First, there are his parents, who have given the world this unique individual. Mr. Adogha, the Adolo College Benin City Chemistry Teacher. Next is Professor Eugene Okpere who always maintained and reassured me ‘that this non-conformist young man will surely turn out okay’. Also, there is Professor Pandy Kubeyinje and Professor I. Evbuomwan; two unique men who never cease to look out for the good of this man. It is Sir Professor Graham Teasdale, co-originator of the world re-known Glasgow Coma Scale who believed this determined young man deserved a chance. Along came Professor Sam Eljamel who spurred him to seek open windows when doors appear closed. Mr. Biodun Ogungbo it is, who ‘demystified’ Neurosurgery for this young enthusiast. Dr. Dave Udoh, another Neurosurgeon now at University of Benin Teaching Hospital, reinforces the fact that where there is a will, there is a way. The Duo of Mr. Umang Patel, and Mr. Surab Sinha, both Neurosurgeons at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, are the teacher of teachers and mentors worthy of mention respectively.
We are proud of you “Papi”! God has rewarded our hard work. You have proven, that once there is a will and a vision for the greater good of Mankind, God always makes a way. Furthermore, you have shown that belief in one’s self and faith in God, nullifies all the superficial perception of those around us – after all, no one knows a man better than the man in the mirror. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator: each of us with skills and talents to make a positive difference depending on our choices. Finally, we pray God to keep you and empower you to make the ultimate goal – which is to collaborate maximally with others and make the much-needed change in the Nigerian Health Sector because every Nigerian patient is worth it! #TheNigerianPatientsAreWorthIt