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Prof. Innocent Achanya Otobo Ujah

 
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aoujah's picture
Prof. Innocent Achanya Otobo Ujah

Hello, am Dr Innocent Ujah, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecological Surgeon. I am also the current Director General/C.E.O of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

For my full profile, visit HERE

You are welcome to ask me questions by posting it in the comment section below. I will do my best to answer your questions on Wednesday, 20th April 2016 at 2pm.

niyiosams's picture

Dear Prof. Ujah, Let me first thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be our guest on Meet The Guru.

1. What achievements would you list as the most important since you assumed office?

2. How can medical doctors aspiring to hold public office/positions better prepare or equip themselves?

3. In the 114 year history of the Nobel Prize (http://www.cp-africa.com/2012/05/27/list-of-african-nobel-prize-winners) only 3 times has the Prize for Medicine been awarded to Africans and the recipients all come from South Africa. In your view, what are the factors limiting medical research and discoveries in Africa and particularly Nigeria?

4. What is your advice to young doctors?

aoujah's picture

I thank you for the privilege to share my experience as CEO of the foremost Medical Research Institute, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) with my colleagues and other stakeholders. 

I wish to start that I assumed duty in May 2010 and at the taking over ceremony i stated very clearly that I was in the Institute to provide strategic direction in the field of Medical Research using due process, accountability, fairness as my guiding principle. 

Before I assumed duty, little was known about the Institute and its mandate. The mandate of the Institute is to conduct research into diseases (both communicable and non-communicable) of public Health importance and to disseminate the findings of the research outcomes and also to collaborate with Federal and States Ministry of Health, Medical Schools and national and International organizations. 

I wish to summarize some of the achievements to include: 

  1. Establishing order and discipline
  2. Building a system that provides opportunities for credible research and capacity building of Scientists and Researchers within and outside of the NIMR 
  3. Organization of the first ever retreat in the Institute which provided opportunity to develop a road map for relevant research work
  4. Development of the first ever strategic plan for the Institute which clearly gave a strategic direction for health research and capacity development. 
  5. Strengthening the ICT Unit with functional Internet Services provided within the Institute, including the Residential quarters.
  6. Monitoring and evaluation Unit, Information & Public Relations Unit established.
  7. Annual national Scientific Conference and 3-yearly International Conference established.
  8. Truly robust bi-weekly Scientific seminars introduced, as well as the formation of nine (9) Research Groups, including Malaria, HIV/AIDS/TB, Clinical Trials, Neglected Tropical diseases, Emergency preparedness and Response Research Groups, immunology and vaccinology, Non-communicable Diseases Research Group, Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive and child Health Research Group & Health Policy and System Research Group.
  9. Completion of the Human Virology Laboratory (HVL) Extension building and acquired Cobas 4800 machine to screen for Human Papilloma Virus(HPV) and determining the genotypes.
  10. A well furnished Biomedical Training and Cancer Research Centre with conference and Syndicate rooms just commissioned.
  11. A State-of-the Art E-Library for the Institute is about 80% complete.
  12. Approval by the Delta State Government to have NIMR Outstation in Asaba secured and an MOU being finalised.
  13. Capacity building of our staff mainly supported mainly by our International partners.
  14. Our Researchers have attracted handsome International grants for research in the Institute.
  15. Resuscitation of the Institute Journal of Biomedical Research.
  16. The budgetary allocation has improved largely due to intense and extensive advocacy.

I wish to stop here, as far as the achievements are concerned and of course there are challenges too.

 

QUESTION 2. How can medical doctors aspiring to hold public office/positions better prepare or equip themselves?

ANSWER:

By training, all Doctors would have passed the "endurance test" and should withstand the rigors of politics. However, it is more than naked intelligence. Apart from being grounded in management, the doctor seeking for political positions or any administrative position must have network of friends, who should not necessarily be from your tribe or Geo-political zone. In addition, you must have good inter-personal relations. You must be fair, transparent, accountable but firm. You should be known for who you are. People who are wavy may achieve their immediate objective but are unlikely to sustain the success. In summary, apart from the Medical qualifications, knowledge and skills, any Doctor who is interested in administrative/political position must go for some management course to widen his/her administrative horizon, otherwise, administrator can easily mis-advise you and put you in trouble and of course will only stay aloof to rejoice when you fall in trouble-which can be very easy. The hallmark of good administration is documentation with dates.

 

Q3. In the 114 year history of the Nobel Prize, only 3 times has the Prize for Medicine been awarded to Africans and the recipients all come from South Africa. In your view, what are the factors limiting medical research and discoveries in Africa and particularly Nigeria? 

Answer: What i came to discover with my limited knowledge in Medical research, is that African Governments do not appreciate the value of Research and therefore, there is little or no investment in Research. For Instance, for the past 31 years, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has invested so much time and money on HIV vaccine research and yet no solution is in sight. Tell me which African Government will have wanted to spend its money for this research without getting the desired results. Research is capital intensive, time consuming but require focus and commitment, encouragement and support from all. This is lacking in Africa, even when we know that African Scientists have the capacity and skill to conduct research that could win noble prize.  It is my prayers that Governments in Africa will modify  their attitude towards ground breaking research that can compete for Nobel prize. This discussion can continue!

 

Q4.  What advice do you have for younger doctors?

 ANSWER:  I am happy  to observe that many Doctors now have the patience to undertake the Residency Training Programme or acquire additional qualifications like MPH, MBA, MSc, PhD, LLB, LLM etc. This is how it should be because the world is increasingly becomimg competitive and it is only when one is well prepared and grounded that he/she can compete for limited available space. 

I must say that some young Doctors are in a hurry to "arrive" and in the process, they cut corners which many of the time land them in awkward positions. I will advise that young Doctors should be patient to plan well for their future for enduring legacy. My Philosophy is: "There is no short cut to success" and so far, no regrets.

inemusoro's picture

1.What innovative mechanism can you initiate and propel to fast track translational research deliverables for Nigeria's health sector?

2. How can these research results become attractive to local industries and relevant to our economic milieu?

3.What innovative incentive can you initiate to attract research funding from Nigeria's private sector - we all know public sector funding virtually only caters for personnel emoluments/overhead if released.

aoujah's picture

Q1. What innovative mechanism can you initiate and propel to fast track translational research deliverables for Nigeria's health sector?

ANSWER: I wish to state that it is not that we lack ideas of what to do to fast track translational research,. However, it is just that we do not have the means to do so. In NIMR, for instance, we have initiated several translational research that should help to resolve some clinical issues, but we got stalled for lack of fund. For Instance, when Ebola was introduced by Patrick Sawyer into Nigeria, NIMR submitted requirements to upgrade our Bio-safety level 3 Laboratory to P4 to the FMOH, but as i reply to this question, we have received no kobo and therefore, it is not possible to carry out trials on life virus to further study Ebola Virus Disease. We pray for a change of mind as well as political will on the part of politicians to invest in Health research that will help to drive development and improved health care in Nigeria.

 

Q2. How can these research results become attractive to local industries and relevant to our economic milieu?

ANSWER: This will be actualized only when Companies commission research studies that will meet their needs, otherwise, Industries may not use many of the Research outcomes from Research Institutions too soon. However, linkages should be developed with companies for possible collaborations and partnership. Once companies begin to invest in research, they will more likely use the research outcomes.

 

Q3 What innovative incentive can you initiate to attract research funding from Nigeria's private sector - we all know public sector funding virtually only caters for personnel emoluments/overhead if released.

ANSWER: I am of the opinion that we need to mount intensive and extensive advocacy and sensitization, in addition to establish financial integrity in conduct of commissioned research. Many Researchers care little about ethical values in conducting research. I am aware that some researchers convert research fund to buy new cars (not budgeted for) or marry more wives or research outcomes are never presented. Sharp practices discourage potential funders of Research.

Finally, credible research with integrity in financial management of research fund and timely report of research will restore confidence among grantors.

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