Can we meet you?
I am Dr. W. L. Adeyemo, a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon and an associate professor at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos. I had my undergraduate training at the University of Ibadan and my post graduate training in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). I went to Germany for my PhD and then had additional training in the United States and Austria.
What would you describe as your guiding principle?
I would say hard work and perseverance. I don’t usually give up easily. When I have a set of objectives, I try as much as possible to pursue it to the best of my ability and of course, with the support of God Almighty.
What would you describe as your greatest challenge?
Let me divide my practice into two (2). Like I told you, I am a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon and am a clinician. On the other hand I am a lecturer and researcher at the University of Lagos. As a practitioner, the major challenge is funding. I am not sure the government is serious about giving the populace the best healthcare they deserve. The funding is absolutely abysmal. Government has to be serious about funding healthcare. If the government does not take the issue of funding seriously, then healthcare will continue to go from bad to worse. For research, the challenge is also funding. How much can a researcher do with ‘out of pocket’ funding of research? Virtually every meaningful innovation and technology comes out of research and these are researches that were properly funded. Most researches in this country are funded ‘out of pocket’. How much are lecturers/researchers earning? Nigerian researchers can’t do any serious research without proper funding. The irony of this situation is that those who are in control of technology and also same people who give adequate funding to research keep on discovering new things. We in Nigeria have not even started at all. We have to be serious about something that affects us. Malaria is a problem of Africa. Ebola obviously is a problem. I am aware there are some agencies like Wellcome Trust that have made money available for Ebola treatment etc. What about African countries? We have governments, NGOs, and many rich people in Nigeria; I think they need to channel their resources to funding research.
What would you describe as your greatest achievement so far?
Ah! I think I am just starting. I don’t think I have achieved compared to where I am going. I know where I am going and I am still pursuing it. I want to get to a level where we are prominent as a researcher all over the world. We are trying our best to make sure we do that.
What are your plans going forward?
The plan going forward is to do more research and get more funding. Like I said, ‘out of pocket’ research can’t take a researcher anywhere. Get funding for research from local and foreign funding agencies, and also from our institutions. University of Lagos is doing well in this regard. Luckily too, Lagos State government set up a committee which is the Lagos State Research Development Council to fund research and the award has been announced with the first tranche of funds disbursed. I happen to be one of the awardees. About 30 researchers were given the award and about 50% of those who were given were from University of Lagos. Lagos State government is so different and I wish other states could tap from this.
What is your opinion about medical tourism?
Today I saw a patient that a colleague referred to me. The patient went to India for a case that we could have handled here. I make bold to say that the case was mis-managed. They are back here with the same case and we are going to fix it here. So I asked why they went to India. They said some people referred them. Am not casting aspersion on India but based on my experience, there are mushroom clinics in India just like we have here. There are so many cases we can handle here that people take to India. We have our limitations no doubt about it. Nigerian doctors are really very competent - forget about our condition and environment. Medical tourism should be seriously guided - people have to be educated about pros and cons of medical tourism. I saw another patient in a private clinic some few days ago who had gone to a high profile hospital in Dubai. They did virtually all the investigations in this world- absolutely unnecessary and the most unfortunate thing is that after seeing the patient and they got well, they still insisted on going to India. We can’t stop such and I think it’s a problem in this environment that we don’t believe in ourselves. We can’t handle all cases here, but we can handle so many cases. I remember seeing a baby that had cleft lip- the child had been born with his lips split and that is what I do every day, every minute, every second and the parents said they wanted to go and repair it in South Africa. I said what? I don’t think what they will do is better than what we will do here. Government has a role to play, government has to lead and we follow, if the president has headache and the next thing he is in Germany, if the Lagos State Governor has stomach ache and the next thing he is in the United States, if my Governor in Oyo State has running stomach and next thing he is in Austria; what you are saying is that you don’t believe in our healthcare system. You don’t expect your followers to believe in it. Government has to do something about this. People have talked about legislation against medical tourism for government officials. You can’t. It is about choice. If we have the quality here and the confidence is brought back, people will stay. Let me give you another example, I saw a baby of a high profile couple with cleft lip and palate - the splitting of the lip and the roof of the mouth. They came and said they wanted to go abroad. I told them we can repair the cleft here and I was able to convince them and we did it. When you see the child, you won’t notice she had any cleft lip. Our protocol in our centre is to repair the lip when the baby is three (3) months of age and when the baby is one year old we repair the palate. Despite the fact that the parents were happy after the lip surgery and were supposed to come back when it’s a week to the child’s first birthday to fix an appointment; to my greatest surprise, they said they wanted to go out of the country to repair the roof for the mouth. Why? I had to convince them again. Eventually, they stayed back and did the repair here. We have our limitations in Nigeria there is no doubt about it, but we are not as bad as people insinuate.
What is your advice to young and upcoming doctors?
The passion we had when we were in school was different. I can say that because I am a teacher- I teach Undergraduate and post graduate. That passion is going down. Maybe it’s a reflection of the environment. We need to realize there is no easy way to success. You are going to be comfortable if you set your goals and you work very hard to achieve those goals.