There is an ongoing revolution to change the status quo in Nigeria. The Enough is Enough campaign and the responses by Nigerian youths, fashion and entertainment industries to the Jos Crisis, are examples of these. All of these social and political happenings affects us all. At LadybrilleNigeria we are particulalry interested and committed to highlighting, celebrating and exalting Nigerians who are part of the solution and sacrifice so much for us. One such person is twenty four (24) year old Dr. Ola Orekunrin, our LadybrilleNigeria personality of the Month and founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd, West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service.
Dr. Ola an exemplary product of England’s Foster care system, was raised in a working class home by foster care parents where she quickly learned the value of hard and smart work. Dr. Ola later applied these skills learnt in her childhood to put herself through school with jobs in retail, modeling and administration. Undeterred by the challenges (financial included) that seemingly blocked her path, Dr. Ola graduated medical school at age twenty one (21), becoming the youngest doctor to graduate in the entire country. With such impressive credentials and brilliance, you would think she would settle for working at England’s prestigious acute care facilities/hospitals. She had a different agenda.
Influenced by the feature film Hotel Rwanda and the death of her twelve (12) year old sister, Dr. Ola, for 9 months, saved half of her salary, networked and read all she could on what it took to run a successful medical business. In 2009, armed with knowledge, the finance and handson experience, she added to Nigeria’s “brain gain” by booking her ticket to a country she had never even visited to execute her plan.
We should mention that, in her short twenty-four years on earth, the very ambitious doctor has authored numeorus articles in leading medical journals, sat on various influential boards at the British Medical Association, produced ground-breaking research in the field of regenerative medicine through her work with induced pluripotent stem cells; and in 2008 was awarded the prestigious MEXT Japanese Government Scholarship.
Dr. Ola truly captures the essence of a brilliant woman (Ladybrille) and serves as an inspiration to all and we are honored to have her as our LadybrilleNigeria Personality of the Month. We caught up with the very busy doctor for a very straight to the point interview, given her time, to see how our fashion professionals and industry can be a part of the solution.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Dr. Ola, thank you for the interview. Why Flying Doctors Nigeria?
Dr. Ola: After the death of my twelve(12) year old sister due to the lack of critical care transport facilities in Nigeria, it seemed like a very natural way to combine my experience working with air ambulances all over the world with my clinical and avaition skills.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Share with us, very briefly, the background of the folks that make up the Flying Doctors Nigeria team?
Dr. Ola: There are management, clinical and administrative staff, along with the board of directors. Each member of our team is skilled in a particular aspect of the company. I owe all of our success to their hard work.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Share a bit more about your personal background?
Dr. Ola: I grew up in a tiny fishing town called Lowestoft in the East of England. I had a very working class background and got my first job at 15. I spent 5 years in medical school in York.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Where did you complete your residency and in what specialty area(s)?
Dr. Ola: In the UK, it’s called foundation training and I did mine in the West Midlands developing a special interest in pre-hospital care and trauma.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Are you in private practice or do you work for a hospital/clinic?
Dr. Ola: Both. I do cosmetic medicine in Abuja, but my main work is here in Lagos running the AA and working in the hospital.
LADYBRILLENigeria: For us to truly appreciate what Flying Doctors Nigeria does, paint for us the current problems with healthcare in Nigeria?
Dr. Ola: I’d like to start by introducing you to a concept called the golden hour which is the hour immediately after a trauma/acute medical emergency has occurred. When a patient reaches hospital within the golden hour, the chances of him/her surviving are drastically increased. The current time of arrival to hospital in Lagos post-trauma is an incredibly poor 3-4 hours. Poor road conditions, the tiny number of hospitals equipped to handle major trauma, traffic congestion and the sometimes huge distances to the nearest hospitals all contribute to the challenges the Flying Doctors Nigeria addresses with our air transportation service.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Sort out the logistics for us for our readers who might be reading and able to help. Flying implies airplanes. I know you are a certified pilot. I also know your company has the support of the Nigerian government. But, I still have to ask, how are you funding what must be tremendous costs in both staff and equipment to meet the ongoing demand for your services?
Dr. Ola: The first air ambulance was proposed in 1960 for Nigeria. Since then every 3-4 years there has been a lot of talk, but no action. I decided to take that action. Just because the service is expensive doesn’t make it any less essential. We are always looking for private companies to partner with.
LADYBRILLENigeria: We are all affected, the fashion, music and entertainment industries. Tell us particularly how the fashion industry can be a part of the solution from the perspective of medical supplies that we can provide, especially where textitles might be concerned?
Dr. Ola: I have worked extensively in the fashion industry both in retail and then as a model. My experience tells me that the industry wields an enormous amount of power and influence with people young and old alike. I have been to quite a few fashion shows that support medical research and know of handful of brands that support clinical medicine. Organizations like ours can always save more lives with more medical equipment and more funds. With great power comes great responsibility and I would urge the fashion industry to keep up the good work.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Explain a bit more about your numerous services.
Dr. Ola: We offer training from basic first aid right through to advanced life support. Clinical and research consultancy. In addition to this of course the Air ambulance service.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Let me end this with one final question. I am sure you are well aware of the current Jos crisis and not unique to Jos but so many of these kinds of crises that seem to always be ongoing in Nigeria. Is your organization equipped to handle the casualties that come from these unfortunate circumstances?
Dr. Ola: I have worked through both the London underground explsions and several earthquakes in Asia. Our team are very experienced in managing major incidents. We are already talking to our partners in the Northern states regarding the sort of major incident cover we can provide.
LADYBRILLENigeria: Last words to our readers, particularly on more ways they can help and be a part of the solution?
Dr. Ola: Have a look at our website, follow our blog, come on our courses and stay safe.
~Interview by Uduak Oduok