“As a Physician, having empathy, patience and keen interest in your patients’welfare may be more important than being exceptionally smart, which is not to say that you can dispense with intelligence”.
“I come from a family of eight children and I am number six from the top. I have been in the U.S. for a long time, 47 years. Back home in Nigeria, I had almost completed my pre-med courses before the Nigeria-Biafra war broke out in 1967. After the warended in 1970, I came to the United States and started over again as an undergraduate pre-med student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston campus graduating in 1973. Then I went to Howard University School of Medicine, Washington DC where I was selected into the thirty-three-monthaccelerated program and graduated with an MD degree in 1976. I did a categorical OB/GYN internship for one year at Howard University Hospital before my residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Temple University Hospital and health Sciences center in the city of Brotherly love, Philadelphia. In a little less than ten years of my arrival in this great country, I was practicing my specialty in 1980. I practiced medicine, mostly as a solo OB/GYN practitioner,for almost 37 years until my retirement last December.
“There were quite a few high points during my sojourn in the States. I came to this country with the grand sum of fifty dollars in the form of American Express travelers check so my whole life here has been one high point after another except for a few inevitable dips. I was on the Dean’s Honor list all semesters in college and graduated Summa Cum Laude. At Howard University School of medicine, I had no choice than to workeven though I was in an intensive accelerated program.On graduation, I was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, the only honor society in medicine. When I finished medical school, my hard work had paid off forI only owed the sum of a thousand dollars. That was, and is,rare because most students owe hundreds of thousands of dollars following graduation from medical school. In my own case, it was not completely out of choice. I did not have anybody to countersign my loans and therefore I had to work.During my residency at Temple, I was given the “Silver Knife Award” in 1979 for the best surgeon in the department.
When I started practice, I was appointed Director of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1980 to 1984 at Medigroup Mercer (HMO in Trenton). I also served as Director of OB/GYN at the Planned Parenthood Association in Hamilton, New Jersey as well as The Henry J Austin Community Health Center in Trenton New Jersey as well as the Health Start Clinic at Mercer Medical Center, Trenton. These were in combination with my private practice of Medicine which started in 1984. I was elected Chairman of the combined Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of two hospitals (Mercer medical center and Helene Fuld medical center) from 1996 to 2000. I was the first African American in that capacity in the hundred-year-plus history of these hospitals. I was the secretary of the medical staff of over six hundred doctors and was in line to become the president of the medical staff before I chose to resign from politics and focus on my practice and family.
“As a private practitioner, I rented space until I could afford to buy my own professional building; one of the smartest things I have done. It has 38 parking spaces, giving me room to grow. During the last five years, I stopped doing obstetrics after delivering over 10,000 babies and focused on gynecology and infertility. This allowed me to focus on favorite interest of helping people who are trying to get pregnant and no longeron delivering babies. I practiced part-time those five years only for the love of medicine.
“Overall, regardless of titles, the most important thing was that I have been able to help in improving, and sometimessaving, people’s lives. I recall a woman who went to London before she came to the Statesand no doctor would touch her because of the complexity of her problem. I accepted her as a patient and her surgery took almost six hours but she ended up being fine. You do something because you want to help or alleviate pain regardless of the risks to you and your practice. There aren’t too many of those cases but when they do happen it can really make you feel good about your profession and personal commitment.
“There was also a woman who came to me who was having severe abdominal pains for over five years necessitating numerous hospital admissions. After evaluating her and reviewing her MRI, I made a diagnosis and referred her to a general surgeon. When she came back cured, she was so grateful and thought I was “god” but I told her, no, I was just putting two and two together. It’s important to be committedto what you do and the people you do it for.
“As founding president of Igbo-Ukwu Development union, USA, one of our interests is to highlight the findings during archeological excavations in our town in 1959 and in 1964. British archeologist Prof. Thurstan Shaw found over 900 artifacts in my town during these excavations whose artistic sophistication suggested a highly-advanced society in Igbo-ukwu in the 8th and 9th century AD. The most famous of this is the “Roped Pot”. We are currently building SICA (Shaw institute for cultural Art) as a tribute to Prof. Shaw andto monetize culture and improve the livelihood of the people. Reproduced cultural artifacts and other artwork will be displayed there and some will be available for sale to tourists. It will also house a digital library and serve as a community center. It shares the same location with the State Museum both of which aim to attract tourism and help develop my town and surrounding areas.
“I focus on things I believe are important for society. If I was going to be a billionaire, I should be one by now. Believe me, I am not one and money is the least of my concerns now. They say that charity begins at home, so you start from home and build outward. People sometimes ask me to join one association or the other and the first thing I ask is, ‘what is your objective?’ If they have an objective of improving society in some form or other, then that gets me interested.
“Giving money to charities is the easy part, but giving of yourself by advising and guiding others, especially the young,is more important. I try to give advice in the most informal settings. I give what you might call unsolicited advice. Part of the reason I retired is so I can have time to reach a lot of people. One on one is good, but I’m at a point where I want to reach a wider sphere of people at once.
“I haven’t been thinking in terms of legacy and don’t have any plans of going anywhere soon, but I have a philosophy that says, ‘you should always search for the light, and not be afraid where it might lead you. Matthew 7:7 says, ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ Perhaps my legacy is that, as a Physician, I delivered my very best care to my patients. And that I am an uncompromising seeker of the light and the truth.