“It is important to not falter on things that are within your control so that when those outside your control occur, you can balance.” – Dr. Segun Afolaranmi
With a gentle, unassuming mien and calming smile, you would be forgiven if you do not recognise Segun at first glance. An unforgivable mistake would be not to recognize the sheer “brain power” of a man who was the best student in three of four Medical Board Examinations, was the Best Graduating Student of his class and is currently a Rhodes Scholarship Top Ten finalist. Together, we take a peek into his life do far and the journey ahead.
O. C: So, let’s meet you.
S. A: I am Segun. I recently concluded my medical education at the University of Ibadan and I am currently jobless *laughs*. I am a Christian, I love good company, occasionally playing football and listening to Hillsong music.
O. C: Can you tell us about your time growing up?
S. A: Growing up was challenging. It is in the past now, but I came from a very tough background and my parents, alongside other people, had to do a lot of things to help. For instance, getting through primary and secondary school came from the support of my uncle. Getting into the Federal Government College came through the support of my primary school teachers. Getting into and starting in UI came through the support of my secondary school P.T.A. So, if anything, I am beyond grateful for all the people God has planted along my journey to support, most often financially and also with encouragement. Generally, it was quite tough growing up. I remember my mates back then talking about how they came fifth and they were going to get
video games. I did not have any of that!
O. C: Was there anyparticular moment when the decision was made to study medicine?
S. A: I don’t know why, but I always wanted to study medicine. Though it was probably because of the herd effect (everyone wants you to study medicine if you are good). But when I was in SS2 and wanted to fill the UTME form, I got on Nairaland and while checking salaries, I discovered that doctors are collecting pittances besides oil workers. So, I didn’t tell my family and just picked petroleum Engineering, UNILAG. I did not get in as I was 15 years old. However, I had a scholarship from Ascending College for A-Levels. Getting there allowed me to really think about what I wanted to do and I decided that I really wanted to help people (no cliché, *laughs*). I knew I loved helping people and besides, I didn’t really want to study engineering, that was just for the money’s sake.
O. C: Can you tell us about your academic journey/prowess so far?
S. A: Truthfully, it has not been bad so far. I have been privileged to do well all the schools I have attended. In fact, it was at my induction that my primary school teacher was telling me that I was already reading Modern Biology from Primary 5, I can’t recall that honestly. It has been a lot of hard work and sometimes
disappointments, but ultimately, I finished and things have come out well.
O. C: You have a track record of being the best in all your MBs, save MB IV. Were there any reading patterns or structure you put in place?
S. A: I get asked this question a lot! I don’t have a formula but retrospectively, I believe it is about being farsighted and making a dynamic/flexible plan. I would not claim I read the most but even far ahead, I always had a plan. I was very meticulous in preclinical school, even to the level of mapping every hour of the day (though
I couldn’t do that anymore in clinical school). I had ways to constantly remind myself of stuff, so either via discussion groups or going through my jottings at breaks when I cannot read new stuff. Medicine is really voluminous with a lot of stuff to cover, so what really helps is having a constant way to remind yourself of the stuff, because everyone reads, we all just need to figure out ways to remember stuff.
But coming to clinical school, things had to change. I mean you can barely plan your day as there is no
definite time to come back from school. So, I had to do a lot of on-the-go reading. So, it is essentially about
being dynamic and understanding the posting you are in and finding a way to inculcate your next exam in your current posting too.
O. C: Most academically-inclined people tend to be streamlined in that direction alone. Would you say
that is the same for you? What other activities were you involved in asides medical school?
S. A: Absolutely not! In fact, at some point, the extracurricular activities sort of affected my academic performance in the final year, though I do not regret that. I was solely focused on school and church in preclinical school with occasional “play”. I discovered I had a knack for giving back, so I would go back to my A-Level school, bring people from UI to talk to them and give them encouragement. On crossing to UCH, I had a conversation with a very senior colleague (the UIMSA President) on what organisations to join. While taking a walk one day, I decided to get involved in four key areas:
– Competency-boosting activities as a doctor
I was my class representative on the Senate for three years and tried to add other activities asides from the routine to the role (e.g. career development programmes and a final year class project). I co-founded Student
Research Network (STURN) and was the Vice-President and then President. I also-cofounded The Ganglion Initiative, which polished my volunteering and administrative skills. I also published some research papers along the way.
An equally important factor was the company I kept. I guess I naturally fell in place with like-minded individuals along the way (Dr Tofunmi Omiye, Organising Chairman, FAMSA GA 2018; Dr Chinedu Nwaduru, Past Administrator, FAMSA HQ Board; Dr Muhammad- Bashir Yahya, Past UIMSA President). Defining what you want to do is very important. If not for a solid foundation I had built for myself in clinical school, the ending would have been a lot shakier as I had to even miss school at some point.
O. C: How did it feel being called out for so many awards at your convocation?
S. A: It felt great, really. Mostly, it got me thinking about all the highs and lows of how it came about. The many times one felt like giving up and the days it felt like things would not work out fine. But mostly, it felt really good though I wish there was something to show like certificates and plaques. It would have definitely made it better!
O. C: What challenges would you say you’ve faced so far?
S. A: The major challenge I would say I have faced is the fact that there is so much “entropy”. There are so many ways things can go wrong, within or outside your control. You may just get a bad score in your signatures or term paper and it would just water your testscores you have been having so far. It is important to not falter on things that are within your control so that when those outside your control occur, you can balance.
The very tight medical rotations were also an issue. I got the opportunity to go for a couple of conferences and was not even opportune to go for some others. Who would give me 10 weeks to go for a programme in medical school? I had to go for shorter programmes to at least get the international exposure. The bureaucracy in getting things done was also an issue.
I was quite privileged to enjoy a number of scholarships so that eased my initial financial weakness. I was very aggressive about chasing scholarships in 100 Level. This helped me sort out some things like my elective posting amongst other things.
O. C: So, what’s the next step from here?
S. A: I am probably the most confused person in the world now. I eventually plan on being a physician-scientist, to be able to combine patient care and cutting-edge research aimed at advancing patient care. I plan on ending my career in Health Policy and Advocacy. However, the way to get there is really tortuous and what I am trying to figure out as a person right now.
O. C: What drives you?
S. A: I think this answer has changed as I have grown older. While younger, it was probably my background and wanting to grow up and be comfortable but now, it has shifted to a “problem” perspective. Understanding that there are a lot of problems in the world and that I have to do my best to solve the little I can solve while affecting peoples’ lives.
O. C: Is there anything you would love to go back in time to change?
S. A: I would seek more advice and start things earlier. I would also have cultivated more meaningful relationships.
O. C: Do you have any last words for us?
S. A: In general, it is very important to form good relationships, and never be afraid of pursuing what you want.
O. C: Thank you very much
This interview was conducted by Olaoluwa C. Olorunfemi.