It is not every day one finds a medical student who decides to stand out, despite the intransigence of the Nigerian medical education, or rather, the “Ibadan Medical School”; to explore other potentials the world has to offer. Following in the steps of distinguished mentors such as Professor Mayowa Owolabi (Principal Investigator of one of the largest research on Stroke in Sub-Saharan Africa), We met an eminent Brownite, who has clearly mapped out a path in the fields of humanitarianism especially with the African child through his Charity Organization (Ace5 Initiative), and has decided to share of this passion with ABH Press.
ABH PRESS: Hi! Can we meet you?
TOFUNMI: Hi! My name is Jesutofunmi Omiye, a 600 level medical student from Ondo state.
ABH PRESS: Quite the summary! So Ace5, What is Ace5 about?
TOFUNMI: Ace5 is a charity organization focused on the orphans and less privilege, founded 5 years ago for the all- round child development. We are fixated on two important scopes – Children and Education.
ABH PRESS: Why Children and Education? Are there no other problems facing the Nigerian Child?
TOFUNMI: Of course there are so many, but it will interest you to know that Nigeria has over 50% out of school children, if not more. It is what ACE5 is trying to tackle through sponsoring education for these children, getting them to be in school and stay in school. (ABH PRESS: Interesting). As we know, Investment in children is key to sustaining any country. Also provide care to the children inn orphanage homes through or regular monthly visits. There are still a lot of huge plan underway, but this is what we have on ground for now.
ABH PRESS: How does the Initiative get her funding?
TOFUNMI: Mainly donations from members and generous individuals. But of course, over time donor fatigue has become a serious issue, hence we are already laying down sustainable means of raising funds which are in 3 forms. One is through our website which has a donation platform, so people can donate straight into our account whenever they desire, and this even takes the scope out of Ibadan to international donors. Another is our awareness campaigns where we invite people to donate to our cause and lastly our partnership with foundations that are interested in helping the children on the street. (Laughs) well that’s largely it.
ABH PRESS: How do you get your donors to believe in your cause? Seeing as different initiatives are springing up in their numbers, each wanting to help the Nigerian Child
TOFUNMI: It’s not that easy, I must confess. But one important thing I try my best to do is help them understand the vision into the problem, into why we are doing all these. Also highlighting the interest of the donor is equally key, as it is easier to meet people with interest in helping the Nigerian child than someone whose interest is in, say for example, gender equality.
ABH PRESS: I am quite amazed. Your passion for this cause is almost palpable. So is there a background story to this? Usually this level of passion is backed up by some sad childhood story growing up in the streets or something.
TOFUNMI: (Laughs) Well I do tell people around that I am from the streets (Laughs; ABH PRESS: Oh really). Actually there is no story in the background. I like to fix things, find solutions to problems around me. I draw my inspiration from the smile we put on the faces of children. It is just priceless knowing that we did not allow an untapped potential waste away in a child, especially during the Spelling Bee competitions, where I see kids spelling really tough words. That is what keeps me going, knowing that for every child we help; that is one global leader secured.
ABH PRESS: I probably should jot down the last part. So the Spelling Bee?
TOFUNMI: Yes the spelling bee competition, birthed with the aim of fostering collaboration among different orphanages, creating a warm and friendly environment for these children. Also for capacity building among them, helping them trust in their intelligence. The winners of the bee are sponsored in school for a year. However we want to change something, such as furthering the sponsorship to the level of the university with the hope of these kids becoming ACE5 scholars in their different schools, and they themselves join the cause to help others.
ABH PRESS: I quite agree. Empowering these kids with sound education is a step forward in healing our country. And even the ones in school; constant checking up and proper mentoring too.
TOFUNMI: Yes you are right indeed. In line with your last comment, myself and two of my friends, Segun Afolaranmi and Dr. Lashe Awoyemi just established an Initiative- the Ganglion Initiative. Africa seems to be backward with things especially in comparison with her western counterparts. This Initiative aims at putting students who are in school at par with foreign counterparts in terms of knowledge, idiosyncrasies about Courses in the university. I keep saying it “not everyone should go into medicine” Students want to do non-traditional stuff like Chemistry, Music; and they should be allowed to without fear or limitation. At our Pilot outreach to some schools in Ibadan, we discovered these for ourselves. We also provide information on scholarship opportunities, leadership, encourage entrepreneurial capacities, mentorship, with the aim that even before the student gets into the university, he or she is already grounded with the right information to make independent choices, and more so he can also compete with his mates at an international standard too. We are focused on Ibadan, but with hopes of future expansion.
ABH PRESS: quite the project! Are you gunning to be the Secretary- General of African Union?
TOFUNMI: (Laughs) Not at all, or should I say; not in view for now.
ABH PRESS: So aside ACE5 and The Ganglion Initiative, anything else?
TOFUNMI: Hmm. I am also the Director of Media Externa for the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations (FAMSA) Headquarters’ Board, which is another world on its own. (ABH PRESS: How do you mean?) Well, for one FAMSA operates on a larger scale, Africa; getting African medical students to solve Africa’s problem. My job at the Headquarters is one that deals with constant communication with different African countries, including distant ones like Somali, Malawi to mention a few. Then there are the awareness campaigns, and top on the list are Pink Project for Breast Cancer Awareness, Antibiotics Resistance Awareness and so on.
ABH PRESS: well it kind of seems like everything in FAMSA happens in Ibadan? Are these African countries even involved?
TOFUNMI: Oh sure! That’s the most important part of my job. Inclusiveness of the African countries. Countries like Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana to mention. We are still establishing contacts with other countries though. That’s why we do these projects. For example, the Antibiotics Awareness Campaign; asides the fact that Africa is crippled with a lot of infectious diseases, she is heading towards a post antibiotic era according to the World Health Organization (WHO), hence there is a need for all health bodies to rise and take a firm stand against Antibiotics abuse. In this way, FAMSA uses such project to reach out to various Medical Students Association in Africa with the aim of getting policy makers to enact laws against the misuse of antibiotics. And it has been a successful. Last year, the project got acknowledged by the United Nations and the Science Museum in London. This year, we plan to take it a step further, not just with the African Medical students, but with relevant bodies in the field like the International Pharmacy Students Federation (IPSF) and even the European Medical Students Association (EMSA), all of which are looking positive.
ABH PRESS: Africa for Africans. I like that! Why wait for America to give us statistics on our own problems, when we can do that ourselves (TOFUNMI: Exactly).
TOFUNMI: The problem is we do not even have our own data for Africa. I coordinate a young research group, largely my classmates; like-minded fellows. You see all over the world, Medical students are integrating the spheres of medical education – Core Clinical experience, global health and research; and the latter is being used to push the frontiers of medicine, breaking bounds. And that is what we here should start doing too. One of our feats in the research group was writing a proposal within 24 hours which was approved by the Ethical Board without any delay. Recently we just got under the tutelage of the Principal Investigator of the Largest Stroke study in Africa, SIREN the first and biggest of its kind, Professor Owolabi, with the aim that we produce students who are grounded in the fields of research prior to their graduation.
ABH PRESS: Speaking of integration and breaking bounds, we also heard you are a member of this amazing buzz over town, The Liquid Network; Whats up with that?
TOFUNMI: Well, the idea was birthed by a close friend, Simi Odetola with the aim of creating high impact conversations that produces answers to global questions. You know, to get people to have high impact, unconventional conversations that can shape the course of the world, and stir up a positive revolution among youths to be problem solvers, not just complaining and stating the obvious. Yep! I believe the leader would tell you more
ABH PRESS: Yep! I think you may have sparked up a fire in our readers to make bold decisions about their careers and what to do even while in medical school. Let’s change course a bit, and go personal? So is there a lady who is supporting you in all these?
TOFUNMI: Lol! If you are talking about a girlfriend, then the answer is no. (ABH PRESS: Why?) I am not ready quite yet; but I do have a lot of female and male friends that inspire me to want to be better at what I do.
ABH PRESS: How sad! We will keep waiting with you for her. So how do you unwind; surely you do take a breather once in a while from all these, coupled with school work
TOFUNMI: Not really, but I like to unwind with Cold Stone ice-cream; emphasis on Cold Stone. Then if I’m not working, I am sleeping or occasionally, watching a movie. I guess that’s it for me.
ABH PRESS: Tofunmi, it’s been an amazing and most educative time with you; but before you go, any last words to fellow colleagues who believe medical school is all encompassing?
TOFUNMI: George Bush (Snr) once said “Bite more than you can chew, but chew as fast as you can”. The myth that one cannot do anything else whilst in medical school has long been debunked. The truth is, medicine demands so much from you, that by the time you are done; one discovers that the world has moved far beyond him. My advice, look for mentors both in the field and outside to constantly inspire you and like-minded positive friends to constantly motivate you. There is no excuse anymore, the internet has leveled the playing ground for everyone in the world. The choice to groom oneself to compete on a global scale now rests entirely on the individual.
ABH PRESS: Well spoken, thank you for your time
TOFUNMI: Thank you for having me