By Ebele Orakpo
Dr Ola Orekunrin Is a UK-trained physician with a specialist interest in trauma and pre-hospital care. Upon graduation from the Hull York Medical School in England, as one of the youngest doctors in the UK at the time, Dr. Ola, as she is fondly called, worked for nearly ten years in the National Health Service (NHS) UK before coming back to Nigeria to pursue her dream.
She is a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Surgeons, member, British Medical Association etc. and a helicopter pilot. In this chat with Vanguard in her office in Lagos, Dr Ola who is the Managing Director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd, West Africa's first air ambulance service, speaks on why she ventured into the air ambulance service business and her passion for healthcare in Africa. Excerpts:
I graduated from the Hull York Medical School in England and worked in England for some years. In 2008, I was awarded the prestigious MEXT Japanese Government Scholarship where I and my team mates carried out some research in the field of regenerative medicine in Tokyo, Japan. I currently work in Nigeria as the Managing Director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Limited which is one of the first air ambulance services in the whole of West Africa.
What motivated you to go into air ambulance services, considering that it is capital-intensive and a seeming unviable business in Nigeria?
I was already studying medicine in the UK some years ago when my younger sister fell seriously ill while on holidays in Nigeria and needed urgent care but the nearest hospital couldn't deal with her condition. We immediately began to look for an air ambulance service to quickly transport her to a suitable healthcare facility. We searched all across West Africa but found none.
The nearest one at the time was in South Africa and they had a 12-hour activation time but by the time they were ready to activate, my sister was dead. It was really a devastating time for me and I started thinking about whether I should be in England talking about healthcare in Africa, or I should be in Africa dealing with healthcare and trying to do something about it and here we are today.
So your sister's death was the catalyst or final decider for you?
Yes. But again, I have always been very interested in health and healthcare delivery especially how we can come up with innovative/creative ways of delivering healthcare to people and I realised that Nigeria is a very…