Flying to the Rescue

British-Nigerian doctor Ola Orekunrin may be only 28, but she’s already founded Nigeria’s first emergency air ambulance service.

From behind the wheel of her car, Ola Orekunrin calls out an apology as she makes a rapid reverse U-turn on a street in the Nigerian city of Lagos. “A call just came in for an emergency in [the northern Nigerian city] Kaduna,” says the 28-year-old trauma doctor. “We need to load the jet for a medevac.” With that, she speeds off toward the airport.

Quick reaction times are fundamental to Orekunrin’s work. The young British-Nigerian doctor is the founder and managing director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd., a Lagos-based emergency air ambulance service, the first in the country.

In Nigeria, where road and telecommunication infrastructure can be poor, and rural clinics are often unprepared to deal with emergencies, Flying Doctors has become an essential service, airlifting patients from remote areas to hospitals, and providing care en route. It has helped hundreds of patients, particularly employees in the country’s oil and gas sector, who are among Flying Doctors’ top clients. (The for-profit company’s client list also includes governments across West Africa, wealthy individuals and corporations.)

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