You Must Be Committed To HealthcareTo Study Medicine —Okwe

There are many professions. But there are some professions that people respect and admire. Those who are able to pass the difficult hurdles that characterize such professions, especially through mental and physical sacrifices and carve a niche at the end, are rare.
The study of medicine, which is the care human health, is one of such professions.Women are seriously making waves in this profession. One of such women is Dr. (Mrs) Uche Okwe, an indigene of Ogwashi-Uku, in Aniocha South Local Government Area of Delta State. In an exclusive interview with The Deputy Editor, Sunday Pointer, Odia Victoria, she discloses why and how she fulfilled her life dream of becoming a medical doctor.
May we know you ma?
Yes, my name is Dr. Uche Okwe. I work with the State Ministry of Health, Asaba, Delta State. Which area did you specialize in? I specialized in Radio Diagonsis. I have a post graduate degree in Radio Diagnosis.
Can we know much of this aspect of medicine?
Radio Diagnosis, has to do with Radiology. This is, reading of x-ray films, doing x-ray scan of various parts of the body to know whatever diseases the person has.
How many years have you practised as a medical doctor?
This is my 21st year as a medical doctor. Medicine is a very difficult aspect of study, which requires that those who want to venture into it must be well grounded in the sciences like mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. How did you find your way in there?
Yes, from the beginning, I had always been interested in doing sciences, Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.
And my father, Mr. Philp Okolie Anazia actually found out that I did well in biology and then, he was always interested in knowing about my marks, what I am doing as a science student. And of course in the secondary school, while I was choosing subjects, he looked at all my subjects and found out that, I was really good in the sciences. And with an excellence in biology, I actually on my own had this commitment to the care of people right from my young days in the secondary school. I was always interested in taking care of people who are ill, I go several times without knowing it, to find out how they fared. I got drawn to the sick and always wanted to know, by questioning, whether they have taken their routine drugs, even though I didn’t even know the drugs they were taking. And when the person gets well, I usually visit to know how the person got better. I discussed with such sick persons. In fact, there was this interest in the commitment to care. And I as grew, I did my JAMB exams, had a good result and actually went into the university and read medicine. Academically, I had a very good result and it had been like that. Since then, taking care of human beings has been my dream. That is just what I want to do.
Since you started practising medicine, have you had any challenges as to how you carry out your official duties alongside managing your home?
Yes, when I initially started, as we grow in medicine, there is a period you get to in life, and of course, the young ones in the profession, are coming up to assist and you no longer do so much work. Although at times, you need to do so much. But at the beginning, it wasn’t really easy to combine both. I had a very understanding husband who knew what it takes or what it is to be a medical doctor. So, he assisted and supported me, at all times. There were periods I had to take calls, at night and I was not always there and he knows that it is part of the profession, he understood, that was it. In fact there hasn’t really
been any big challenge on house hold chores or things like that. There was an understanding, right from the beginning of my marriage. I had my younger ones too, who assisted me in all sort of ways to ensure that the home front was kept in the proper order. So, I didn’t really have any big challenge I wasn’t able to take care of.
These days, very young female doctors, within the ages of 20 to 25 years have graduated in medicine and are already practising. But there is this school of thought that the standard of education, is falling, and I begin to wonder if actually our standard of education has fallen, where these doctors acquired such knowledge. Or is our standard
still okay to have produced such young chaps In these days, parents put their children in schools early enough. In those days, for some of us who went through primary
and secondary school, there is a particular age a child attains before he/she is eligible to go into the nursery school. There is equally a particular age you should attain before entering
the secondary school. But these days, when you go to our schools, both public and private, you find a child of three years already in class. They say play class. Before the child gets to the age of five, parents are already forcing that child to go into primary one. And these things have a way of affecting the child. You equally find that the brain of the child is not strong enough to be able to carry a lot of information. There is actually a particular time, the brain of the child, should be developed enough to manage real information and should be able to give out that information, but these days, it is not like that. When you ask their children to repeat a class because of poor performance, the parents take the child away from the school, and decide to take the child to another school to continue. Meanwhile, the child is not qualified to go to a new class.
You see children that are 14 and 15 years already in the university.
These same children go through the university with the same financial support of their parents and they graduate on time. What do you now expect that child to be in life? The child is immature, he/she doesn’t know anything about medicine,
all she is interested in, is let me pass, let my parents bring money, they will ensure that I pass, and when I get out … , then of course, when you ask the child some questions that you expect
the child to know as a medical doctor, the child cannot even answer you. There is no care, no commitment to what the profession is all about. Like in medicine, there must be a constant thing in the life of a medical doctor. Commitment to Health care. You see a patient, you are moved to take care of that patient, you are moved to see that the patient gets better and you want to see a smile on the face of a patient, a child that is sick, that comes to you, you want to see a smile but, this time around, such patient meets a person that is immature, and she is not able to even give out any information or show some form of care. All she is interested in is where is the money? Without money, I cannot see you. When he hears hints of strike, they pray for it to commence immediately. They are ready to leave whatever they are doing, just to go on strike or to collect money.
So, that is not actually what the profession wants. It doesn’t make the child strong enough to face the public.
You listen, you want to know about the person, because by listening, the person is on his way to getting better. The person
feels oh! I have come to the right place and then gets some therapeutic feeling from it that I am talking to somebody who can assist me and take care of me. That is the first thing to treatment
before you now go into examining the patient. When you are examining the patient, as a medical doctor, you are not in a hurry. You would want to know what it takes, the problem and examine with care, so that, at the end of the day, when the patient gets better, we are not looking at it from the point that they will say thank you, because we tell ourselves that we are next to God. We impact care, and that is it. And that is what a doctor is expected to do.
The World commemorated the Sickle Cell Day recently, is there any way you identify with them?
I am actually a member of the sickle cell club. The sickle cell club is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). A club set up to monitor the patients with sickle cell disorder. It is a club made up of children who are the sicklers themselves, patients with sickle cell disorder and members like us. Like in the medical profession, it could be just anybody being part of the club. Any body who is interested can join and in the process
benefit too from the activities, and what the club does. You can be a genetic counsellor. You can be a parent, but you are still a member of the club.
Who initiated the club?
The club owns its initiation from the Sickle Cell foundation in Lagos. We have a Sickle Cell foundation, an NGO, and this sickle cell foundation formed in Nigeria, started from Lagos by Professor Akinyoju, who observed that sickle cell disorder is very common in Nigeria. In fact, the commonest country that has sickle cell disorder is Nigeria, followed by Ghana. So, in such a situation, he felt that with the formation, and getting counsellors to train and then open up centres in various places
in Nigeria, it would go a long way in reducing sickle cell and then taking care of those who are already afflicted with sickle cell disorder. From there, the sickle cell club started with a lot of people who are affected with the disorder, some doctors
and nurses, genetic counsellors and parents, took time to come together, to always meet to discuss all forms of activities concerning their children, their health, education, talk giving, on the development of the children and in that way, it has gone a long way in reducing the problems associated with the disorder.
And so, that is how the sickle cell club started.
What is the club doing to create the awareness about the spread of sickle cell disorder in families in Nigeria today and to reduce the high rate?
To reduce the sickle cell disorder, the club on its own, is being formed in every state where there are sicklers; Lagos, Delta, Edo States among others. We have this club generally distributed everywhere and these clubs actually get the number
of those who are afflicted with the disorder in their states. What actually happened is that anytime there is a world sickle cell day, which is celebrated every year on June 19th. There are club activities lined up and peculiar with each state, what ever you want to do, you will do it in your state.
In Delta State, we decided that we will open up a centre at Oleh which was some days ago. And apart from that, to sensitize people to come out. There are lots of people out there who have this disorder and they are not able to take care of it. They now have the opportunity of meeting friends and people who have the same affliction with them. It is not a thing to hide; it helps a lot when people come out. For now, we advocate genetic counselling. You see young ladies and men who want to get married, now, we encourage them to check their genotype. By knowing genotype as an individual,
you will know that if you are AS, you shouldn’t marry an AS. The genotype is what we are talking about. If you know you are AS, you shouldn’t marry AS. If you are SS, you should know you are not going to marry an AS. You should go for somebody who is AA. In that way, you as a sickler will not get married to someone with sickle cell. So, the sickle cell club ensures that there is a genetic counselling, that ensures that genotypes are tested. In fact, there was a free genotype test, to mark the 2015 event at the clinic. We even encourage
adolescents, because in knowing that you are AS, when somebody wants to talk to you about marriage or approaches you, you should be able to ask, what is your genotype? Then, in that way, you know that this is a- no go- area. That if I go on with this person, I may likely have children who are SS and the marriage will not thrive with very ill children. So, in such a situation, they are able to know what to do at all time. We also encourage genetic counselling. Some people at home, out of ignorance, call these children, Abiku, Ogbanje; and children who never do well. In my own place, they even put marks on such children’s faces. Let this mark remain, so that when he goes, let this show us that he is the one that came before. So, these are the little things that were being done. But with the sensitization and awareness, people are coming out to know that it is not mammy water spirit. It is not Abiku, it is not ogbanje,
it is just a genetic problem, which can be prevented. So, these are part of the activities that the sickle cell club does and then that is some of the activities we carried out to mark the sickle cell day. And of course, the opening of genetic centres, and fortunately enough, Her Excellency, opened one in Oleh recently.
There are two in Asaba, situated at the Delta State Secretariat clinic and Okwe. There are actually 14 centres, now in the state. We are now ensuring that other centres are opened up. People are coming out now to say yes, I want a centre opened up in my local government area, in the hospitals, so that, that way, those that are already affected with the disorder can benefit from the club’s care. With this positive development, we won’t have an increase in mortality like we are having now.