You will not ordinarily find doctors, consultants , researchers , surgeons , nurses and allied professionals mingling together on the red carpet of a London hotel on a Saturday night, but March 23rd was a fantastic exception.
It was a night this lot swapped their microscopes, stethoscopes, operating theatres, consulting rooms and trademark nursing uniforms for black ties, evening gowns, Agbada , champagne, the paparazzi, and for recognition. They looked the part of celebrities of an A-list Nollywood cast premiering a block buster film in the West End.
Of course, friends , well wishers and guests, including Lord Victor Adewale, were there to celebrate with these crème de la crème of the society. And you wouldn’t blame them. Truth is, many of these illustrious professionals are not just trail blazers and leading lights in their professions, but also part of a session to tell the Nigerian strand of the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, NHS.
The brainchild of Nigerian Healthcare Professionals in the United Kingdom , NHCPUK, the event was perhaps the largest number of Nigerian Healthcare Professionals ever under one roof. Not surprisingly, the ceremony wasn’t merely to let the world know about the Nigerian backdrop of the NHS, the number of those honoured with awards was symbolically 70, and therefore rightly tagged “The 70 Most Outstanding Nigerian Healthcare Professionals inthe UK.”
But it was never going to be an easy task for the independent panel of judges who had to whittle down the 312 nominees to a shortlist of 207, and from which the awardees eventually emerged. A member of the judging panel, Ayodeji Arigbabowo noted that : “Selecting the award winners was not an easy task.” Reason being , :”all the nominees have made noteworthy achievements and contributions within the NHS.”
Continuing, he said:” some Nigerian healthcare professionals have really distinguished themselves with exceptional and outstanding achievements in their different positions and roles. They have made us proud and are truly worthy of recognition.”
Fellow judge, Dr Lola Oni OBE –Officer of the British Empire- spoke in the same vein. “That was so exceptionally difficult, I did not realise we had so many credible and talented Nigerian movers and shakers of such fantastic calibre in the UK wow, wow, wow. I feel so proud.”
The trio of Professor Rotimi Jaiyesinmi, Ayo Faleti and Flora Coker, also lent credence to what Oni and Arigbabowo said.
Jaiyesimi put it thus, : “Judges chosen by The Nigeria Healthcare Professionals UK (NHCPUK) awards were independent in their decision making,” and :”the high quality of the entrantst asked us,” before the :” 70 evolved.” Little wonder he is :” Proud of Nigerian professionals’ contributions to The NHS.
”As for Faleti : “The judging process has been an eye-opener. Nigerians are generally goal-getters,” and ”the contributions of these professionals to the NHS is something all Nigerians can truly be proud of.” Describing it as an experience, Coker stated that it :”was exciting and difficult at the same time.It was difficult because of the number of Nigerian Healthcare Professionals doing so many great things. Proudly Nigerian!”
Twelve among the galaxy of stars honoured with awards on the night are profiled below, beginning with Oluwafemi Oyebode, a honorary Professor of Psychiatry and Consultant Psychiatrist, Institute of Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham.
Described as an authority on the cognitive neuropsychiatry of delusional misidentification syndromes and other rare and unusual psychiatric syndromes, Oyebode has been a Consulant Psychiatrist since 1986 and honorary Professor in the field for the past 20 years. The Judges said, “Prof. Oyebode contributed to world wide knowledge which is of enormous benefit
for developed and most importantly, developing countries who often lack resources to access information. A fantastic professional, we felt wow!”. Honoured for his work in the field of research was Dilichukwu Anumba, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The University of Sheffield Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, doubles as a sub-specialist in Maternal and Fetal Medicine at the institution’s Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust. A clinical academic in women’s healthcare, with teaching, training and research portfolios to his name, he also wears the hat of a medicolegal expert witness. Anumba has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal papers and abstracts in medical journals, and book chapters on topics relating to pregnancy care and women’s health. His expertise has attracted over two million pounds of research income for his employer. More importantly, the distinguished professor and his team have developed new technologies to identify women at risk of premature births.
Baby face Professor, Kelechi Nnoaham, also made the cut. He is the Executive Director of Public Health and Executive Lead for Academic Partnerships, Research & Development and Innovation, Cwm Taf University Health Board, Cardiff, Wales. Aside holding senior Public Health positions in the NHS and Local Government since 2005, he has since February 2015, held an honorary professorship in Public Health & Epidemiology with Plymouth University and co-chairs the institution’s South West Global Health Collaboration.
The panel of judges gave reasons why they couldn’t ignore him. “Professor Kelechi Nnoaham has demonstrated excellent leadership and managerial capabilities in different NHS institutions, national and international professional bodies”.
Also deservingly honoured was Consultant Psychiatrist and General Medical Council, GMC Responsible Officer Group member , Dr I. C .OKocha.
The first ever recipient of the distinguished award of The Medical Leader of the Year (2009) of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, RCP, “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to mental health”, his name is not surprisingly, also on the ‘Roll of Honour’ of the RCP. Okocha, who was a guest of Her Majesty the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations at St Paul’s Cathedral and also the City of London Corporation reception at the Guildhall, was also on the guest list at 10 Downing Street during the Black History Month and launch of the Black “Power List” in October 2012.
TheJudges said: “Dr Okocha has demonstrated excellence in different leadership and management positions within the NHS. As a psychiatrist, he has made outstanding contributions in the field of Psychiatry through his clinical practice, teaching, education and research.” Dr Olatokunbo Sangowanwa: recognised as the first Nigerian to be appointed to a Director of Public Health post in the NHS,became a Director of Public Health (DPH) for North Tees NHS Teaching Primary Care Trust in 2002. He has since held senior and board level positions in the NHS.
The judges noted that :”there is ample evidence of Dr Sangowanwa’s contribution to supporting practice, advancement of knowledge at all levels ,…and without someone like him in such a position of influence, decision makers will not have the minority ethnic perspective required to make important policy decisions.” Therefore, “ a real credit to Nigerian society.”
Leroy Edozien: a rare breed, doubles as a medical doctor and a doctor of law. The judges said of him, “Dr Edozien made us feel proud to be Nigerians.He is an all-rounder and it was difficult to determine which category to award him. He is innovative, hardworking, committed to a purpose and is an exceptional role model that has done us proud. Nigerians should be very proud of him”.
Dr Olu Obaro: The King’s College Lagos old boy and Ahmadu Bello University , ABU alumnus had his post-graduate training in some of the most renowned centres for Radiology training in the U.K. Thereafter, he was awarded a Fellowship to further sub-specialise in Interventional Radiology and Cross- Sectional imaging at the prestigious Toronto General and St. Michael’s Hospital, Canada.
Obaro was subsequently appointed to set up an Interventional Radiology service at King George Hospital from scratch and in the process, developed aservice that now covers a wide range of complex interventional work with five interventional radiologists, thus becoming a unit with one of the highest numbers of interventional radiologists in the U.K.
The judges rightly described him as a “transformational leader.” Dr Ngozi Olatokunbo Uduku : a highly respected lead General Practitioner, GP at Woodlands Health Centre, WHC and perhaps ‘a rebel with a cause.’ Uduku single -handedly established one of the most structurally developed health centres in south east London (in spite of major opposition from the Local Health Authority) in 2005. But the story didn’t stop there, with the support of her team, and coupled with her tireless dedication in turning it into a major unit of excellence, it has grown from 1800 to approximately 9000 patients. Dr Uduku leads the medicine optimization group in Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group and had an input in the setting up of Healthy Habits, a non-for profit think tank which educates ethnic minorities in south east London on a healthy way of life, etc. The judges couldn’t have been charitable in describing her as : “ a dynamic leader, highly focussed and result-oriented.”
Olaleye Oginni: highly respected by all for his track record of excellence in driving change management and clinical governance in Urgent Care Services,Oginni has contributed immensely to the NHS in his various roles over the years and continues to work tirelessly in improving access to unscheduled care, of which a lot of immigrants are direct benefactors.As the judges put it, “Dr Oginni is a key player in the provision of urgent care services to patients in the London area. As the Clinical Director of a provider, he has a commendable record of excellence in managing change within his multidisciplinary teams. As an experienced GP trainer, he has mentored up and coming clinicians, including many Nigerians, and stands as a true role-model of professional excellence”.
Aliko Baba Ahmed: Director of Public Health England, PHE, East of England, is a professor at Cambridge and Staffordshire universities. The public health physician, epidemiologist and health strategist has over 24 years’ experience in clinical, academic and public health practice under his belt. Among others, Ahmed is a co-convener of the Better Health for Africa Initiative. The judges referred to him as :” a respected academician.”
Dr Peter Ozua: a Consultant Histopathologist/Cytopathologist and clinical lead for cellular pathology department, at Basildon University Hospital, Basildon, he was Clinical Governance Lead, Pathology Directorate, Basildon Hospital, Basildon from January 2007 – March 2010. Aside his feats as a practitioner, the University of Benin graduate gave back to his former institution of learning by donating a 36 bay mortuary refrigeration unit to University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in January 2004. He has equally donated medical textbooks and journals to both UBTH and Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua, Edo State. Adewale Adebajo is a Honorary Professor in Musculoskeletal Health Service Research at the University of Sheffield and Consultant Rheumatologist, at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Adebayo is also a Clinical Professor of Medicine for St Matthews Medical School in Florida, USA. With over 25 years experience working both in research and clinically in the field of musculoskeletal conditions and in particular psoriatic arthritis, among others, it was not surprising that the judges said :” Professor Adebajo is to be applauded for combining excellence in practice with academia, research and innovation. His contribution to the understanding of health challenges and impact on minority ethnic groups is fantastic.” Hence, :”many of us will feel very proud to call him a Nigerian.”
Saturday, March 23rd may have comeand gone, but it will go down in history as the night that surgeons, nurses, doctors and allied health and social care professionals gathered under one roof, but not for some medical emergencies to save some patients’ lives, but simply to be recognised and tell the Nigerian strand for their contributions to the NHS.