Ola Sandra Ndukwe who recently graduated from Imo State University (IMSU) finished with distinction and bagged seven awards. The medical doctor, in this interview by ENIOLA OYEMOLADE, speaks on how she attained this feat, her academic journey, the challenges she faced, among others.
You graduated with distinction and bagged 7 awards, what would you say were the steps you took that made you achieve this feat?
Basically, I would say God was, is and has always been my strength. However, like the saying goes, “Prayer without hard work is futile”. The medical program in my school is long (10 years) and arduous, so I made a vow never to add to the stay. I put in my very best to ensure and I can assert in all confidence that God was faithful to me. He crowned my efforts with success. I am a very determined fellow, always willing to learn. I made friends with brilliant students too. For every new class, I had someone who put me through all the rudiments. I never missed any lecture throughout my 11 years in school. I was a very focused and determined fellow. There were challenges; I never let them weigh me down to the extent of affecting my academics. At some point I was nicknamed “Hospital mouse” by my colleagues because, whenever you’re in the hospital, you must see me. Either I’m reading, clerking and examining patients or in the theatre.
How did these achievements make you feel?
I feel excited and proud of the success God helped me to achieve. And at the same time, I feel humbled because an enormous responsibility has been entrusted to me to be a role model for aspiring young men and women. And indeed I’m most grateful to God, because He alone made this possible. It is also reassuring to know that the hard work I put into my studies was rewarded with excellent performances and the various awards I received.
What was your CGPA and what influenced your choice of university?
In Faculty of Medicine, unlike other faculties does not use CGPA. Rather, the MB examination results are presented as pass, fail or distinction, and the pass mark in Medicine is 50% while distinction is 70% and above, and that is not easy to obtain. The MB examinations generally involve written and oral examinations including face to face examination with life patients in the clinical years, and in the presence of internal and external examiners.
My choice of Imo State University was influenced by the proximity to my parents. I’m so fond of them. Also, I am an indigene. You know there’s this belief that that gives an advantage. And having already spent a year at home despite scoring 285 in post UTME, I didn’t want to take chances.
What were some of the challenges you faced while in school and how did you overcome them?
The challenges are numerous. The biggest challenge was spending 11 years in Medical school without failing any exams or repeating a class. It can be quite depressing when you see your friends in other departments graduating earlier. It appeared there was no end in sight as the years rolled by. But, I have a very close family and good friends who supported me all through this journey. Another challenge was my social life. Prior to medical school, I was a very bubbling smart girl who was involved in sports and other activities. However, no medical student in Nigeria can deny the fact that the programme takes a toll on one’s social life. On my part, I made concerted efforts at balancing my social, spiritual and academic life. I left none unchecked. My social life wasn’t boring .The most important thing is not to forget the reason you are in school. With that mindset, everything can be taken care of with proper planning.
Would you say your circle of friends influenced your grades?
My family influenced my grades. Everyone close to me knows this. I have a very supportive family. They were with me all through, supported, prayed and encouraged me. My younger sister always came around during my professional examinations to assist in cooking and chores. They made the journey a lot easier. The journey through medical school can sometimes be lonely for many. True friends were few and far between. But I was fortunate to meet a few amazing friends; rare gems considering the circumstances. We read and discussed once in a while, but most times I studied alone.
Which area of medicine did you enjoy most while in school and why?
Paediatrics caught my attention because I love how cute and innocent children are. Also, surgery, medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology. I’m not sure I had a favourite, I enjoyed every posting. For me, medicine was a part of me, I enjoyed it despite the stress. It was a worthwhile experience for me.
From your first year, did you know you were going to come out with distinctions? Did you maintain a high GP from then?
From my first year, no. They will always tell us that the fear of medicine is the beginning of wisdom. I was so scared of failing despite the fact I had a very solid foundation (F.G.G.C UMUAHIA). I would say my performance improved with every class. From year one, I just knew I was going to be a very good doctor. Distinction never crossed my mind because I knew that requires a lot of sacrifice, hard work and God’s grace.
How were you able to balance school work with social life and others? Or did you forfeit some for school work?
No, I didn’t forfeit any aspect. However, like I already said, no medical student in Nigeria can deny the fact that the program takes a toll on ones social life. On my part, I made concerted efforts at balancing my social, spiritual and academic life. I left none unchecked. My social life wasn’t boring. In fact, I had a way of taking a break from academic stress once I felt intellectually saturated. The most important thing is not to forget the reason why you’re in school, with that mindset, everything can be taken care of with proper planning. I made out time for my family, my spiritual, social and even politics. In fact, I was once the Imo State University Medical Students Association (IMSUMSA) Vice President. So no aspect was unchecked.
What were the 7 awards you bagged?
I got a Distinction in Medicine, Best in Physiology (received 2 different awards here), best in biochemistry, best in paediatrics (received 3 different awards in paediatrics).
Would you say graduating with distinctions was easy?
Easy? It can never be easy. Out of a class of almost 90, only 2 persons made a Distinction. And in the history of the school, that’s the first time they’re recording a Distinction in Medicine. It took a lot of hard work, pain and sacrifice to achieve that.
Asides being a doctor, what else do you enjoy? Travelling, blogging (I’ve a medical blog), spending time with my family and of course, reading.
Moving forward, what is your plan now?
My plan is to do my Internship, followed by the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) while planning a career path for myself.
By Eniola Oyemolade