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Dumebi Nwaokobia: Much Ado About Medicine

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I was on the bridal party of my cousin’s wedding last weekend in Houston. It was such a beautiful ceremony! I got to see many of my family members that I hadn’t seen in a while.
Honestly, is it really a Nigerian party if no one talks about your weight? My dad was telling one of my aunties that I had gotten married just as I was walking into the living room where they were seated. “Is this Dumebi? Wow. I didn’t even recognize you oh. You’re now very fat”. I had not even gotten the chance to think of a suitable comeback before she continued: “Ohhhh! okay! It’s because of the baby right?” ‘What baby?’, I asked. I think she had started to sense how awkward it was getting: “Anyway, you’re even more beautiful. The weight fits you. You know, it’s not good for a young woman like you to be too skinny”, she said in a bid to console me. Too late; I had already found consolation in the freshly baked meat pie sitting on the kitchen counter.

What led me to writing this however, was meeting Nenye. Nenye is a Nigerian artist that had come for an art exhibition in the US. She’s friends with my cousin and was also part of the bridal party. I was fascinated by her person and paintings. I had never met a Nigerian artist, let alone, a young female one. It made me wonder how many people she had to fight to be able to pursue her passion. And this took me on a trip down memory lane.

I was visiting my high school a few months after graduating. It was our annual anniversary which was well attended by alumni.

All my teachers were happy to see me and know how I was faring in the University. This was only normal as I was an exemplary student – the pride of my teachers. I was supposed to go on to the university and study medicine like others that had gone before me. Or if the medical route was too tasking, Chemical or Petroleum engineering was a close second. And you know, if the second bests were too hectic, Computer Science was an acceptable third; after all, I had earned myself the ‘computer genius’ title that year when I helped my school win the state computer quiz.

It was the tie breaking question-“What is an Operating System?” We had only been taught the definition the previous day, but somehow I managed to remember-“Operating system is a suite of programs which resides in the Read Only Memory, acting as interface between hardware users and various programmers, performing the work of file management, memory management, input and output management.” I don’t know if it was winning the grand prize for my school or reciting my crammed definition like it was a rap verse that earned me the standing ovation; either way, I loved it and was going to milk it for the rest of the school term.  And so it was Medicine, Chemical/Petroleum Engineering and Computer Science, in that order. Anything different was substandard.

They had just rounded up the staff meeting when I got into the staff room. “So which school are you now?” My former class teacher asked. It was time for the serious questions after I hand handed over the Ankara materials my mum had given me for my favorite teachers. “I am in Babcock sir”, I replied. “Oh, Babcock has medicine now? That’s impressive!”, he added. I knew that I had to stop him now so I quickly cleared my throat.

“No sir, I’m not studying medicine. I’m studying Economics”.

There was loud silence in the room. I could see the disappointment on his face, and on all of their faces. They were saying the same thing without even speaking-‘You are such a letdown’. ‘It’s a great course sir’, I retorted in an attempt to break the silence; ‘it has elements of all the things I love’.  Then he finally spoke: “So you decided to just waste this your brain abi? okay oh. Congratulations, I wish you all the best.”

Why is there so much ado about studying medicine?

No doubt, Medicine is a very reputable profession all over the world. It takes a lot of investment to become a doctor and they are in turn compensated with high earnings. However, I believe we glorify medicine to the detriment of other professions, forgetting that all professions coexist to make the world a better place. The patient drives himself to the hospital, in his Toyota Camry xle, designed by an engineer, who was also aided by a supply chain analyst. He fills in his information on the iPad via an app designed by a computer scientist which was promoted to the hospital by the marketer and sales representative. While he is waiting, he notices how beautiful the paintings on the wall of the reception are, ‘this artist is so talented!’, he exclaims. The nurse goes to the doctor’s office to let her know that the operation room is set. The doctor doesn’t hear the knock immediately as  the music from her phone is a little loud. Apparently, the doctor has a habit of listening to Asa before an operation; she says it helps to calm and steady her hands.

But only the doctor is recognized for “saving lives”.

Back then, after your junior WAEC, you are placed into senior classes based on your results. The “intelligent” ones go to Science classes, while others are split into Arts and Commercial classes, regardless of their personal interests. Have we ever thought about the psychological effect this will have on a student in Art class who may now see himself as ‘not good enough?’ I know people that wanted to be lawyers but went to Science class for fear of being looked down upon as unintelligent. Likewise,  people who wanted to be pharmacists but were not allowed in science class because they got a D in Mathematics. Pray tell, how many of you pharmacists have used ‘Almighty formula’ to prescribe a drug to a patient?

As educators, parents and guardians, we need to do better. We have a duty to guide our children in the right path, or else we will end up losing out on the Chimamandas, the Raji Fasholas , the Aliko Dangotes, the Kanu Nwankwos, the Tuface Idibias and the Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas, who are not medical doctors but excellent professionals in their respective fields.

How did you get into your current career field/course of study? Did you choose it or were you pressurized into it?

Photo Credit: © Yaroslav Aleksutkin | Dreamstime

Dumebi is an Economist with a bachelors degree (Summa Cum Laude) from Babcock University and a Masters degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. She works for a Financial Information Services company during the day and strategizes on how to make it to Forbes 100 at night. Instagram @doomaybee

29 Comments

  1. Weezy

    November 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm

    I think this could have been editted better. The article has two ledes (people commenting on weight, and meeting a Nigerian artist).

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:24 am

      Hi Weezy, I totally get what you mean. However I consider this as my style of writing. Thank you for reading 🙂

  2. Tasmea

    November 20, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    I want to be an professor! Never ever fancied medicine and I have been blessed with parents who don’t give a hoot about medicine. My field of study is epidemiology and I’m working towards a PhD in that field then hopefully I get to lecture and research. The most intelligent or brightest (if you may) people in my class when I was in school are not doctors and did not want to be, so I have never associated medicine with intelligence. They are usually very hardworking and passionate but not necessarily intelligent. As for the doctor craze, I think most parents want their children to go into it for the financial security but honestly I don’t know. Medicine was never a song in my house. I’m not sure but if my memory serves me well I remember my dad not even wanting my older sister to study medicine or something along that line. I have not always been sure of what I wanted to be but I have been sure of what I don’t want to be and that’s a doctor. I accord respect to people who are passionate of what they do and strive to be the best regardless of the profession itself. My biggest inspiration career wise was an artist I met when I was in school. She was so passionate about art be it painting, drawing, sculpting and it reflected in every work she produced. She was always looking for new and innovative ways to improve that aesthetic and functional quality of her artwork and seeing her complete artwork is always mind blowing. Anybody can be a doctor, lawyer, engineer Study hard and get the certificate but not everybody should be. It’s all above interest, passion and drive. Find your fit.

    • Madam YHP

      November 20, 2017 at 7:55 pm

      Word!!

    • Sisi

      November 21, 2017 at 2:23 am

      Your parents probably deep down in Their minds knew you didn’t have what it takes to become a doctor.

    • Ohale

      November 21, 2017 at 2:26 am

      All these your explanations are unnecessary abeg.

    • Miss Thang

      November 21, 2017 at 2:32 am

      Story!!!! Mscheeeww

    • Abi

      November 21, 2017 at 2:39 am

      It is not for everybody.

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:30 am

      Hi Tasmea, you couldn’t have said it any better! I wish you success in the pursuit of your dreams. Thank you for reading!

  3. "Changing moniker"

    November 20, 2017 at 7:12 pm

    I love this article!

    I chose to become a Petroleum engineer because it sounded like the cooler form of engineering. I was ignorant about Oil and Gas then. Sigh!

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:32 am

      Hi Changing Moniker, thank you for loving the article!!! How is life as a Petroleum engineer? I hope it’s at least half as cool as you imagined. Lol. Thank you for reading.

  4. Madam YHP

    November 20, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Bio of life! I want to make it to Forbes 100 too.

    Nigerian aunties sha. Ahan! Already making comments about babies. These aunties are abroad o. So Nigerians abroad still do the whole “when will you get married” , “when are you getting pregnant” thing??

    Back to the koko of the story…

    I wanted to study medicine too.
    My mum discouraged me. She told me that i didn’t have the patience required to study medicine.. Looking back, I’m glad she did.
    My sister chose to study medicine and my mum supported her. Goes to show how much parents know their kids and how influential they are.

    Parents can do better with parenting. Parents should be great, just like my mum.
    Thank you mummy! ❤

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Hi Madam YHP, don’t we all want to make it to Forbes? Your mum is the real G. Imagine if all our parents were like that? Thank you for reading!

  5. Mrs Danish

    November 20, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Oh Dumebi!!! This is real #throwback…
    I remember my bestie, his parents wanted him to study Medicine by all means but he didn’t make the cut-off at diploma and he was thrown to a ‘random’ science course. Just as he was about to start his 3rd year, his dad remembered his dream for his first son to be a medical doctor. He told him to start all over again, and finally he gained admission and got inducted a few months ago, HE ISN’T A HAPPY BUNNY!!!

    **As educators, parents and guardians, we need to do better. We have a duty to guide our children in the right path, or else we will end up losing out on the Chimamandas, the Raji Fasholas , the Aliko Dangotes, the Kanu Nwankwos, the Tuface Idibias and the Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas, who are not medical doctors but excellent professionals in their respective fields.

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:38 am

      Hi Mrs Danish, All these schools and “dashing people random courses”. are part of the problem sef. Good to hear about your friend. Did you mean he “is” a happy bunny? I certainly hope so. Thanks for reading 🙂

  6. Author Unknown

    November 21, 2017 at 5:02 am

    I thought you were in Uni in Texas or something, until I read “So which school are you now?” My former class teacher asked. I wanted to ask if your former class teacher in America was Nigerian, with that kain English of “which school”. Next thing I saw Babcock. Lol. To your question, Luckily, I was not put under pressure to select my field of study, though my father hinted at what he would prefer. It could be because I was not a first generation university attendee, or I was just, again, lucky to have parents who had exposure (education and exposure are two different things) and who realised that they were there to guide you in choosing your path, and not determining it for you.

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Hi! Don’t you just love our Nigerian English? Lol. Thankful for parents that understand their roles and guide us in the right path. Thanks for reading.

  7. Bowl

    November 21, 2017 at 7:39 am

    And as a matter of fact , there are certain heights economically, politically, socially etc you cannot attain as a medical doctor. So what’s all the fuss about ?
    Because hunger is the chief driving force of everything we do in this country, our salvation is still very far !
    Those who eventually find the medicine, find the very satisfaction they seek lacking. Most doctors find their lives trapped in one hospital passage/ corridor ( I speak in parables ) . It does not matter that they are world renown surgeons or physicians. They have only managed to conquer a microcosm while the likes of Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala have conquered planet earth!

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Hi Bowl, Indeed, we need to look beyond our “hunger” as a country. Thank you for reading.

  8. theresa ometie

    November 21, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Nurses do not tell doctors that the patient is in the office, That is the job of the medical assistant. The role of Nurses includes assessment, completing vital signs, carrying out medical directives and patient monitoring. Some Nurses (Nurse Practitioners) can prescribe and treat patients too.

    Nice write-up though, but I needed to correct that inaccurate representation of Nurses.

    Our society needs to value every profession from the cleaner to the CEO of a company (including medicine).

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:46 am

      Hi Theresa, Correction duly noted. Yes, everyone is important, no matter what profession they choose. Thanks for reading!

  9. Obi

    November 22, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Economics is on the same level as Medicine though.

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:47 am

      Hi Obi, I’m sure my teachers will beg to differ. Lol. Thank you for reading 🙂

  10. ukpabi

    November 22, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    What you are passionate about is the most important thing dear. Kudos to you. I had almost the same from family members

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:49 am

      Hi Ukpabi, thank you! I assume you overcame the pressure from your family members? Great!

  11. Abominable snow girl

    November 26, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Spot on.
    Pharmacist who wanted to become a Lawyer.
    Still a Pharmacist, working on get “out”.

    • Dumebi Nwaokobia

      November 28, 2017 at 8:50 am

      Hi Snow girl, are you getting out to get into Law? I wish you all the best in whatever decision you take. Thanks for reading!

  12. Nkem

    December 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    It is a typical Nigerian family trend. My siblings and I almost got caught up in the whole situation. My parents wanted me to become a medical doctor while I wanted something to be a radio presenter even a teacher I was passionate about teaching. I was even in the science department back in secondary school (how I passed chemistry and co I can’t still tell). But deep down in my heart I knew I couldn’t be a medical doctor because I hate the sight of blood. Sadly but thankfully my dad died quite early I had to rewrite WAEC to fulfil my heart desires and am glad I did .

  13. TheTobster

    December 29, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Dum dum! Spot on. When I think about it, I think I would have been better off in art class than sciences. Went through those science classes without any zeal or real interest… Thankfully I ended up studying economics which I actually liked.. My mom suggested it because again, I would have ended up studying computer science ?

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