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#IWD2018♀ + #WB4G! Airlifting Medical Care & Hope, Ola Orekunrin is Revolutionising Emergency Health in Nigeria



Women in Business for Good is a series designed to showcase women in the social innovative space, working for the collective advancement of their people. Read the introduction HERE. We’re kicking off with the story about the incredible Dr. Ola Orekunrin, of Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Doctor Ola’s story is written by Anwuli Nkem of The Nation.

Few would have predicted that the first air ambulance service in West Africa would be launched by a 23-year-old woman. The year was 2007, and the woman was Dr. Ola Orekunrin (now Dr. Ola Orekunrin-Brown). Following a personal tragedy, she channeled her grief and courage into an initiative that has saved hundreds of lives.
Born in England, she grew up in a small town in southeast England and went on to study medicine at the University of York. While she was completing her studies, her 12-year-old sister fell ill while vacationing with relatives in Nigeria. She needed to be airlifted to a hospital where she could get proper treatment, but to the great dismay of Dr. Orekunrin-Brown and her family, the closest air ambulance they could find was in South Africa. Her little sister died before help could arrive.

It was anguishing for Dr. Orekunrin-Brown to know that her sister didn’t die because of her illness, she died because she couldn’t access treatment in time. The tragedy would stay with her as she completed her medical studies, graduating at age 21 to become one of the youngest doctors in the country. Once she started working, she began saving every penny she could with the idea of perhaps starting an air ambulance charity.

She eventually traveled to Nigeria to take up the challenge, initially studying the models in other developing countries. She soon came to the conclusion that a business would be a better way to realise her goals, and she went about raising money—a considerable challenge for a young woman. She also had to deal with tedious bureaucratic processes and a host of other issues. With no business experience, she had to learn as she went, giving up many of the activities that young people in their twenties enjoy in order to devote herself to her project.

Her drive and perseverance paid off, and before long she became the CEO of Flying Doctors Nigeria Limited. Her new company offered air evacuation services to the private and public sector as well as wealthy individuals, airlifting injured workers from offshore oil rigs, for example, or repatriating sick British expats.

But with international evacuations costing about $60,000 and local evacuations about $20,000, she knew she needed to offer a more affordable option as well. She eventually came up with the idea of using unsold space on airlines, building special units that could easily be installed over a row of seats. The ingenious concept managed to bring the cost down to about $1,000, and has been a win-win for airlines and patients alike.

Based in Lagos, Flying Doctors now has outposts across the country, with 20 charter aircraft and 44 doctors who deliver quality care en route, fulfilling the company’s promise to get “the right patient to the right facility within the right time frame.” Dr. Orekunrin-Brown has made a point of ensuring that her company’s services are available to people in remote areas of Nigeria, saving the critically ill as well as victims of car accidents, gunshot wounds or other traumas.

To date, Flying Doctors Nigeria remains the only indigenous air ambulance service in West Africa and has transported some several hundred patients. The life-saving service has earned Dr. Orekunrin-Brown and her team numerous
accolades and awards. Most recently, she won the 2018 Extraordinary Business Achievement Award presented by The Silverbird Group, a Nigerian multimedia company. She is the youngest person ever to win the prestigious distinction and the only woman to have done so in the past decade.
She has also been named one of the “100 Lionesses of Africa”—extraordinary African women whose example serves to motivate and inspire other potential entrepreneurs. Speaking at their 2016 annual conference, she said, “Here’s to the women who will change the narrative of African women: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”

Photo Credit: Flying Doctors

Women in Businesses For Good” aims to reveal impactful innovations designed by women, and their potential to be scaled up or replicated elsewhere. We are certain that you will find these stories inspiring, and we encourage you to share them (#WB4G) and bring women’s creativity and initiatives to tackle global problems.


  1. Snow White

    March 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    AWESOME! She inspires me truly.

  2. chima

    March 8, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    To say I am impressed is an understatement.
    Well done lady and I hope that we would have many more services like this.
    You have challenged me

  3. tony

    March 8, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    This story is not impressing or inspiring enough.

    I recently listened to her interview and how she started this business… You need to listen, it is beyond inspiring… A lesson in perseverance… I mean she sat down in the office of a DG for 3 days hoping to meet him… there was a bit of luck but just brute perseverance.
    The Nigerian clime is very tough but these things are possible… offcourse you have to be confident and have some pedigree.. speak well.. I think her British upbringing did help… we are a sucker for phonetics…

    I remember I once needed to have a piece of document signed by a Minister… This document had languished in the Ministers office for close to 9 months…Ministry of Lands.. very corrupt ministry… I went to Abuja and said to myself I am not returning until that document was signed… 3 days later and unfortunately bribe to some people in the ministers office and that document was signed… On one of the days I was told minister was having PDP caucus meeting… Chai!! on my taxpaying money kwa… Story of our country…

    Kudos Orekunrin!!!

  4. Deepee

    March 8, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Well done. This is a very laudable feat.

  5. tRACY Edward

    March 8, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    This is the reason Nigerians should stop complaining and do SOMETHING that will change their enviroment and touch lives around them just like this wounderful Lady did. Let us together build tthe only country we have. Let us support the good people who are leading us and let us get rid of the bad leaders, Nigerians wake up don´t sell your right at this election for something that will not last, go and make sure you vote for good leaders you want to see, that will build the country and who has done something good for NIGERIA. God bless Nigeria in Jesus Name Amen. Go and VOTE by making your voice to be heard.

  6. Ephi

    March 8, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Now, this is what I call EXTRAORDINARY.
    Imagine if we had solution driven individuals like her in government and key leadership positions, Nigeria would be growing in leaps and bounds. Well done Ola, well done.

  7. nnenne

    March 9, 2018 at 4:55 am


  8. nnenne

    March 9, 2018 at 4:57 am


  9. Ify

    March 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Wow! weldone girl!

  10. Michy

    March 9, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I love her. Rather than complain she decided to make a difference I’m beyond inspired.

  11. Mrs chidukane

    March 11, 2018 at 12:30 am

    So inspiring.

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