Apart from emerging as the best graduate of the University of Ilorin in the 2016/2017 academic session, Dr. Rasheedat Alabi, a graduate of Medicine, also went home with 26 prizes. In this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU, the 22-year-old shares her experience in school
As the best graduate in your set, how did you receive the news?
I feel grateful to Almighty Allah for crowning my efforts with success. Am very happy and I’m grateful to my parents for supporting me throughout my stay in school. I am also grateful to my lecturers and my classmates for supporting me. It was not really my aspiration to become the best graduate; I just prayed and worked hard to pass because most of the medical students were actually the best from their secondary schools. So, it was like a competition arena. However, I prayed to God to make me the best and I worked as hard as I could to make it happen. I’m happy I made my parents proud.
You won 26 prizes, could you tell us about the prizes?
I received awards as the best student in the Faculty of Clinical Sciences; best student in the Departments of Pathology; Community Medicine; Paediatrics and Child Health; Obstetrics and Gynaecology; and Medicine and Surgery. I also received the Henry Adewoye Prize for best graduating student in Chemical Pathology; the late Dr. Hamza Brimoh Prize for the best graduating student in medicine; Prof. Matthew Araoye Prize for the best graduating student in medicine; Abdullahi Mohammed/Ilorin Community Prize for the best graduating student in child health; the late Dr. Olusola Saraki Prize for best graduating student in medicine; Prof. Stephen Odaibo Prize for the best graduating doctor in surgery; Justice Mustapha Akanbi Prize for the best graduating female student in the College of Medicine; 1992-1995 clinical set annual prize for the best clinical medical graduate at part III final MBBS; Albert Anjorin Prize donated by the Ilorin University Medical Students Association Alumni for the best graduating student in pathology; 1992 graduating class of medical students prize (Albert Anjorin Prize ) for the best student in pathology; Dr. Moshood Harouna Prize donated by the university’s Medical Graduates Alumni Association (USA Branch) for the best graduating student in internal medicine; late Dr. Babatunde Awobusuyi Memorial Prize for the best student in paediatrics and child health; 1992 graduating class of medical students prize for the best graduating student in internal medicine.,1992 graduating class of medical students prize for the best graduating student in physiology, 1992 graduating class of medical students prize for the best graduating students in surgery; late Adenike Samo Memorial Prize for the best graduating female medical students; late Adenike Samo Memorial Prize for the best graduating student in paediatrics and child health, Dr. Ado Mohammed Prize for the best graduating student in community medicine and Soji Afolabi Memorial Prize for the best overall graduating medical student.
Did you have a special reading strategy that helped you to win all these awards?
First and foremost, I prayed to God to make me the best in my class and He answered my prayers. I did not have any special reading technique when I was in school and the number of hours I read varied. If the examination was approaching, I tended to read more and I could read for close to 10 hours a day, but when there was no exam, I read for between one and two hours a day. Also, I was involved in group discussions with my classmates. We discussed our lecture notes, including questions that we thought could come out in the exams. I found that to be very helpful because it was easy to remember those things we discussed during the exams. We worked together as a team to achieve our aims and it was very helpful.
Did you have any challenge in your academics?
There were challenges. In my second year, I found that I forgot the things I read, which was unusual. In my secondary school, I used to read once or twice and I would understand. When I raised it among my peers, I realised that I was not the only one. But with constant reading, it got better. Alabi later realised that in medical school, you have to keep reading, and I’m happy I knew that early enough.
Apart from forgetting the things you read, were there other challenges?
In my third year, my performance was below expectation. At that time, I was a bit discouraged but thank God for my parents, they kept encouraging me. They kept reminding me that I could do better and that I could actually make it to the top. That helped me to overcome that challenge and subsequently, I became better. At the end of my fourth year, I had a distinction in Pathology and Pharmacology and I was the first person to have a distinction in Surgery at the end of 600 level. I thank God I didn’t give up at that time.
Has anybody offered you a scholarship as a result of your superlative performance?
Yes, I’m grateful to Prof. Chris Imafidon who offered me a scholarship in Oxford University. Prof. Imafidon is the Chair and Founder, Excellence in Education Programme, Oxford, United Kingdom. Alabi is also a consultant to presidents, European and American governments, several Asian countries as well as corporate organisations globally. He delivered UNILORIN’s 33rd convocation lecture, titled, ‘The genius in you: New tools, techniques and technology for developing individuals and institutional greatness (How you can win an Oscar, multiple awards and major battles of life).’ During the lecture, he publicly offered scholarships to the best female and male graduates as well as the worst female and male graduates, to be admitted to Oxford for further studies, sponsored by his foundation. I am the best female graduate, so I qualified for the award. I am very grateful to him for such a great opportunity and I pray that God will continue to bless him and his family.
What do you intend to study at Oxford University?
I would have a Master’s degree in Oncology or molecular medicine. After that, I would like to pursue a PhD. I plan to combine academics with practical work, if it is possible.
Would you like to practise in the UK after your studies or you would come back?
I, Alabi, actually want to practise in the UK for some time so that when I have gathered knowledge there, I would come home and apply it in Nigeria. I believe that by practising there for some time would be better equipped to contribute to Nigeria’s health care system.
Why did you choose medicine?
When I was young, I wanted to be a banker because I had an uncle who was a banker. He was a manager with a foremost commercial bank then and he used to bring big cars to our house. I found it appealing. But when I grew up, I said I would become a pilot. My aim was to go into engineering but my parents later advised me that medicine is a good course that I could consider. My dad is also a doctor while my mum is a lawyer. I took the advice and thank God that until today, I have never regretted that choice. I actually enjoyed it because with medicine, you help people and you know that with God’s help, you would impact people’s lives positively.
What was your academic performance like when you were in secondary school?
I was the best student in the Junior Secondary School examination. I was also the best in Mathematics in JSS 3 examination. My West African Senior School Certificate Examination result was one of the best in my school. And when I did the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, two of us got the highest score. I scored 302 in UTME and I scored 78 per cent in Post-UTME.
Is there anything that makes you unhappy about Nigeria’s health sector?
Yes, there are. But summarily, I think one issue that has plagued the sector is industrial action, whereas, the masses are the ones that suffer anytime there is an impasse between the government and health sector unions. If the government would look into that area and make health workers feel rewarded for the work they do, things would get better. Also, there is some basic equipment that is needed in the health centres that is not available. It would be helpful if the government can provide some of the basic equipment. The Health Insurance Scheme should not be limited to a particular set of people. It should be accessible by everybody.
Did you have time to socialise with people or it was all about your books?
I had time to socialise, went to the cinema with my friends. I was also a member of the Febrilel Academia and we travelled to different places for quiz competitions. There was also a time I was the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Osun State Students in UNILORIN. So, I had a social life. It wasn’t all about books. I think what is important is for students to be able to set their priorities and manage their time well. I also had a very good relationship with my classmates, including my juniors.
What is your counsel to your classmates?
They should keep giving their best. We all excel one way or the other; graduating from the medical school is a reward. Every graduate should be grateful to God that he or she has actually achieved something. And we should all try harder to excel in whatever noble task we are engaged in.
It wouldn’t have been easy to win 26 awards. What would you tell students so as to be better in their academics?
They should work hard and try to be consistent in their efforts. They should not copy others because passing such an exam gives a false impression that they know when they actually do not. Students should know what works for them and then they should put their trust in God alone as He’s the only one to crown their effort with success.
Parents are often advised not to impose courses on their children. What is your take on that?
Parents should not force their children to choose any course against their will.
It is one thing to advise your child to consider a course and it is a different thing when you try to force your child to study a particular course. My parents advised me to consider a course, so I still had the prerogative to choose.