She didn’t grow under the care and nurture of her biological parents, but was fostered to Caucasian parents. Even in the less than affluent foster home, she flourished. And then her biological sister died because she couldn’t access the needful medical expertise urgently. Life has dealt her many uppercuts but somehow, she is still here, still standing and excelling in her every pursuit. Ola Orekunrin is her name, and she is the founder of Flying Doctors, Nigeria; West Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service.
The Ekiti-born 27 year-old doctor was the definition of a ‘nerd’ as a child, growing up in the little town of Lowestoft in the United Kingdom. She studied so much that she ran out of textbooks to read!!! With the circumstances surrounding the death of her sister evergreen in her mind, Ola set to follow an already charted course; the path to becoming a Medical Doctor. She trained at the University of York, wrote her final medical exams and became a Medical Doctor at 21, thence becoming one of the youngest doctors in England at the time; she accomplished all this while working jobs to put her through school. Ola completed her post-graduate training in the West Midlands, went on to specialise in Pre-hospital and trauma care, and is also a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Physicians. And she was just getting started!!! Ola was employed at the National Health Service [NHS] UK, and worked privately at motor-racing circuits. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious MEXT Japanese Government Scholarship and produced ground-breaking research in the field of regenerative medicine through her work with induced pluripotent stem cells. Ola has published her own book along with several articles in high-profile medical journals and has sat on various influential boards at the British Medical Association.
On her first visit to Nigeria since the death of her sister, Ola noted with dismay that the healthcare sector was in dire need of an upgrade. Speedy access to the best healthcare facilities in emergencies was but a pipe-dream, even for those who could afford it. And so the seed of the ‘Flying Doctors’ was sown. Ola reminisced in an interview, “Setting up the company was a direct result of my fascination for helicopters, trauma medicine, motor accident kinematics and pre-hospital medicine. I knew it was something that I had the skills and experience to do.” And so she did!
Dr. Ola quit her job in the UK, stacked up her savings and made her way to Lagos, Nigeria. One would have thought that such a laudable objective would be welcomed with open arms, but Ola clearly recalls that she had the not-so-proverbial door slammed in her face one time too many. There were months of endless waiting in reception offices, rebuffs and even a robbery attack. However, drawing on the focus and determination she has exhibited all her life, Ola stuck to her guns, and slowly built up the resources she needed to fly the ‘Flying Doctors.’
In all of these, Ola learnt a crucial lesson; “When you need something, people tend to avoid you but when you don’t need anything and seem to be making profit, they tend to become your best friend. The attitude towards me has changed immensely.” Hard, bitter truth.
And so the ‘Flying Doctors Nigeria’ was birthed, its mission, to provide urgent air ambulances to leading health institutions, insurance companies and private individuals throughout West Africa. They boast of having years of experience in both acute medicine and the aviation industry, and a team of professionals who operate a reliable, cost effective door to door air ambulance service, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Well done Ola!!!
She was a recipient of the ThisDay Awards in 2012, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2013, alongside Saran Kaba Jones, Cobhams Asuquo, Tara Fela-Durotoye and others. Ola is also a TED fellow.
As E! says, “If you didn’t know all these, you are welcome.”
As Arise says, “Copy Genius!!!”
© 2013 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.