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I used to be the last in the class; It seemed school wasnít meant for me

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Iyanuoluwa Opafunso emerged the overall best graduating student of Medicine and Surgery at Obafemi Awolowo University. He had distinctions in every level of medical school. In this interview with TrendingNG, the young doctor speaks on his background and secrets of his academic success

Where are you from?

I am from Ede in Osun State. I had my primary school education at Bibo-Oluwa Academy; secondary school education in Iloko Model College, Iloko-Ijesa and university education at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Iím in my early 20ís. My parents are both retirees. My dad was a Mathematics lecturer at Osun state Polytechnic, Esa-Oke while my mum was a secondary school teacher before she retired.

For you to emerge the best Overall Best Graduating Medical Student having bagged distinctions in every level of medical school, you must be a genius?

Iím not a genius (laughs). I am a product of Godís grace, diligence and hard work. I can vividly remember that while I was in primary 1, I used to be the last in the class. It seemed school wasnít meant for me. As I got to primary 3, my seatmate in class helped me discover myself and boom, I started picking up. I crawled from the last position in class to the top ten. As I got to primary 4, I started leading the class where I was at some point the last.

I moved to JSS1 from Primary 4 and I was first all through my secondary school days except for JSS1 when I was 2nd. But all through, I always had the thought of the end from the beginning, and that helped me a lot.

At what point did you decide to study medicine and why did you choose OAU?

I wonít say it was a personal decision ab initio. The pressure to study medicine built up in secondary school as my teachers wanted me to study medicine. I can vividly recollect one of my teachers saying, ďOpafunso, if I see you in the next 10 years and you are not a doctor, donít greet me.Ē I had no other choice at the time, and my parents, though open to any course I wanted to study, preferred medicine.

I had to make some research about it, and I realised it is indeed noble profession. With medicine, one can better peopleís lives. That was how I opted for medicine and surgery and the rest is history.

I chose OAU because Iíve had to attend functions in the OAU campus while I was in secondary school. The prestige of the OAU coupled with the serene environment made me fall in love with the university. It was also ranked the best university in Nigeria at the time by an international organisation, so all these made me choose OAU.

You made a distinction in what is described as arguably the hardest course in the world, what did you do differently?

I made sure I knew what each course entails at the beginning of each session. My senior colleagues provided invaluable support. I had 2-3 senior colleagues I would meet at the end of each session so they could intimate me on the challenges and prospects of the next class. I did this until I finished medical school. Aside from this, there was nothing special I did that others didnít do. Above all, Godís grace spoke for me at every level of medical school.

Tell us more about studying medicine in OAU

Medicine in OAU , and everywhere in the world, is a highly competitive course. The best of the best are admitted to study medicine. In a recent statistic, I came across, just 1% of those who chose medicine as their preferred course was eventually admitted in OAU. Thatís how tough it seems.
As opposed to other courses, one can repeat or be asked to withdraw from the course if one fails to do well. For example, if a student fails a part-one course, that student will repeat 100L while his/her colleagues are already in 200L. Perhaps in other departments, one can still retake the course even in the next class.

Tell us more about the rigour?

Let me share a story. The fourth-year seems the most tedious of all classes in OAU Medical School. Class starts on campus by 7.30 am; clinical postings by 10 am in the hospital, then afternoon classes on campus by 3 pm -5:30 pm thereabout. It was hectic, especially if you didnít have a car. I remember always getting home around 6-7 pm tired and exhausted, and the cycle continues the following day.

What were the hardest parts of medical school?

Sincerely speaking, each part has its challenges and it depends on oneís perspectives towards it. To me, this part may be the hardest, to others, it may be other parts. But all in all, 400L seemed pretty hard but the rest is history now. We donít run by semesters. We do sessions. But no course was particularly challenging.

Was there a time you felt like distinction was impossible?

Yes, a couple of times. There was this doubt after the last phase of each exam which was the oral exam (we call it viva voce). I doubted whether I would get a distinction or not. But as God would have it, it kept on coming true.

Did you set a goal and how did you keep yourself in track?

Yes, the goal was to have a distinction in every level which seemed possible but tedious. I made sure I read diligently, interacted with my colleagues and seniors, treated past questions, hoped and prayed for the best.

What roles did your parents play in your academic success?

I owe almost everything I have now to God and my parents. They prayed for me and are my biggest cheerleaders. When it looked bleak, my mum would encourage me and it felt like she even believed in me more than myself. My parents provided all I needed in school per time.

What were your most challenging moments at the university?

I canít pinpoint. But there was a time I was multitasking. I held a high position in my Christian fellowship which involved coordinating, travelling and the likes. It wasnít easy combining it with medical school but God has a way of turning ashes to beauty.

What were your most embarrassing moments?

I donít have any surprises. Oh, okay I can recollect one: It was my final year and we (quiz club) had to feature in a quiz competition organised by the Nigerian Medical Student Association. Unfortunately for us, it was a bad outing such that coming back to Ife was one of the most difficult things. To even face junior colleagues was embarrassing but we took solace in the fact that we cannot always win everything. Bad days are bound to happen. Even the best footballers have bad outings.

How social were you? Did you have time for extra-curricular activities?

I was sociable and still am. Yes, I play the piano, hang out with friends. I watch movies a lot and Iím a social media enthusiast.

Being an intelligent student, what was your relationship like with your teachers and colleagues?

I maintained a good relationship with everyone. Though I was more of the quiet one in class; most of my teachers didnít know me.

How many hours did you study for daily?

This is hard to say but on an average, I read for 6 hours when I was in pre-clinical but it reduced to about 3- 4 hours while I was in clinical because the demand was high in clinical with ward rounds, clinics, presentations, tutorials and the likes.

How would you advise young people who want to excel in their career paths?

If you want to go far and fast, have mentors in that field. Having mentors cannot be overemphasised. Get resource materials, stay ahead of the class, maintain good rapport and develop healthy social relationships with people, especially your teachers, and finally, be prayerful.



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