A young woman, Oyindolapo Shittu, proved that being married should not be a barrier to a resounding academic success recently, when she emerged the best graduating student at the 40th convocation of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Although she was a medical student, which obviously made her experience more demanding, she also carted away 12 out of the 18 prizes up for grabs in the ivory tower, leaving the other hundreds of students to scramble for the remaining six.
It was therefore not surprising that on each occasion when she was invited to the podium to receive her prize, a thundering ovation followed her footsteps.
With the 12 prizes from the Faculty of Clinical Sciences alone in her kitty, it was simply easy for her to win the Alhaji Kabir Usman Prize for the Best Overall Student with the Highest Number of Prizes for the 2012/2013 session.
Her other laurels are the Glaxo Allenbury and the Paediatrics Association Prizes Prize for the Best Result in M.B.C.H.B Degree in Paediatrics; Prof. O. Taiwo Memorial Prize for the Best in Clinical Examination; Olaningbe Makanjuola Memorial and the Nigeria Medical Association prizes for the best final M.B.C.H.B degree examination.
Others include the Lawrence Omole Prize for the Best in Community Health; Maj. Gen. Olufemi Olutoye, Candido-Da-Rocha, and the Adekunle Okute prizes for the best in Surgery; Tony Elemelu as well as the Prof. Adewale Akinsola prizes for the best graduating student in Medicine.
But how did Shittu make mincemeat of others, particularly engineering students, who many believe, usually win academic laurels with ease? How did she cope with the marital and domestic challenges not just to study Medicine but also to emerge the best graduate in her set?
She noted that three basic incidents in life fired her enthusiasm to excel. The first, according to her, was the hospitalisation of her mother when she was still young. The second is her religion – Islam – and the third, her friend who later became her husband.
She said, “My mother encouraged me to study Medicine. There was a time when my mother was so sick that she was on admission in a hospital for a long time. Then I was about seven years old. Many people thought that she was going to die. I was always by her bedside even at that tender age, keeping vigil.
“It was on one of such occasions that my mother told me that she would want me to become a medical doctor when I grow up.
“Even when my mother finally recovered, I recall that there were occasions too that my late father, who was not so literate, would take me to the University College Teaching Hospital, Ibadan just to observe the comportment of medical students at the hospital.”
Besides this parental influence, the valedictorian also holds the view that her husband, who is a lawyer, encouraged her to study Medicine.
She added, “I personally wanted to study Chemistry but he persuaded me to enrol for Medicine. He made me to believe that I would make it in Medicine. But taking the decision not to study Chemistry was not easy because it was a subject that I loved so much. In fact, it was my best subject and I looked forward to studying it until he encouraged me to enrol for Medicine.”
The young Muslim doctor added that she was encouraged to study Medicine by her passion to help Islam. She said, “In fact, the zeal to help my religion was another motivating factor.”
On how she managed to cope with all the challenges in marriage, she noted that her matrimony actually brought out the best in her. The lady, however, does not have a child yet.
Shittu, who married in her fifth year in the university, said, “It has been very pleasant and interesting experience. In fact, it was when I got married that I started enjoying the course. Things actually became easier for me after marriage because getting closer to my husband made the motivation to be more direct.
“I had most of the prizes I won after getting married. I had all my prizes when I got married except one. Marriage has a positive influence on my study. It aided me financially and boosted my psychological wellbeing.”
For Shittu, the success did not come that easy. According to her, it took a lot of reading and planning.
“When it comes to studying, I am not given to crash programme. I did not have to wait for the examination to be around the corner for me to begin my studies. I read every day and that way, there was never a time that I was under so much pressure.
“I tried to read six hours every day. In the medical school, many people are usually under pressure and that reduces their efficiency. But my secret is that I tried to work ahead. I read other books outside medical books. I read novels, newspapers and watched movies.
“During holidays, I rested and made sure I enjoyed myself to the fullest and when we resumed, I continued with my reading style,” Shittu, who has started her housemanship at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, added.
Asked the kind of movies she enjoys, she said, “I watch movies where advanced technology is being used. I watch medical movies and the reason I watch such is to show me how medicine is practised in advanced countries. It serves as a means of motivation for me. They practise very diligently there. When I watch those movies, I try to picture myself in that setting and working with that zeal. But whatever I learn, I will make sure I come back to use it to influence my people.”
While many graduates are not sure of what would be their fate in the labour market, Shittu is already planning to impact positively on the society. She said that she was always moved to see some poor people dying due to lack of money for medical treatment.
To contribute her quotas to the welfare of humanity and especially the poor ones, she said, “I plan to establish a hospital to treat people and majorly the less-privileged ones. That has been my plan for a very long time. The reason is that not everything is about money. It is about fulfilment.
“I hope that will make God to be pleased with me. I feel that the honour, which God has bestowed on me, is not just for fun. It is not just for me to be known but to influence other people and to help the less-privileged ones that are usually forgotten.” (Punch)