Hello, ma’am. It’s a pleasure having you this evening.
I’ll start by congratulating you once again on being the winner of the Provost’s award [smiles]. We’d like you to introduce yourself to us; let’s get to know you better.
I am Oluwaseun Juliet Bello, a recently inducted medical doctor from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. I am 24 and an indigene of Oyo state.
Great. How would you describe your experience in medical school? Were there highlights? Were there low moments?
Okay… Medical school was definitely a learning ground for me on all fronts. From having to read at odd hours and in weird places to multitasking and ultimately better social interactions.
Highlights will include getting into UI first of all, passing every MB in one sitting, induction, of course, and most importantly emerging best graduating student in Surgery and the Provost Award as well.
My low moments were far and in between. Ward rounds that didn’t go so well. The days I didn’t feel like going to school. The numerous industrial actions that delayed schooling. One particular one was the fatigue I experienced in my final year just before we were sent home. That break was a blessing until it became a long stay at home. I was definitely able to recoup and prepare for finals.
Reading in weird places, that’s something I’ve not learnt yet. [chuckles]
You will randomly think up something and read it on the spot because you are not sure when the next opportunity will be and that can be on the stairs or in the toilet.
[Laughs] Overall, I can see that your medical school journey was a great one. What’s the Provost’s award about? Did you set out at the beginning (or at some point in medical school) to win this award or was it purely coincidental?
The award is actually the Provost’s Award for Excellent Participation in Community Life. So what it basically tests is versatility: how well you’ve been involved in extracurricular activities while maintaining a good academic record or even excellence. It has five criteria: sports, students’ politics, academics, associations, publications and others. Sports basically comprises physical and mental sporting activities; essay competitions, pageantry, quiz competitions also fit into sports. Then the students’ politics is basically elected posts in UI, UIMSA, ABH. Students associations comprise those you join voluntarily, like the Press, Hamstring, Symphonia, Literary and Debate society, even things you do in religious and humanitarian bodies generally. Publications have to do with research work, published book(s), blogs e-articles. And then others have to do with volunteer work like outreaches, awards, group work positions, skills, entrepreneurship.
Well, for me, it wasn’t coincidental. I became aware of the Provost’s Award at some point in medical school. I wasn’t aware in 100 level when I was involving myself in competitions and holding posts, though. The things I did were just me setting out to do the most I could, but ultimately they aided my application for the award. By the 200 level, I came in contact with the criteria through the committee—because I was then added to the committee, and we did some reviews of applications from senior sets over the years. When it was my time, initially I didn’t plan to apply for it. Last-minute, I decided to apply for it and to get my letters from concerned parties. I’m grateful it wasn’t all in vain because it was very close to finals and I had to go as far back as UI, RCF-UCH, CASOR UI to get letters. For me, it wasn’t a case of involving myself in stuff with the criteria in mind because I never planned to apply for it until in my final year. It wasn’t like I was looking and ticking off boxes, “Okay, I’ve done this one; this one is lacking; let me go and do that.” No. But, yes, definitely, it just worked together.
Wow. The criteria are a lot by a regular medical student’s standard, and it’s just impressive that you were able to meet every one of them. That brings me to my next question: How were you able to be involved in a lot and still maintain academic excellence?
The first and very important thing was definitely God because so many things happened that were obviously divinely orchestrated. In medical school, you all get to go through the same postings and everything, yet there are just some people that experience some things that would influence their tests or exams positively. Could be you meet a case on the ward or a consultant teaches you a particular thing and you end up seeing it at the end of the posting; the next subgroup might not be so lucky to get that kind of exposure. So I’ll just say it was a mixture of so many things that God just put in place — meeting the right patients, coming across the right cases, and also having a very strong support system.
One that definitely helped me was the fact that this wasn’t the first time I would have to combine so many things like school, extracurricular, leadership; I already had that experience in secondary school so I was able to do a lot of multitasking. Though sometimes it really really got to me and I just wanted to stop every single extracurricular activity I was involved in to just focus on my books.
Another thing that really helped was tutorial groups. I did not have just one tutorial group, especially when it was very close to exams; I would join as many as four to five tutorial groups. I might not be a major member of all of them except one, but I would definitely attend a huge number of whatever sessions they’re going to have leading up to exams or tests. We had four groups which the set was divided into by the College: A, B, C, D. I joined tutorial groups that had representatives from each of those groups so everybody was saying what they experienced in each posting. That way, even though you might not have the whole knowledge, you would have a broad base of even what you didn’t experience and it definitely helped to build a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
And, yes, another thing was definitely the push from everyone. One particular experience that definitely shaped me was when I came to ABH and I had to first squat. I squatted with Dr Olamide Bello. She was in the 2014 set and yeah, coincidentally we have the same surname; she’s not a blood relative but we’re definitely sisters now. She had an extracurricular life that was similar to mine, and I learned a lot from just observing her: how she kept her jotters, where she put things, how she kept a calendar and different reminders of things to do in school, in UIMSA or Hamstrings. She joined more associations than I did. Olamide really influenced me in that aspect so I would say that was a defining moment for me. Maybe if I had squatted with anybody else, I would not have had that discipline or that experience to work with. Definitely, she put many things into perspective for me – it’s something I will never forget.
About the criteria, let me add that there are five categories in which you get points. The total of your points in the five criteria gets calculated, and then 15% of this total is calculated. They then go back to the criteria to know which of them meets 15% of your total score. This says how many categories you’ve qualified in. Let’s say you’re supposed to give someone five mangoes of different colours, and on your way to the person you were able to get the five colours quite alright, but you didn’t get enough material to make one mango each from those colours. When they calculate how much material you gathered in total, they’d calculate 15% of that and then go back to each of your individual mangoes to know how many of your mangoes are at least 15% complete.
Out of all the applications, if nobody has more than three criteria that meet 15%, it goes to the highest scorer. But if somebody has four complete criteria – even though the person’s score is less than the score of the person who meets just three criteria – then that person wins because they are obviously more versatile (cutting across more areas) than the person with three. The only thing that stops a winner from getting the award is a resit in the final MB because the winner has to be awarded at Batch A induction. If there’s a resit it goes to the runner-up. That’s how it works.
Thank you for explaining further. I was going to ask you if you had a mentor in medical school. Is it safe to assume Olamide Bello was your mentor?
Well, maybe not mentors but I definitely had a lot of guidance from my senior colleagues. A few of them were: Dr Ayokunle Adenipekun, Dr Olamide Bello and Dr Segun Afolaranmi. Some junior colleagues also helped me by making sure I was on my toes because I didn’t want to fall their hands. Also, answering questions for them or having to give advice helped shape me, and also prevent them from making mistakes I might have made.
Truly, one cannot go through medical school solo. It’s nice you had people you could always turn to for guidance.
Yes, I am grateful for them.
I initially was aware of just the Provost’s award. Best in Surgery too, that’s so amazing. This might come out weird, but why Surgery? Was it from a place of passion? Was it just you being the diligent student as usual?
Thank you. I enjoyed my Surgery postings the most (Surgery 2 being the least liked amongst the 3) and that may have translated to my scores in the end. Surgery has principles of management, of everything, and it is a sweet journey once you have mastered them. There were some very good resident doctors at the beginning that taught me a lot of what I had to know. Also, like I said earlier, having the right clinical exposure counts. A consultant I know would also say luck favours the prepared. My main tutorial group definitely prepared me all round for the Surgery exam.
Fabulous! Talking about Surgery, I’ve heard it’s a male-dominated field and so many females are usually so disinterested. Do you think that gap will be closed any time soon?
Well, I do not have the stats but more females are definitely gaining interest in Surgery. The gaps in some units like Cardiothoracic surgery may just be harder to fill than some other units like General Surgery. But we will definitely have more female surgeons than before going forward.
This is empowering.
What’s your take on sexism in Medicine? Is it a myth? Is it an actual issue? I’ve read articles on how there’s no gender equality in Medicine, despite how advanced the field is. Is it something female medical students face or everything’s rosy until they start practising? I just want to know what your take is, being that you stood out in a field people would like to refer to as a male forte.
Well, like certain areas in other professions, some areas are perceived as no-female zones because of the “who will take care of the home?” sentiment. The more traditional elders may toe that line but times are changing and people are breaking these barriers. Personally, I have had no such with it, career-wise.
All right, then.
Now that you’re done with med school, what’s the next move? Do you mind sharing with us?
The first thing is housemanship for a full license with the MDCN. Other academic pursuits like research work, scholarship applications, foreign exams and personal ones like marriage and children will also come in along the way. Most important to me is to walk in line with God’s purpose for my life.
Finally, what’s your advice for your junior colleagues, for people who are struggling to combine other things with their academics?
The thing to always remember is that you are a student first. Extracurricular activities are important for your curriculum vitae (CV) but your studies should not suffer. God is key in everything and you should definitely protect your mental space too. Have fun and de-stress regularly. I wish you all the very best.
Thank you so much, ma’am [smiles]. Thank you for your time, as well. We also wish you all the very best as you move on to the next phase of your life. May it get more beautiful with every step.