Nigerian-born but US based Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Dr. Uzoma Gbulie, has said in an interview with the press that Nigeria has brilliant health practitioners but lacks non-human infrastructure to match it. Dr. Gbulie is from Nimo in Anambra State, Nigeria. He attended Ekulu Primary School and Federal Government College in Enugu, Nigeria. Although he underwent medical training at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, and did his house job training at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, he is part of Nigeria’s health professionals who relocated abroad. He did his residency training in General Surgery at Howard University Hospital in Washington DC.
He stated that he has had the privilege to participate in or lead the reconstruction in a total of three conjoined twin separations. His first experience with the separation of conjoined twins was as a Pediatric and Craniofacial Plastic Surgery Fellow at the University of Tennessee, Memphis in 2011. He was an integral part of the Plastic Surgery team that performed the reconstruction following separation of a set of twin boys who were joined at the buttocks. He designed the skin flaps utilized for the reconstruction. The separation and reconstruction was a success.
Available state-of-the-art equipment played vital roles in the operations.
Since then, Dr. Gbulie has been part of several teams that successfully separated twins. The recent one was as a member of the Plastic Surgery Faculty at Cook Children’s Medical Centre, where he was the lead Plastic Surgeon for the separation of the set of twin girls who were conjoined at the lower chest and abdomen and shared a liver. When asked what roles modern facilities and proper management played in such rare operations, he replied that the importance of medical infrastructure cannot be overemphasized.
He stressed that a multidisciplinary team including at least two practitioners from each specialty is critical to successfully execute such a complex case. This allows the preparation, execution and recovery from such a huge operation to be undertaken with success. He said that the multidisciplinary team approach has been the common trend in each conjoined twin operation that he has been involved in. However, he said that it is unfortunate that such a rare feat would not have been achieved if it were in Nigeria. He said that Nigeria has brilliant medical practitioners but lacks the non-human infrastructure, which would be required to safely execute such a complex procedure.
Goal is to encourage young medical practitioners to stay home and practice.
Dr. Gbulie said that Nigeria needs to prioritize healthcare as a whole. Young and upcoming medical students should be encouraged to train in Nigeria by improving the training facilities to improve the quality of training they receive. The earning potential of doctors and nurses in Nigeria also needs to increase. This will encourage these young medical practitioners to stay home and practice. According to the US based doctor, along with infrastructural investments, this will improve the level of healthcare delivery in the nation and convince patients to set their care at home rather than abroad.
Government at all levels needs to overhaul the state-owned medical facilities and improve the overall standards for healthcare provisions in Nigeria. Dr. Gbulie said that the basic problems Nigeria is still battling, such as unreliable power and water supply, limit the inherent capabilities of healthcare delivery. So, any improvement in healthcare delivery in Nigeria can only be actualized across the board in Nigeria’s social, economic and power infrastructures as a country. The doctor said this is long overdue and that Nigeria is most definitely not utilizing her potentials in the field of medicine.
The current wave of migration, a curse to Nigeria, says Gbulie.
Nigerians are known to want to migrate to other countries, preferably the Western ones, for greener pastures. This is known as “Japa.” The “Japa” syndrome has been plaguing Nigeria for many years. It is typically a blessing to the individuals leaving the country – they get the opportunity to develop themselves and their careers. However, Dr. Gbulie said it is a big curse to Nigeria because no country can develop its full potential if its best and brightest citizens emigrate.