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Prof. Omigbodun, the first female psych. prof

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By Abraham Adekunle

The first female provost of UI’s College of Medicine said she was privileged.

Professor Omigbodun is the first female professor of psychiatry in Nigeria and the first female provost of College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Oyo State. She said that she was privileged to have such achievements. Long before her, there were other female psychiatrists in Nigeria. One of such is Dr. Bertha Johnson, who worked at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos. There was also Major General (Dr.) Aderonke Kale, who worked with the Nigerian Army. There is also Dr. Taiwo Adamson who served as the first female president of the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria as well as the first female provost and medical director of Aro Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

While there were female psychiatrists practicing before her, they did not come into the academia. They worked in medical centers and neuropsychiatric hospitals. Prof. Omigbodun joined the University of Ibadan as a lecturer in 1977 and also an honorary consultant to the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State. She became a professor in 2008. However, she admitted in an interview with the press that she became the first female professor of psychiatry in Nigeria because women practicing in the field were not many initially. Presently, there are many women practicing in the field.

She chose psychiatry because the sight of sick children affected her.

The professor said that she initially thought of studying and majoring in pediatrics because she loved children. A student in medical school is obligated to go through all the specialties, including gynecology, surgery, community medicine, ophthalmology, and radiology. During her compulsory rotation through pediatrics, the sight of sick children emotionally affected her. She knew immediately that she could not study pediatrics. The reason behind such a line of thinking was that she was initially concentrating on the fact that she loved children. But the children she happened to love were the active ones, not the sick ones.

After her experience with children, she started looking for another area of specialization. During her psychiatry rotation, she (and her colleagues) was told to assess six patients and generate a write-up about their assessment. It was a wonderful experience for her. “During the weekends, some of my classmates would leave for Lagos and Ibadan, but I usually stayed behind. I stayed for two weeks in Abeokuta, talking to patients, and finding out about their Mental Health problems,” she said. She fell in love with psychiatry because a Psychiatrist does assessments from a holistic point of view. This means that they deal with the whole person, unlike in other specialties, where doctors deal with a certain part of the body.

She shared some of the challenges she has faced so far.

When asked, Prof. Omigbodun said she never planned to be provost. She simply planned to be the best at what she does. She specializes in child adolescent psychiatry. She was under the tutelage of the first Nigerian child adolescent psychiatrist, Prof. Olatawura. The latter felt she would do well in that field and mentored her. She said she believes very much in excellence. She believes that we can all change things and do them properly in order to create an excellent environment.

Some people’s attitude to work is not too good, she further stated. This is especially if they are employed by the government. She does not know why there is a lot of mediocrity around. One of the challenges she is having is getting people who can do things properly, such as writing well. Another challenge that she mentioned was with funding. Despite working in a government-owned university, she has had to seek funds to run the institution many times because the funds from the government are grossly insufficient. The sector needs adequate funding if they all are to compete with not only Private Universities but also world-class institutions.

Despite challenges, she said she works with hardworking people.

Other challenges that she mentioned include: strike actions, brain drain, and over-centralization of processes. In spite of all these challenges, she said that she worked with very hardworking people. As a psychiatrist, her job is all-encompassing. It involves promotion of mental health, prevention of mental illness, treatment of people with mental illness, and rehabilitation of those with mental health concerns. It also includes making sure that people who have been ill get the necessary care; recover and are restored back to society.


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