by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Nominated for Professional of the Year at The Future Awards 2011, 30 year old Dr. Owoeye is a Sports Physiotherapist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.
Tell us about you
I am Mr Oluwatoyosi Owoeye. In the space of months I will be done with my PhD. I am a Physiotherapist by training and a lecturer with the Department of Physiotherapy, College of Medicine, University of Lagos. I was employed initially as a clinician with LUTH but I officially transferred my services to the college in January this year.
How did it all begin? Growing up
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, neither was I born with a wooden spoon. I come from a humble background; only son in the midst of four girls so I was the man of the house. I had the good fortune of growing up in a home that believed so much in education so I have had the very best of education; it was one thing my parents never compromised. I attended the best primary school in Ibadan then: Maryhill Convent School, then to Loyola college Ibadan and the University of Ibadan. I have lived all my life in Ibadan and it is work that brought me to Lagos.
How did you get to study Physiotherapy?
Any average young man interested in the sciences would want to study Medicine naturally, because it is considered to be the ultimate in the medical sciences. I wanted to study Medicine just like any other young brilliant man but I did not score enough in JAMB to merit Medicine, so I was left with two options: Physiotherapy and Dentistry. I already had an elder cousin who was already practicing Physiotherapy so he became a mentor to me. He was doing really well, working with the Super Eagles of Nigeria and he got me interested in Sports Physiotherapy and that is how it started for me. I am doing my PhD in Sports Physiotherapy because right now we do not have experts in that field. I mean we have those that work on the field of play, with the Super Eagles and local clubs but we do not have any academic sports physiotherapists so that is in itself a challenge and I want to fill that gap.
Did you have any second thoughts?
I never entertained any doubts from the first day I got admission into the University of Ibadan. I wanted to be a Physiotherapist; I wanted to practice sports Physiotherapy. The vision was very clear in my head and then the driving force was that I used to have a friend whose father was a professor of Yoruba and he used to say to us jokingly, “Why would I want to be a Doctor when I can be a Professor? So from that time, I have always wanted to be a Professor of Physiotherapy.
How does one qualify to get to where you are now?
In the academic world, there is a clear and structured process and it is the same in all the fields, whether it is Medicine, Physiology or even History. You have to follow this regimented pattern and be prepared for a life of study because it is about imparting knowledge and mentoring people. After your first degree, you enter for your Masters, and PhD or if you are not lucky enough, you go for the M.Phil, then convert it to PhD.
Has there been anytime you were frustrated by medical school?
Well, there was a time I failed a course – Biochemistry. I had the ability to pass it but that particular course was a problem to me because I just did not like it and had no interest in it. So that was the only time in my academic life I got really frustrated but it was not enough to want to quit anyway. It wasn’t easy accepting the failure but such things happen.
Why do you think medical school is a struggle for even the best minds?
It is difficult to understand but when you probe further, the reasons are not so farfetched. The stress in medical school is just too much. There is too much workload, no light, no water, you have to wake up and trek miles to get water to take your bath. All these things affect your concentration no matter how good you are. For instance, I gave my lecture this morning without light and before we could power the generator, the class had gone halfway so you see, all these factors predispose.
What are challenges you face in the course of your practice?
The biggest of them is light. It is just too huge to ignore. You can hardly do anything without light; lecture notes, demonstrations, name it. Another is not having enough support from government and so-called stakeholders. For instance, two years ago, I was supposed to attend a conference in Monaco where I would have presented a paper on the pattern of injuries in Lagos state athletes. I ended up not going because the cost implication was too enormous. If it were in another country, there would have been a grant waiting for you somewhere but here, you have so many great ideas in your head but nobody to support you. Not the government; the corporate bodies are looking for the big boys that will give them maximum publicity and you are just a bloody lecturer from somewhere so it is a big challenge.
What is the standard of practice of Physiotherapy in Nigeria?
The standard has come up from low to average but we are not there yet. Right now in our hospitals, especially in Lagos state, we can boast of 60-70 percent of equipment required for our practice, so there is a certain level of awareness. Physiotherapy in Nigeria today is actually a lucrative profession unlike what it used to be. It is now at par with Pharmacy and other allied health profession, apart from Medicine. And speaking of remuneration, a Physiotherapist takes home almost the same amount as a resident Doctor or a general practitioner. That is because apart from his salary, he is a mobile clinic that does not need to be stationed at a place to make his living. For example, after closing hours, I consult in a private clinic. It is a specialty so nobody can do what we do. The surgeon does his best but must refer to us for complementary therapy and palliative measures, so the smart Physiotherapist of today is a millionaire by the grace of God.
“Let me say that I am moving on gear 4 already instead of gear 2.
Do you believe in the Nigerian factor and how does it affect you?
Yes, the Nigerian factor is something detrimental, frustrating and abnormal. And so it cannot be beneficial to anybody. But the positive aspect of it is that it makes us tougher and stronger. But then, that is just what we tell ourselves to get by because it is more detrimental than beneficial.
Any memorable experience?
That would be two years ago when I was honoured for the first time in front of a large number of people by the Provost of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos as the best graduating student of the pioneer set of M.Sc Physiotherapy with distinction. It was a proud day in my life.
What would you say is your greatest fear?
I believe in God with all my being and everything I do is for the Lord. So I do not see anything too big to overcome or too large to circumvent. With God all things are possible.
If you were not into Physiotherapy, what would you be doing?
I would have be a musician. Not just to be popular but because that is another passion for me. Although I would have been a producer because I am not a good singer.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I am a huge fan of soft rock and jazz with a bias for gospel although I listen to all types: Apala, Fela, etc. I even have an M.I CD in my car.
Where do we expect to see you in the next 5 years?
Let me say that I am moving on gear 4 already instead of gear 2. So I see myself tripling what I have now. By the end of this year, I should have 10-12 publications. So when you multiply that by five years, I should have about 40 publications which is actually enough to get you a professorship. My dream is to be a Professor by the age of 40, so I see myself getting very close to the climax of my profession even in the next three years.
How did the The Future Awards nomination come about?
I did not know anything about The Future Awards till last year and it was like ‘where have you been?’! My friend Dayo Osholowu, who was a past winner first gave me an idea and my girlfriend called my attention to it too. So I went to their website and saw some great things. Then my students told me they entered my name, maybe because I am the youngest lecturer ever in the department and my dynamic relationship with them. So it really started spreading to other classes and then I was nominated. I must say that I caught on and I really wanted to win.
What does being young and Nigerian mean to you?
You can be a young Nigerian, an achiever and proud achiever for that matter.
What do you love most about being Nigerian?
The fact that there is still so much to be explored. I believe Nigeria is still green and there is a lot to do for whoever cares to find out. Everything may look upside down but if you have patience and discipline, you will excel.