Dr Olachi Ndukwe graduated with distinction from the College of Medicine of Imo State University and was the overall best student in her set. She tells CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA what she did to break the medical college’s academic record
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Dr Olachi Sandra Ndukwe. I’m from Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. I am a graduate of Imo State University College of Medicine.
Why did you study Medicine?
I studied to become a medical doctor primarily because I want to take care of my family. Also, Medicine is a noble profession which commands respect. I wish to be respected as a female doctor in my chosen field of specialty.
What CGPA did you graduate with?
Faculty of Medicine, unlike other faculties, does not use the CGPA grading system. Rather, the MB examination results are presented as “Fail,” “Pass” or “Pass with Distinction.” I made distinction and I was the overall best student in my set.
The pass mark in Medicine is 50 per cent while a distinction requires one to score 70 per cent and above. And that is not easy to obtain. Out of my class of almost 90 student, only two persons made distinction. And in the history of the school, that’s the first time they were recording a distinction in Medicine. It took a lot of hard work, pain, and grace to achieve that. The MB examinations generally involve written and oral examinations, including face-to-face examination with life patients in the clinical years, in the presence of internal and external examiners. I really worked hard and I was determined to make my family proud. I knew if I worked hard and if I was determined, I was going make a difference in my generation.
Were there times you almost gave up?
There were really difficult and challenging times but giving up wasn’t an option. When I started medical school, I just fell in love with saving lives. So, I was determined to see it through.
Did you get prizes as the overall best student in your set?
I received an award for getting a distinction in Medicine; three awards for being best student in Paediatrics; two awards for being best student in Physiology; and one for being best student in Biochemistry. In total, I bagged seven awards at our induction ceremony. The awards were for best and most outstanding student in these courses.
Were these your targets when you gained admission into the university?
On obtaining an admission into medical school, I had no clue as to what the courses entailed. Of course, I knew it would require a lot of sacrifice and hard work but I didn’t even know about distinction and all that. My mindset was to pass; failure wasn’t an option for me. It was later along the line that I realised that one could bag a distinction.
Can you explain exactly how you felt when you were invited to the podium and given all those prizes on your induction day?
I felt excited and proud of the success God helped me to achieve. And at the same time I felt humbled because an enormous responsibility has been entrusted to me, to be a role model for aspiring young men and women. And indeed I’m most grateful to God, because He alone made this possible. It is also reassuring to know that the hard work I put into my studies was rewarded with excellent performances and the various awards I received.
Was studying Medicine your childhood ambition?
My childhood ambition was actually to become a lawyer. Later I developed a desire to be an astronaut. Growing up, being a doctor remained a remote possibility until I was a teenager.
How easy was it getting admission to study Medicine?
Obtaining admission to study Medicine, as we already know, is very difficult. So, I won’t say it was easy. I was offered admission on merit.
Did you win any scholarship in school?
Yes, I was on Agbami Scholarship from my second year till my final year. I wrote the exam and passed.
Did you have similar performance in your previous schools?
My alma mater is the Federal Girls Government College, Umuahia, Abia State. I was a brilliant chap. Some of us, including myself, were hosted for making the best results in WASSCE.
Graduating with distinction in Medicine, as you have explained, is obviously a no mean feat. What was your reading schedule like?
In the early stages of my training, it appeared a bit too complex for me. But as the years rolled by, I figured out how best to study. I consistently made an effort to sleep as early as 7-8pm each day. Once it’s 11pm-12am, I’m awake and I’d start reading. I sometimes read till 6am. You must understand this pattern was unique to me as each one must discover what works best for him/her. I didn’t really have a time table of what topic to read. I was very spontaneous and the cases I saw in the hospital largely determined what I would read each day. However, there were times I would read in excess of 16 hours, especially during the weekends. I just locked myself indoors and read as long as I could.
How often did you use the library?
I wasn’t a library person. I always slept off the few times I was in the library as it was very quiet and sleep-inducing for me. So, I rarely used it. But our library was quite good and served many others who found it conducive for them. I preferred reading alone, either in my room or class. Library wasn’t my thing.
Were you involved in other things apart from academic work?
Yes. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. Medical school can be stressful, but anytime I felt saturated, I would take a break. It was not all work and no play. In the beginning, I was a loner, but towards the tail end of the programme, I met amazing friends. I was involved in politics. I was one time vice-president of the medical students association. I was also involved in the Nigerian Medical Students Association. I also started my online medical blogging, entrepreneurship, graphic designs and other things.
Were you in a relationship while in school or did you consider it a distraction?
Relationship can only distract one who wants to be distracted. I never wanted to marry as a student, but it didn’t stop me from being in a relationship.
What were your most memorable moments in school?
The times I saw my results, after every exam. I was always happy seeing my grades.
When you were young, were there times your parents coerced you to be serious or you had always been that serious?
My parents are both teachers. Far back as a child, I remember my dad giving me money and buying me gifts for my excellent performance in school. I remember a certain day, I was probably five or six years old, when my dad asked me to name the states in Nigeria and their capitals. I did it, effortlessly. He gave me money and still took me to a popular restaurant as a reward. My parents made us love reading. Throughout my primary school education, I always finished the term top of my class; the exception occurred once in Primary Five when I finished second in class. I cried from my school to my house. My mum told me to stop, that I should work harder next term, that I was a brilliant chap. She said taking the first or second position didn’t mean anything. But I was actually crying because I felt I had disappointed them.
They motivated me to always be at my best. My parents wanted us to be brilliant, but they never coerced us. I remember my dad always inviting me to his room to teach me when I was in nursery and primary schools. My parents are academics; they introduced me to reading at a very early stage. And that has been my hobby basically.
Can you capture the way your parents felt when they heard about your result?
My parents were very happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better way of making them proud. They are so proud of my achievements.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I’m currently working at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. In the future, I intend to do a master’s degree programme and advance my career to the greatest height I can possibly achieve. I aspire to be a professor someday and also, a specialist in my area of interest.
What do you think students need to do to have your kind of excellent result?
All they need is hard work, determination, and the grace of God. It’s not going to be easy, but it is achievable.
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