THRICE his life was at stake while propagating the concept of Invitro Fertilisation (IVF) in Nigeria, but today, he is rest assured Nigerians need not seek IVF treatment abroad.
This statement sums up the travails of Dr. Ibrahim Wada from the Gwagwalada General Hospital, Federal Capital Territory to NISSA Premier Hospital, Jabi, Abuja, from where he now oversees the Garki General Hospital, Wada, Abuja. He opens up to Abayomi Adeshida. Excerpts:
Motivation into medicine
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From early childhood, I had bias towards any medical stories in the press. That was the earliest inkling I had towards my future, anytime I read the papers and anything I read about doctors, I just cut it and paste it on my little wall. Then of course, my performance in school made people to start calling me doctor, it was more or less expected. I found myself in medical school almost as a predestined situation, and then I became a gynaecologist ultimately as a choice.
I chose the option of fertility in terms of IVF because as I was training, i realised there was a group of women desperate to have children and IVF was the only way out.
That inspired me. If I was not a doctor, I would have been a cleric, Imam or something like that because of the extent to which I fear God, and the extent to which I see the balance of nature beyond human comprehension and the awesomeness of God and I have continued to learn it and to teach it, so I have continued to thank God for choosing my path for me along these two professions.
Challenges as a doctor
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Well, I like to look at myself as somebody who came from the very basic level of life in Nigeria in the early sixties. I remember as a child in primary school, I used to farm for my food, not just to sell, but I used to go to the farm with another more senior boy, and as it came out, I virtually toiled for everything that we ate. Apart from that after school I used to hawk, I used to sell things for my mother, so how more basic can you get? I was used to the life of hardship and that saw me through virtually the whole of my education to the medical school.
Introduction of fertility treatment into Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital
I look back at how everything was against me and against this new idea that I had brough in this part of the country. I faced challenges from every side, even from the people themselves. I paid a heavy price, but I thank God it was not with my life; although three times, I remember, my life was on the line.
But I knew if I had taken one more step forward I'd be gone, Almighty God brought me back to life and success is now the story.
I never knew I'd live to see the first test-tube baby. The storm around me was so much I thought maybe just before that day like the biblical Moses, I may not see the promised land. But God preserved me to even see her grow.
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There were serious challenges. I joined the National Hospital in 1999, the first test-tube baby in that hospital was born in 2007; about eight year's journey! I fought that and I didn't give up. So, the success of my actual return to Nigeria was the birth of the first test-tube baby at the National Hospital, a public institution because that's what I came for!
In all honesty, I didn't board the plane from England to come and open a hospital in Nigeria; my background does not allow that. I am the last business man in the whole country because if I can treat everybody free, I'll do it. Ask any staff I am the non-business man amongst them, I am the one who'll say let them go, or give discount, I don't use business sense to run this place. Mine is success.
Technology has many facets; one man does not make it alone. Everybody has a portion to fill; so, when I came back, I knew I still needed complementary assistance. It took me the best part of three, four years to break all the difficulties that our system posses against high-tech medicine. Now I have learnt enough of how to conquer the problems of bringing high-tech medicines into the country that I started to teach other Nigerians what I knew even though, it wasn't easy.
Success of IVF in Nigeria
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Today's IVF treatment is high tech. I think we've broken it down to its simple state that Nigeria is at world class level, other entrants have confidence to come in.
I mean yes, there were a few units in Lagos then, but now its spreading like wild fire. I think its not just what I have done, but what the knock-on effect of my life and achievements have brought on the entire country.
So, in our own Centre here, I cannot recall the exact count, but I stopped counting when 1,000 families were affected, because it was my mission after the first child was born to let her life touch 1,000 lives. Everyday we record successes, I am not doing daily count, but I am aware we are well above 1,000 successful births.
Cost and access
One nagging problem that may not just be wished away by those of us who are engaged in this business is the run away exchange rates and the fact that we are producing nothing among the high-tech medicine we use in this country and we are going to live with this problem for so many more decades. No group is working on it now! The materials are here but nobody is developing the market, thereby, the major things we need, scanners, incubators, medications, are all imported. That means we are subject to variations in value of naira to foreign currencies.
I think that's a key issue; the other key issue of course is that we have to pay heavy import duties to bring these things in. Most countries have exempted Medicare items from import duties, but it is not so in Nigeria.
Regulation of the practice
We are working on an Association and basically, it is concerned about the ethics in this kind of medical practice. We are trying to get a charity funded IVF project for the poor to come up at Garki; We've started on a small scale but I can see a future for it too because there may be good-hearted Nigerians who would say okay, I want to donate this huge amount towards what you are doing so that poor people could enjoy IVF services. So, we are hoping that far, so people could get to access this technology.