Practice makes perfect — training the next generation of Nigeria's health workers

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A depiction of Dr. Adeola Adekunle and three specialists in cleft surgery and care from Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Lagos, Nigeria.

“Surgical training is like an apprenticeship,” says Dr. Adeola Adekunle, a 35-year-old trainee surgeon at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. “You have to learn by practice. You have to learn by watching and then trying to do what you have learned.”

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Learn more about Adekunle’s journey and the challenges facing Nigeria’s health workforce.

One of the participants in a fellowship program supported by the West African College of Surgeons and Smile Train, Adekunle’s professional education and ongoing training improve his skills and confidence. But the program also aims to encourage him, along with other young doctors and specialists from West Africa, to stay in Nigeria — despite the attraction of earning more and working in better-equipped facilities overseas.

Training Nigerian health workers also means more patients are able to receive quality care closer to home, without having to travel abroad and without the pressure of finding the money to do so.

Even the chaos caused by COVID-19 has not stopped Adekunle’s training, despite some setbacks. Students and lecturers alike have managed to adapt with the help of technology, although challenges remain.

This is not the first time they have had to come up with new ways of doing things. As Dr. Olugbemiga Ogunlewe, one of Adekunle’s trainers who also serves as chief cleft surgeon and head of LUTH’s cleft care team, says: “Change is the only constant. As a health care practitioner, you have to move with the times.”

Access the visual story to learn more about Adekunle’s journey and the challenges facing Nigeria’s health workforce.

Visit the Duty of Care series for more coverage on how health systems can function better so that health care workers are supported and protected. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #DutyOfCare.

About the author

  • Linus Unah

    Linus Unah is a Nigerian journalist covering global health, conflict, agriculture, and development. His work has appeared in The Guardian, IRIN, NPR, NewsDeeply, The Christian Science Monitor, among others.