By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
Dr.(Mrs.)Dumebi Owa, a Dental Surgeon and trained health counsellor, is a multiple Masters Degree holder in Public Health, Environmental Management and Public Administration. After her first degree at the University of Ibadan, she had gone to the UK where she got married and had her children.
While there, she worked as a Market Researcher, and since her return to Nigeria with her family, she has pitched her tent with the Ministry of Defence. In this interview, Dr.Dumebi who is also the current President of the Medical Women’s Association, Nigeria-MWAN, Lagos Chapter, laments poor dental health awareness in Nigeria and speaks on MWAN’s activities, among sundry issues.
From your experience, how much awareness do you think Nigerians have about dental health?
Health wise, Nigerians are poorly informed, but when it comes to dental healthcare, it is worse. Dental health awareness in Nigeria is very low, and that’s why I like talking to people about it at every given opportunity. How many of us know that we’re supposed to brush our teeth after breakfast and not before breakfast?
Yes, you ought to have brushed before going to bed at night because the essence of brushing is to remove the food particles in your mouth! When you eat and get full, you rush to the toilet to pass out wastes, and that’s also what happens in your mouth! We all have millions of micro-organisms in our mouth, so, when we eat and leave food particles there, it is like we’ve called them to party!
They will eat, get full, and then pass out wastes in the form of acid, which then starts decaying the tooth and leaving you with mouth odours and others. Actually, I’ve noticed an increase in incidences of caries and other tooth ailments because our diet has changed; with a lot of junk food all-over town.
We’re what we eat, so, this is affecting our teeth. The mouth happens to be the mirror of the body, and that’s why you could even detect certain diseases by examining the mouth. There’s a lot of hardwork to be done on health issues in this part of the world. Government cannot do it all; people should learn to support in their little ways. If foreigners could contribute their hard-earned money to send down to us as aid in Nigeria, why can’t the rich among us also help the less privileged?
But what have you done in your own little corner to enhance dental health?
Like I always say, it took only two people to spread syphilis round the world. In my own corner, I’ve tried to be as helpful as I could. If you come consult met, you would know what I’m talking about; I do not attend to my patients in a hurry! When I was growing up, I once overheard a woman complaining that she had not finished talking to her doctor before he gave her prescriptions.
So, now that I’m a doctor, I believe strongly that my patients have to be listened to! I spend time with them because they must have confidence in me as their doctor, having entrusted their lives in my hand! Even though you’ve come for toothache, I will talk about your teeth, breasts and cervix if you’re a woman, blood pressure, etc. If you’re above 40 years, I automatically refer you for Prostate Specific Antigen test because prostrate issues are on the increase and the older you get, the higher your risks.
How are you coping with your position as Lagos MWAN President?
Waoo! People think MWAN is a full-time job now! Since I took over nine months ago, we’ve had activities like never before. We’ve conducted free screenings for diabetes and high-blood pressure on market men and women at Oyingbo. We marked the World No Tobacco Day with the Federal College of Education, and we also were at the Federal Technical College at Yaba to raise more awareness about HIV/AIDs.
We were at the Methodist Girls School to mentor the girls, and were also at the Old People’s Home on World Health Day to give free medical services. On World Prison Day, we went to the Kirikiri Prisons. During the laser fever insurgence, we were on air sensitizing the public.
Also, we’re collaborating with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital to carry out free mammogram screening and also free surgeries for children with cleft palette and lips. People who require cataract surgery will also be treated at very subsidized costs, with lenses also given to them.
These are products of our collaboration with LUTH. We also observed the month of October set aside for cancer awareness. In September, we collaborated with the Lagos State chapter of the International Federation of Female Lawyers on a health outreach in Makoko.
Personally, I do not like watching people suffering. I feel so much pain, so, from what I observed there, MWAN is going back to Makoko in a bigger form, to bring succour to the community. I therefore implore well-meaning Nigerians and companies to assist.
MWAN has no activity on dental health on her list…?
We’ve been organising dental screenings, and we’re still planning a school health visit. You know, some time ago, groups used to visit schools to examine the teeth and nails of pupils, but they hardly do that now. So, we’re planning to revive that. Because MWAN is quite encompassing, having specialists in different health areas, we’ll sensitise them on different health issues as well.
How would you rate the percentage of women specialising in the sciences these days?
aUp women!! We’re doing very well in this regard, and I’m encouraged. We have an increasing number in women Mathematicians, Doctors, etc. and these women have continued to work extra-hard to prove their worth.