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The unhealthy insinuation of the Nigerian medical doctors

By Chris Agbiti

One thing that I find curious about the Nigerian Medical doctors anytime I find myself at the corridor of our many health centres, (or is death centres?) is their paradoxical display of aristocratic gaiety as they strut our health landscapes in the performance of their work before their patients who usually watch in helpless submissions.

It is this assumed position of a Professional Prince in the health sector that undoubtedly informs the Medical Doctors’ mindset that the health sector, as vast and as widely embracing as it is, is their Principality whose firmament they alone must bestride like the legendary colossus, to the exclusion of all others in the family tree.

Nowhere was the foregoing more eloquently displayed than the recent comment accredited to the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association by the media where the Medical Association was quoted as bitterly complaining of the non inclusion of any Medical Doctor in the list of the ministerial nominees currently undergoing screening at the national Assembly.

While one would have allowed the statement to pass one of those struggles by professional bodies for relevance if not for the added clincher as to what becomes of the Health Ministry without a named Medical Doctor making the list of the ministerial nominees, and therefore insinuating thereof that even with the like of Professor Dora Akunyuli, an accomplished professor of Pharmacy, being not a Medical Doctor, is not qualified to head the Health Ministry.

It is befuddling, to say the least, that our Medical Doctors are yet to appreciate and situate their functions within the context of global conception of “Health” which the World Health Organization has espoused and globally endorsed since 1948 to be “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

By this conception of health to include also the social and psychological well-being of the individual or the society at large, it is therefore rather sophomoric and parochial for our Medical Doctors to arrogantly continue to hang on to the opinion that Health Ministry must continue to be their exclusive preserve while experts in other areas of health such as Professor Dora Akunyuli as aforementioned and Professor Ogoh Aluboh, a Professor of Health Sociology, to mention but a few instances, should never be made to head the Health Ministry.

Nigerian Medical Doctors must be reminded that the civilized world has since moved beyond the archaic and primordial thinking of looking at health issues from the narrow prism of the activities associated only with the white coat and stethoscope to exploring by intellectual intercourse, the relevance and interplay of other interrelated fields of study in health. It is instructive that it is this shift in paradigm that informs the offering of post graduate studies such as Masters in Health Policy, for instance, even to non health professionals, in some of the world renowned universities such as Harvard.

Furthermore, it may interest the Nigerian Medical Doctors that civilized nations of the world with the best health management systems have all subscibed to this values of conceiving health as an area requiring extensive multidisciplinary inputs. A few examples may suffice. Canada, reputed to have one of the best health management systems in the world has Leona Anglukkaq heading its Health Ministry.

Her only qualification is a Master of Public Administration. In US, from where we copied our presidential system, the comets are still blazing forth the monumental achievement recorded by Obama in the recent passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill. The face behind the mask that made possible the synthesis of ideas leading to the aforesaid Health Reform is no other than Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary of Health. She has, wait for it, a Bsc in Political science and a Masters in Public Administrations! In UK, Andy Bunham, a Masters Degree holder in English is the Health Secretary, the equivalent of Minister of health in Nigeria.

With all these obtaining in other civilized world with excellent Health management systems as compared to our parlous health situation, what then is the unnecessary fuss being generated by our Doctors all about? Or is a case of being more catholic than the Pope? If it is, then they may as well  be reminded that the hood does not make the monk.


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