BY ANINO AGANBI
Behold the first female gynecologist that ever worked at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH!
Dr(Mrs)Adebola Okoisor who has since retirement in 1998 devoted her essence to caring for her grandchildren and mentoring the younger generation, turned 80 in May 2014. Her gaiety and demeanor however belly this milestone. Adebola who sits on the board of various organizations, including Action Health Incorporation, had an encounter with Feminista. Enjoy!
How does it feel to be 80?
I thank God for bringing me this far. It has been quite an experience. It makes you want to sit back and reflect on all you have done and contributed in life, and what life has given to you in return.
What was growing up like?
Childhood was really interesting. When I tell my grandchildren tales about what used to happen when we were young, they laugh at me, saying my parents must have been very poor. Because there was no means of transportation then, I had to walk to school and back home. Apart from education, there was discipline. It was more like an extended family kind of life where if you misbehaved, you get punished by anyone. Punishment was worse if the report gets to your house. We were taught that family name was valuable.
As an Ijebu woman, how has marriage to a Deltan been?
It has been lovely. You gain from the ideas of two cultures, the Igbo and Yoruba culture. There is really not much difference between both cultures. I remember when I first told my parents, they were vehemently against me marrying an Igbo man. Eventually, they met some of my husband’s friends and relatives and discovered they speak Yoruba fluently since they grew up in the west. I think we are the pioneers of such mixed marriages and we have been able to uphold it without any calamity. Generally, people are afraid of the unknown but it all depends on compromise. It is usually parents who are scared though.
What made you choose to be a gynecologist?
My dream was to become an air hostess. Since my parents did not approve of it, I had to think of a profession that would enable me serve people and one I would enjoy. I thought if I did obstetrics, I would be looking after pregnant women and when the babies come, there would be happiness. I felt sorry for women in labour and wanted to bring a form of satisfaction to them. The moment a woman delivers, she forgets about the pains she went through. That little bundle of happiness she holds means the world to her.
What has changed in the medical profession between your working years and now?
The medical profession itself has not changed. It is the people running the profession who have. When we qualified as doctors, what was impressed on us was to render service. The monetary aspect did not come into it at all. We never went into misdiagnosing patients just to get more money. These days, you find the young ones being more interested in the monetary aspect of medicine than actually rendering service to people. I sacked one of my doctors because of such happenings. When I ran my private hospital, money was not my reason for setting it up. I opened my centre because I wanted people to be happy with the services they met as opposed to other hospitals. The value in the society has been put down. If doctors are well paid anyway, I believe they would not neglect their patients or engage in costly mistakes.
How were you able to carve a niche for yourself in a career that was dominated by men?
In obstetrics and gynecology, there was no discrimination. While at LUTH from 1968 to 1978 where I was the first female gynecologist, there were a few people who felt I should go and take care of my husband and children. I however eventually set up my own maternity like I said, after resigning from LUTH in 1978. It was called Bolheur Maternity.
How were you able to combine marriage and career successfully?
It all depends on your husband and being on happy terms with each other. Sometimes when I was in the hospital, my husband will look after the children. In those days, we were able to get good house keepers to help out at home. It wasn’t easy though. You are not only holding one job but two. You are holding your profession, the care of your children, and house keeping. Sometimes, I had to sleep in the hospital and people would ask my husband why he allowed me sleep there. There was trust and compromise, and my husband never stood in my way.
What have you been doing since retirement?
Since retirement, I have focused more on my grand children. I have also derived satisfaction in being the house keeper, educationist and house wife. Another thing that has kept me going is my gym. I enjoy going to the gym. It keeps me fit.
If you could change anything about your past, what will it be?
I would have loved to have a situation where women can have their health properly monitored, not only during pregnancy but for their overall well-being. My joy now would be for government to set up an institution where women can have free anti-natal care so as to cut down on maternal-child mortality.