By Florence Amagiya
Dr. Ifeoma Monye (FRCGP, MRCGP, DCH, DRCOG, DFFP) is chief consultant, family physician at the National Hospital, Abuja. She pioneered the establishment of that department in 2003 which now ranks as a premier at the hospital. Dr. Monye was head of the department between January 2003 to July 2013. In 2014, she founded the Brookfield Centre for Lifestyle Medicine. Her career focuses on preventing, treating and reversing the causes of chronic diseases, with the application of conventional medicine and lifestyle changes.
Today, Dr. Monye who has distinguished herself in the medical profession is a member of the Society for Family Physicians of Nigeria, Lifestyle Medicine Association of Nigeria, American College of Lifestyle Medicine, European Society of Lifestyle Medicine and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners, United Kingdom. Apart from a fulfilled career choice, Dr. Monye who just added one year to her age is a celebrated mother, a devoted wife, a caring sister and a quintessential philanthropist. Enjoy!
Dr. Ifeoma Monye hails from Onicha-Olona in Delta State. She is the fifth of seven children and was raised in a strict Christian home. Her parents, Sir and Lady Jonathan Obiajulu Keshi who were members of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Onicha-Olona State were renowned teachers who rose through the ranks to become headmasters in their different schools before retiring. Young Ifeoma and her siblings were taught from childhood on how to express love to one another. Perhaps, this explains her innate interest from childhood in the business of caring for people. As a toddler, Ifeoma was shown so much love by everybody around her. Though not so fragile as a child, her mother feared that she might be spanked by her elder siblings that she had to carry her to school, her place of work every day.
Ifeoma recounted the episode that led to her enrollment into primary school. According to her, her mum was teaching primary one at that time. She would place her on a desk while she taught. In the process, little Ifeoma was learning virtually all that the mother was teaching. However when it was time for the promotional exam, Ifeoma who was barely four years old insisted on writing the exam with the other students even though she was not yet enrolled into the school.
To the chagrin of her parents and the school teachers, Ifeoma came out second position. That demonstration of brilliance earned her a promotion from non-student of the school to primary two.
This scholarly display trailed her footsteps all through her life as she finished medical school at the tender age of 21, a feat which was rare to accomplish during her time. She attended Pilgrim Baptist Primary School, Issele-Uku in Delta State, from where she proceeded to the Federal Government Girls’ College, Abuloma in Rivers State. She got admission into the University of Benin to study medicine. Upon graduation in 1987, she went for her compulsory National Youth Service Corps programme. She travelled to the United Kingdom for post-graduate training in paediatrics and child health. She thereafter did her residency in family medicine in the United Kingdom.
Upon her return from the United Kingdom, Ifeoma was confronted with the first challenge of how to reconcile both African and Western cultures.
There was no department of family medicine in Abuja, where she was employed. So, she was faced with the herculean task of starting the first one at the National Hospital. It took three and half years for her to set up. It started from January 1, 2003, when she resumed till June 2006 when the department was pronounced.
Dr. Monye is an expert in paediatrics and child health, obstetrics and gynaecology respectively. Before the creation of Brookfield Centre, there was no centre for lifestyle medicine in Nigeria and indeed in the whole of Africa, including South Africa.
So she was again in the frontiers of pioneering a new field of medicine in Nigeria.
She and her team had to invest so much in knowledge accession and acquisition in established countries like the US, the UK and the rest of Europe, Israel, Dubai, to mention a few. The challenge of setting up Brookfield Centre was an uphill task, but she finally got it right through God’s intervention and sheer hard work. Dr. Ifeoma Monye worked as the head of department between January 2003 and July 2013.
“I have always agreed with Napoleon Bonaparte who said that ‘impossibility is only to be found in the dictionary of fools’ and I will add lazy people. There is nothing unachievable if you set your mind, heart and intellect to it. How would a four-year-old nonenrollee have the courage to sit in an exam with regular pupils, and also expect to achieve something? It was simply and squarely belief. Just believe you have the capacity to say to this mountain ‘move’ and it would move. Medicine as a course is for people who believe they are well above average. So you must put yourself in that pedestal. Books must be read and diligently, too. There must be self discipline. Before all these though, you must put yourself within the confines of the grace of God. The choice is really yours.”