Highly regarded as a genius of the medical profession and one of the leading specialists in Interventional Radiology in the United Kingdom, Prof Reuben Oluwakinmilehin Obaro has indeed made Nigeria proud within and beyond the shores of the country.
For this, he was recently decorated by the Nigeria-British Awards Institute as a life-achiever, a honour well-deserved for working assiduously to elevate the state of health care both in the diaspora and in his home-country.
The Nigerian British Awards is an annual event where Nigerians from different walks of life are honoured and celebrated globally for their great feats and achievements in different spheres. Since the maiden awards ceremony kicked off in 2000, with Prof Yemi Osinbajo (then Attorney General of Lagos State) as one of the first set of honorees, the platform, year-in, year-out, has grown to become a vital instrumental in celebrating Nigerians seen to be making landmark progress in their various fields of human endeavour, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Prof Obaro is another proof that Nigerians have continued to contribute immensely to medical practice across the globe, even though they do not often get deserving treatment in their country. As an alumnus of Government Secondary School, Kano, King’s College Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University Nigeria, Prof Obaro has spent over 40 years of his life in the UK, where he honed the skills that have made him renowned in his profession and has made him a Radiologist of global acclaim.
Obaro obtained Post Graduate training in Radiology in some of the most prestigious hospitals in the United Kingdom. He bagged a Fellowship to specialise in Interventional Radiology—using radiology to treat conditions such as blocked arteries—in Toronto, Canada and thereafter, attained the privilege of being the first full trained black Radiologist in that field in the UK. He became a highly sought-after Consultant Radiologist and subsequently Head of Department, King George Hospital, London. For several years, he has also functioned as a Director of three Healthcare provider outfits in the UK- Rubidos Limited, Mact-Bridge The Gap Limited and Rashot Limited.
MACT-BRIDGE THE GAP, a UK registered family charity which he co-owns with his wife, a nurse, Mrs Ayodele Obaro, is dedicated to bridging the gap in Medicine, Agriculture, Culture and Technology between Nigeria and the West through medical missions, supply of free medical equipment, scholarships, etc. and orphanages and prison support in Nigeria.
“When I lived in Nigeria, it never crossed my mind to stay in this country for more than five years,” he says. “All I wanted was to have my training in radiology and go back home. What changed was the political situation at home – the military governments, the general instability.”
Despite doing so well in the UK, he has remained firmly attached to his roots and has been at the forefront of promoting causes that can advance the image of the country, using his knowledge of his profession as a point of strength. “I have given the most productive years of my working life to Britain. Even if I give just a few years to Nigeria and impart some of the skills and knowledge I have acquired, I could make some tremendous changes,” Obaro also said.
Some of the several ways he has demonstrated commitment, include his decision to set up a Radiology Department in a teaching Hospital in Nigeria and then, take up the role of a visiting professor of Radiology in another Teaching Hospital.
Professor Obaro instigated the founding of Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain (MANSAG) in 1997 and became its 2nd President to galvanise Nigerian doctors in the UK into a potent force for advocacy and welfare of Nigerians. Some of MANSAG’s activities over the years include the provision of medical books to Nigerian Universities as well as the donation of truckloads of medical equipment to primary health care centres in Nigeria.
As a stroke-care expert, has often lamented on the state of Nigeria’s health sector and the country’s lack of a dedicated stroke-centre despite escalating cases of deaths from stroke. This spurred him and his wife to set up a stroke centre with the help of the government. This was an ambitious intervention that was not only stalled and frustrated, but nearly cost him his hard-earned reputation, embroiling him in a conspiracy orchestrated with support from an agency of the government itself.
He has served on several committees promoting Nigerian interest over the years including as the Secretary, Sight Savers International (Nigeria Fund Raising Committee) under Dr.Kolade and Sir Burton that raised $1.8 million over two years to reinforce Sight Savers International work in Northern Nigeria. He was also a Foundation member and co-founder of Nigerian Leadership Initiative; Secretary, Healthcare Subcommittee, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) at inception and subsequently, Chairman UK-SOUTH.
The famous professor of Radiology once revealed that his father, also a nurse, who at some point in his life worked at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, inspired him to study medicine. After young Obaro graduated, he was allocated a one-year job as a house officer at a rural district hospital in Kano in northern Nigeria. This was before he began to practice at Murtala Mohammed Hospital, in Kano, the place he worked before leaving Nigeria.
“They had not had any doctors for years,” he says. “It was fantastic. We had to take responsibility. For a young doctor fresh out of medical school there were lots of intellectual and professional challenges. I was the first qualified medical person they had. I had to deal with all sorts – minor cases, complex cases that I had no clue about at that stage.
Years down the line, Prof Olu Obaro has no doubt been to the field of Radiology, what the world-renowned Ben Carson has been to Neuroscience. He is a Nigerian worthy of emulation, and it is great to see him honoured in his lifetime.