By Festus Ahon
Determined to make healthcare accessible and affordable for her people, Dr. Isioma Okobah, a board-certified, licensed family physician in the State of Georgia, United States of America, built a world-class hospital, First Delta America Hospital, FDAH, in Asaba, Delta State.
Okobah said one of the reasons the facility was established is to discourage medical tourism among Deltans and Nigerians at large. She said that equipment at the hospital is of global standard.
Disclosing that the hospital started operations in 2019 at a three-bed space, Okobah said the need for expansion from the three-bed space to the present 20-bed space was to enable them to deliver more quality and efficient healthcare to the people.
She said: “I started a clinic called First Lithonia Medical Center. So, First Delta American Hospital has a parent called First Lithonia Medical Center in Atlanta Georgia, United States of America. It also has an older sibling called the Stephen Okoh Memorial Hospital, which is situated in Igbodo in Ika North-East of Delta State. It is nonprofit, and offers free medical services to indigenes of Igbodo and beyond.
“I started the First Lithonia Medical Center in 2005 and four years later in 2009, I felt the desire to go back to my home town, Igbodo, and also to my husband’s town Onicha-Ugbo for medical outreach.
“Since 2009, I have been going there with medical doctors from America and offering medical services yearly. Then I thought to myself in 2011, that we just come, spend two weeks, give medication and we are gone. We don’t come again till December of another year. So, what happens to the patients in between?
“And that gave birth to the older sibling, the Stephen Okoh Memorial Hospital in Igbodo. It was built in 2011 and commissioned in February 2012 by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who was the Senate Committee Chairman on Health at the time.
“The hospital still offers free medical services. We have doctors and nurses working. In 2017, Governor Okowa appointed me as the Chairman of Delta State Primary Health care Development Agency and the Executive Assistant on e-Health. So, that necessitated my relocation to Nigeria. But the other two hospitals are still operational till date.
“In the course of my stay from 2017 to 2019, I thought about the need to provide quality health care close to the community where people don’t have to travel to America, England, or Canada to access quality and efficient health care. The dream to set up First Delta American Hospital emerged from there.
“On September 1, 2019, we opened the doors of First Delta American Hospital. We started with a four-bed hospital and started serving the community, Delta State and beyond because we have patients who come from Anambra and Enugu states and other surrounding states to the hospital.
“Our four-bed hospital space was no longer enough and then came the need to expand. What we have today is the commissioning of the growth and expansion of the First Delta American Hospital because we have 20 beds in our current space and we have improved our infrastructure. We have an intensive care unit now with ventilators, a radiology department, and digital x-ray in addition to ultrasound and ECG.
“If we recall when Covid-19 pandemic started, it brought to the front burner the urgent need for us to improve our healthcare services in Nigeria. There may come a time when we cannot travel out of our country anymore. It happened with the Covid-19 pandemic. At that point, we became dependent on what we had in our country.
“It is important that we provide quality health care services to our communities because we may be the people needing the services.
“Also, with the advent of medical technologies where we are embracing telemedicine which is an innovation in medicine, you can consult with your patients either through videos, telemedicine, or audio and make your diagnosis and treat your patients.
“Covid-19 brought a lot of knowledge that we are using now. We consult with our patients in America and for patients here too. They can equally consult with doctors in America through our telemedicine platform and that is the First Delta American Hospital in a nutshell.’’
On the choice of Asaba, she said: “I have been out of this country for over two decades. When I got the yearning to come home, it was to come to Delta State because I am from Delta State and to go to a rural community first because I saw the need to beat that inequality in healthcare in the rural communities. That was what gave birth to the Stephen Okoh Hospital which is part of the Dr. Isioma Okobah Foundation.
“When I came back to serve as the Chairman of the Delta State Primary Health Care Development Agency, I chose to live in Asaba. Looking at the geographical area, I saw there was the need to site the First Delta American Hospital in Asaba. In all of these that I was doing, I was driven by the Holy Spirit. That is where all these visions and directions come from.
“I prayed very seriously about them and asked God to direct my choices and decisions. The choice of Asaba, most likely, emanated from one being from Delta State.
“Asaba has an airport and so people can fly into Asaba and people can come from the east and Edo State. We even have patients who come from Edo State. Asaba is a good location to situate the First Delta American Hospital”.
On the idea behind the name, Okobah said: “It has an affiliation with the American medical system. We have telemedicine through which patients can consult with doctors in America in any specialty. If you wish to do so, you can have a tele visit with doctors in America as they consult.
“That is innovative and that is one of the things we are bringing to the table. The name means we are first, we are first in Delta, and we are affiliated with the American medical system. Our patients are treated when they walk through the doors of First Delta American Hospital. We can also give them home services. We can go to their houses and consult with them.’’
On what she wants to do differently, Okobah said: “First Delta American Hospital has a vision to continually be a leader in health and wellness using innovative technologies such as telemedicine, providing quality, effective healthcare to all Deltans and Nigerians. Once we put this vision in place, that means we provide personalized healthcare services to our patients and every patient is being individualized.
“From the front desk to the nurses and doctors, our team is topnotch and very professional. We make sure that our patients are taken care of in a very professional manner.’’
Okobah is a medical doctor who graduated from the prestigious University of Benin,UNIBEN, College of Medicine Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria, with a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery.
After serving her one-year mandatory internship and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), she proceeded to Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta Georgia, where she earned her Masters Degree in Public Health ,MPH.
She spent her Residency in Family medicine at Emory University Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
Okobah is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, the
Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates and the Nigerian Medical Council.
She is highly involved in several volunteer and community services. Okobah is also a member of several professional societies including The American Academy of Family Physician and Georgia Academy of Family Physicians. She is presently the CEO/MD, First Lithonia Medical Center, Atlanta Georgia USA. She is also the Founder of Dr. Isioma Okobah Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes living a healthy lifestyle.