ANPA at 25 …
I first heard of you in 1995 while a Jnr General Surgery Resident rotating at Riverside County Hospital, CA. I was at the nurses’ station writing in a patient’s chart (yes, doctors wrote with their hands before EMR). Along came a gentle Attending noting my last name paused to find out more about me. I hadn’t met a Nigerian physician in the US until that fateful morning when Dr. Acho Emeruwa took time out of his busy schedule to get know me and introduced this newly formed Association of Nigeria Physicians in the Americas (ANPA). He was very enthusiastic, yet humble. Fascinating but I was cautious. Fast forward to 1997 on Residency completion I joined ANPA, Southern California Chapter, learned more, made new friends. I also pursued my passion, giving back to Nigeria underprivileged via free medical and surgical missions to Imo State- through 2 nonprofits, Chima Medical Missions Int’l, and Imo Medical Mission Inc., with volunteers from top American Hospitals, making it very successful working with Drs. Ngozika Nwaneri, Stanley Okoro, and President Julius Kpaduwa.
ANPA’s signature field activity in Nigeria was medical/surgical missions by its original members since medical missions became popular (many other organizations copied us)ANPA had; Sponsored (organized+paid for by ANPA) vs. Certified (done by others but endorsed or facilitated by ANPA). While the certified medical missions by ANPA members and others increased, ANPA sponsored ones dwindled. When Dr. Nkem Chukwumerije appointed me Chair of Medical Mission Committee and he conceptualized ANPA week in Nigeria, combining Advocacy, CPD(CME), and Medical Mission. In 2016 the 1st ANPA week began with Advocacy in Abuja. ANPA became certified as a CPD provider in Nigeria by the MDCN. The ANPA sponsored mission took place at Faith Alive Hospital in Jos, Nigeria with 5 brave volunteers attending (Drs. Adebola Giwa, Barbara Onyia, Abraham Osinbowale, Nkem Chukwumerije and myself)- the first ANPA sponsored mission in over 12 years! In 2017 the ANPA week had a medical mission at 1st Consultants Hospital (the epicenter of the Ebola Virus) with 25 volunteers led by President Johnson Adeyanju. Advocacy activities occurred in Abuja followed by joint CPD with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). This was more successful in 2018 at Anambra State in with the Dan Nwankwo MD Foundation and NMA.In 2019 we had our largest medical/surgical/ Ophtho/dental mission in the history of ANPA and Nigeria, with 70 volunteers from USA (+30 from Nigeria) under the leadership of our first female President, Dr. Charmaine Emelife at FCT area of Jiwa, Tungun Kwanso, and Kubwa, with Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Sciences (NAPPSA) and a host of other partners, the Business Professional Women of Nigeria (BPW), Dagomo Foundation, Federal Ministry of Health, FCT Health Ministry, SEE INT’L, to mention a few. EMR was introduced to our medical mission with the help of DaVita Bridge of life. Through this partnership, ANPA members achieved yet another first, funding of post-mission surgeries in Nigeria, including a lifesaving cardiac surgery to repair Tetralogy of Fallot in a 15-year-old boy, and neurosurgical repair of meningomyelocele in a baby!
I am proud of ANPAs achievements. Despite our medical missions success and being Committee chair, I still dream of a day when such missions would become rare! Until Nigeria Healthcare improves to where it is safe, accessible &affordable- medical missions are needed and medical tourism will continue to soar. ANPA’s noble vision of “a healthier Nigeria in a healthier world” will elude is if business as usual continues. In 5 years, I hope ANPA will establish a firm presence in Nigeria, including having an office, or hospital used to transition the intermittent care we provide to one that sustains. An Igbo proverb says “you cannot touch someone from a distance.”
Importantly, I hope ANPA will strengthen our Advocacy efforts by membership ratification of the ANPA PAC approved by the Board of Directors, in our meeting in Washington DC. How significant it would be to ratify it in the nation’s capital. The PAC will give us “muscle” to advocate via local grass-roots organizations for good governance (good road, light, water, health insurance, etc, that directly impact health), without which our vision of a healthier Nigeria stays just a dream. Also, it increases our relevance to advance public health policy. ANPA must play a leadership role in championing good governance or others will.
I hope ANPA attracts new younger, energetic members of an innovative generation to usher in fresh ideas for success. I am privileged to have worked with some; Drs. Barbara Onyia-Ndukwe, Onyeka Nduaguba, Iyore James, Nkem Ezeamama, Uche Aguwa, Chine Logan, Uzo Chukwu, et al. We must find ways to recruit and retain younger physicians soon to be the face of ANPA, most of whom will have been born and educated in the USA, motivated differently from those of us born in Nigeria. ANPA has also given me the honor of working with most of you and being mentored by suburb Physicians especially the people’s Professor Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor, who is a father figure.
Happy 25th birthday ANPA, may God grant you wisdom, courage, many more years and endurance to change Nigeria for the better! Remember “what we do for ourselves dies with us but what we do for others and the world is immortal.” God bless you.
Cliff Eke, MD, FACS, FICS
Chair Medical Mission Committee.