Meet: Dr Andrew Alalade
We came across this cerebral and intellectually adept young Nigerian via some of his postings and perspective on social media, more importantly when we discovered that he was not only in the Medical sector under the United Kingdom National Health Service, he is actually a Neuro-Surgeon.For those who know what being a Neuro Surgeon entails, never mind for a foreigner from Africa to be chosen or employed in this very exclusive and restricted speciality in the United Kingdom, it is a rare feat indeed and points to the depth of intellectual acuity our guest carries. In our quest to recognise, highlight and celebrate young Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in their area of endeavour ,in this Hibe exclusive interview we have a Professional Medical practitioner who will be sharing his perspectives and views over a wide range of subjects and issues.
Please read the instructive and informative interview after the cut……
HibeOnline: Thanks for granting us this interview, kindly state your name and what you do for a living and what your job entails
Dr Andy: My name is Andrew Folusho Alalade, and I am a Senior Registrar in Neurosurgery currently doing my exit examinations. I am currently working at The Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. My job involves taking care of patients with brain and spinal conditions, by performing surgeries or via clinic consultations.
HibeOnline: I see the normal general practitioners, why is it that we hardly see black or minority Neurosurgeons?
Dr Andy: I have been lucky! Neurosurgery is a very specialised field, and the level of competition is quite high. There are certain challenges attached as well, the obvious one is balancing your work-life balance and this might dissuade a lot of people. Many countries have a level of protectionism regarding their residency training, so I consider very fortunate to be able to get into the UK’s neurosurgical training programme even though I had my medical undergraduate training in Nigeria.
HibeOnline: How did you get into this, what inspired you?
Dr Andy: It all started in a science class when I was a 13 year old, I got intrigued by the brain and spinal cord, and made up my mind to be a neurosurgeon. A few years later, I came across Ben Carson’s autobiography “Gifted Hands” – it was so inspiring and I had his picture on my bedroom wall for many years. My parents must have thought I was crazy.
Sometime in the 2nd year at medical school, my dad collapsed and was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumour. He had surgery, and is doing very well. I think that experience must have helped too.
HibeOnline: Tell us about your parents and siblings if you have any what part did they play in your journey?
Dr Andy: My dad is a telecommunications engineer (now retired and running his own company) while my mum is a computer operations manager. I am the first of five children, and the only son (…..laughs). They all encouraged me, and taught me to aim for the best. From my dad, I learnt the essence of hard work. My mum always wanted good results while my sisters gave me the opportunity to be a leader.
HibeOnline: Did you school and qualify in the UK, what challenges did you encounter along the way?
Dr Andy: We moved back to Nigeria from the UK when I was a 7 year old. I had the rest of my primary school education in Nigeria. Subsequently, I attended the Nigerian Military School for my secondary school education and had my medical training at the University College Hospital, Ibadan in Nigeria. Came back to practise in the UK in 2006, and it was definitely a big challenge getting used to a different system. The main challenge will have to be the “stereotyping” you get from people. People would readily underestimate you before anything else.
HibeOnline: Who or What in addition to religion inspires and motivates you?
Dr Andy: My faith in God helps, and has kept me focused over the years. For years, reading autobiographies has been a favourite pastime – reading about the lives of Ben Carson, David Levy (author ‘Gray Matter’) and Patrick Soon-Shiong will motivate anyone.
HibeOnline: What would you say was or is the highlight of your profession as a Neurosurgeon?
Dr Andy: That’s the easiest of the questions! There have been many highlights so far, but the main one was when I got into the UK’s run-through Neurosurgical training programme. There were only 9 jobs available in the whole country when I applied, and I got one of them.
HibeOnline: Considering all that you have been through so far what advice would you give medical students especially in NIG or even those thinking about it
Dr Andy: Think laterally, follow your hearts, plan ahead but always look for helpful information first. Most importantly, never never give up!
HibeOnline: if you had to mention what incident would you say has been the most defining in your life and shaped you into who you are positive or negative?
Dr Andy: I have two young kids, and they remind me daily about the big responsibilities I have. With my very busy work schedule, I have grown to treasure the time I spend with them. The calming effect they provide does wonders.
HibeOnline: What misconception have you had to constantly battle with regarding yourself both personally and professionally?
Dr Andy: Life, sickness and death tend to mean something else when you have worked for years in a specialty like mine. Sometimes I wish every human being should spend some time visiting an Accident & Emergency or Surgical Theatre. The experience would produce better beings.
We live in a world of “impressions”. Some people find it to believe what I do. Even in the hospital settings, it happens more than you would expect. I was once asked if I was a hospital porter.
HibeOnline: Some are motivated by failure, poverty. What motivates you to keep going even in the face of discouragement, institutional racism etc.?
Dr Andy: Although I have witnessed first-hand the two you just mentioned. I am motivated by something way bigger – and that’s to be the best I could be.
HibeOnline: Are you single in a relationship or married?
Dr Andy: I am married to a very beautiful lady, and we have two kids. I met my wife in medical school, and she has been my Number 1 fan. I’m not sure I’ll be here today without her input.
HibeOnline: You have this knowledge and you are developing it gathering experience how are you planning to use these skills to impart on people back home charity initiatives, mentorship etc
Dr Andy: I already mentor a lot of junior colleagues I have always been involved in teaching, and have been invited to give talks in several institutions.
I am the currently the Public Relations Officer of MANSAG (Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain) – an organisation keen to contribute to the Nigerian healthcare system. Got some other very interesting things in the formative phase, and will be clicking up a notch once my examinations are over.
HibeOnline: What recent medical innovations, inventions in your field have you recently come across or been involved in that you are hopeful will impact positively on cheaper Medicare for third world
Dr Andy: The internet is probably the world’s greatest invention, and its effects on healthcare are unbelievable. Telemedicine is already being used in several countries, including Nigeria, and I think it’s only going to get bigger.
HibeOnline: What was growing up like for you – any stand out incidents?
Dr Andy: Growing up for me was so much fun. My parents made sure we studied and played in equal measure. I was quite mischievous. I can remember feigning a seizure because my mum scolded me. I got very scared when she called our neighbour who was a doctor. She never got to know the truth until about ten years later.
HibeOnline: Most embarrassing, funny, strange, sad incident you have ever been involved in or experienced?
Dr Andy: I could write two books based on my weird incidents. An elderly Scottish patient once asked to feel my hair, as she had never felt “afro hair” before.
The first death I encountered as a doctor still remains ingrained in my head. It was during my housemanship year in UCH in 2005, he was a 12 year old with kidney failure. It still seems like yesterday.
On a positive note though, I would never forget the first surgery I did on my own from start to finish without supervision (sometime in 2009). The patient was brought into the hospital unconscious, so I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw her eating cheerily the morning after I had operated on her.
HibeOnline: Your favourite holiday destination?
Dr Andy: Would have to be the Bahamas, but I haven’t been there yet. Of all the cities I have been to though, the best two would be Vienna and Florence. Architecturally speaking, they are on a different level J
HibeOnline: Favourite food both African and foreign?
Dr Andy: Pounded yam with some meat-overdosed egusi. You can’t go wrong with that. With time, I have become a fan of several foreign culinary specials too, like the guacamole with some crispy tortillas. There is something exotic and different about it.
HibeOnline: Apart from the obvious what other interests, hobbies occupy your time?
Dr Andy: I love writing and travelling, and the plan is to visit as many places as possible. Years ago, I was a member of a drama group and was involved in several stage plays. Neurosurgery has made that take a back-seat though.
HibeOnline: What projects, research are in the horizon for the benefit of those who admire what you do?
Dr Andy: These are exciting times for Neuroscience fans – Dementia, Stroke, Brain tumours are major topics currently under spotlight. The Human Brain Project does however appear to be the most fascinating. It is a large research project that aims to understand the intricate workings of the human brain by using supercomputers. The group behind it did appear to have a major setback sometime last year but I think they have sorted themselves out now.
HibeOnline: Any last words you would like to add?
Dr Andy: Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!
This is a popular quote I came across while reading in a library sometime in 1996. It’s attributed to the respected US Admiral, David Farragut. I have always used the quote since then. I think it’s because the guy shares the same birth date with me (..smiles).
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