Komolafe Tolulope Oluwafeyisayo is a first-class graduate of medicine from Obafemi Awolowo University. In this interview, she speaks with Daily Trust on her academic feats and dreams of becoming a medical doctor—and the sacrifices that cost her.
What was your major inspiration to study medicine?
Growing up, I have always admired the white coat and respect that accompanied the profession and thought that was all to it.
However, on getting a taste of what it means to be a doctor, I would say my inspiration changed and it became more about my fascination to understand the human body and the need to also use this understanding to help people who are ill.
I find joy in putting a smile on people’s faces whenever they have an encounter with me. The bonus to studying medicine was that my need to use Physics or Mathematics throughout my career would be limited.
What role did your parents play in shaping your academic pursuit?
When I was in primary school, my parents ensured I had a lesson teacher who would tutor me on Fridays after school and Saturdays. This continued into secondary school whenever I was on break.
Also I would say my preference for late night reading stems from an early childhood habit because I remember that while in primary school, especially when I had a test the next day, my mum ensured that I had at least one hour in the morning to go through my notes before getting ready for school.
When my first attempt at Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) wasn’t successful, my parents didn’t waste time in enrolling me to do A-levels and writing the Cambridge exams so as not to waste the year waiting.
They were very supportive throughout my stay at university as I was very comfortable and had all I needed, be it the necessary textbooks, manuals or even adequate allowance so I had nothing else to worry about than my studies.
Did you aspire to get a first class at university?
Graduating with honours was not in my plan, all I wanted was just to finish medical school and become a doctor. I didn’t even know there was anything like that till my fourth year. Thus, it wasn’t something I was preparing for.
Did you have a particular study method to achieve your goal?
Yes, my study method was quite simple as I did most of the major reading in the middle of the night because I assimilate better then. I also jot down when I am reading because it helps what I am reading stick better. I made sure I understood any topic I was reading in-depth before moving to another topic.
At the same time watching videos, especially on YouTube about whatever topic was confusing me also helped me a lot. I also wasn’t afraid or too proud to admit that I didn’t know something and seek help from the appropriate quarters.
Did you ever feel discouraged at any point in school?
Yes, multiple times but my most memorable one was when I saw the result of my first Anatomy course, and it was memorable because that was my first experience of failing an exam and that was a discouraging period for me because out of the three courses I was taking in that class, I would say I spent more time reading Anatomy than the other two courses, so the zeal to even read the other courses disappeared for a while but thank God for friends and my parents who encouraged me to shake it off and do better.
And I am proud to say afterwards I never failed any paper be it in course or professional exams.
What were some of the challenges you faced while studying?
I had little or no life outside medical school as most of my time was spent either reading or catching up on necessary sleep. Thus, I lost some friendships especially with people outside my field of study.
Were there courses that you disliked or stretched you?
No, I didn’t dislike any course, though I had to tolerate some, but the course that stretched my abilities would be Microbiology/Parasitology. There were so many names and characteristics of various organisms I had to cram into my head. Meaning I had to read the course over and over again just for it to stick.
Do you think you did anything different from other students?
No, I don’t think so. I would even say that some of my classmates read more than I did and I can say that I watch movies more than most of my classmates as that was my go-to stress reliever.
At what point did you know you were graduating with a first class?
It was after my fifth-year examination and I had distinction in three out of four of my courses which were Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dermatology and Mental Health (in which I was the best in the whole class). And a senior colleague told me that I needed just one more distinction in my final year to make the honours list. That was when I knew I had to give it my all in the final year.
How did you feel when you found out you had a first class?
While we were waiting for our results after the exams, I had been hearing different rumours about who did best, who got honours and all but I didn’t believe it because while I was sure of passing the exams, I wasn’t too sure of being among the best. So, the result was pasted on the board and sent to the class page and I saw that I passed and I got a distinction in Surgery and Community Health and also getting to know that I was also the best in these two courses. I was overjoyed, though I was in denial for a few minutes but the happiness kicked in soon enough.
Did you hold some leadership positions as an undergraduate?
No, I didn’t hold any leadership position while in school, although in my final year I was a group leader for our community health research project.
What advice would you give undergraduates wishing to earn first-class honours?
I would say, understand yourself, understand what works for you in terms of reading pattern, time to read and even the location that helps you assimilate better and, most importantly, it’s okay to take timeout just to relax and enjoy yourself so as not to feel overwhelmed and break down because ‘na person wey dey alive dey get honours.’