Yusuf Faidat, 24, a graduate of Medicine and Surgery, was the cynosure of all eyes at the last convocation ceremony of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, when she won 19 prizes. Apart from being the best in the Faculty of Medicine, she was the overall best graduate of the institution in the 2015/2016 session. In this interview, she tells TUNDE AJAJA how she made it
You have a very small stature, were there times people addressed you like a fresher?
That happened many times. I remember vividly when I was doing my final year clearance and a second year student addressed me as a fresher. It was amusing and I found it funny. That was something I got used to over time. It wasn’t a big deal.
You won 19 prizes during your convocation, could you describe how you felt, or did you see it coming?
I was overjoyed, not only for the achievement, but also because I knew my parents would be very proud of me. I knew l was going to win some prizes but I didn’t know it would be up to that. I was shocked in the early hours of the convocation day when I learnt I was going to receive that number of prizes. So, I was surprised but happy, and I believe all I was able to achieve were a product of divine providence because I didn’t plan to have first class when I got to school.
What were the awards you won?
In summary, I received the prizes for being the Best student in surgery, medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, pediatrics, community health, COBES, pathology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and overall best graduate of the school.
Have you always had such remarkable performance in your previous schools?
I was an average student in primary school. I did better in secondary school; I was one of the best graduating students and I represented my school in a few competitions. But, certainly, things got better when I got to the higher institution. And when I got to school, I decided to do my best and make my parents proud. So, I worked harder. Meanwhile, I won’t forget to mention that I had one year delay before I got admission. I passed my West African Senior School Certificate Examination and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination at the first sitting, but I had to take another UTME because I didn’t get admission that first year. When I first applied for medicine at UNILORIN, I wasn’t offered admission, so I went to School of Remedial Studies in Katsina State, just to get busy. The following year, l re-applied for Medicine in UNILORIN and I was admitted. I really wanted Ilorin because I was sure there would be no strike action.
Since you waited for one year when you didn’t get Medicine, does it mean that was the only course that appealed to you?
I found it difficult to make a choice between becoming a doctor or an architect as I was interested in both. For Architecture, I love the idea of creating something, being able to translate people’s ideas for their homes and buildings into reality. But when I prayed about making a choice, I settled for medicine. So, I believe it’s God’s doing. When I was growing up, it was prestigious to be a doctor; they were respected and were well loved by members of the community. I read Ben Carson’s books and I saw that medicine is a platform through which a single person could have a positive influence on the lives of so many persons. This made me think of medicine when I had to decide on a career, and I’m happy I got it. My parents were also very supportive. I mean very helpful. They allowed all of us to decide on our career and they helped us to stick to it. For example, after my first UTME when I didn’t get medicine, I was very disappointed and I was considering other courses, but my mum encouraged me to stay put and put in for the same course the next time. She had confidence that Almighty Allah would grant me success, and that was exactly what happened.
Do you think people exaggerate when they say medicine is voluminous and difficult?
Medicine is voluminous and a bit difficult but the difficulty is a bit exaggerated. It’s a course that requires a lot of sacrifice, in terms of time, energy and emotion, and one needs a lot of perseverance to prevail. Medical school generally is not easy. My aim was always to do my best and be the best I could be. That was what I strove for. I don’t think I put in more effort than most of my colleagues, and that is why I attribute my success to Almighty Allah. No human being can achieve anything except by his help. My parents, siblings, friends, cousins, teachers in primary school, secondary school and university, coupled with Allah’s blessing, support from my loved ones and perseverance are all instrumental to making me what I am today.
What part of medicine did you find most interesting?https://0397c820168faded551961d0dffeec27.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
I can’t pick a favourite but physiology, pathology, pediatrics and surgery were particularly interesting. And what amazes me most is the ability of humans to adapt and strive in the midst of adversity. The organ I find most amazing is the brain. It’s responsible for our actions, behaviour, emotions, etc. It is the centre of our being. Medicine is very interesting.
When did you start leading your class?
We have numerous exams in medical school and most results when released just indicate pass or fail. Your actual scores are on the transcript so it is difficult to tell who is actually leading the class in a particular course. But in my first year, I knew I did well. My CGPA in my first year was about 4.8, more so that most of the courses involved building on what was learned in secondary school.
Maintaining a good result can be as taxing as having one. Were there times you were discouraged or you almost gave up on sustaining your efforts?
There were times when I was discouraged but with prayer and support, especially from my mother, I was able to move on. Most of those obstacles that I faced made me determined to do better subsequently.
To achieve such, some people would imagine that you were always reading. Was that the case?
No, there was nothing like that. I wasn’t always reading. In fact, sometimes, I could go for few days without reading much. I didn’t even have a fixed reading schedule. I slept well, because I know sleep is good for the body. On the average, I was sleeping for about six hours daily. However, I usually read for several hours when it was close to exam.
It’s possible to think you are a genius, since you weren’t even reading much. Do you see yourself as one?
I’m definitely not a genius, and I don’t believe I did anything different from what my colleagues did or what we were expected to do. I attended lectures, went for clinical activities and read materials. I believe those were what anybody would do. I was never coerced into doing anything, like reading my books. However, being amongst hardworking friends also motivates one to do the same. So, that helped too.
It is common for medical students to be scared the first time they are to work on a cadaver. What was it like in your case?
I had enough time to psych myself up for the experience, even though it was still unpleasant, especially the smell. I was able to manage the situation, and for me, there were no fainting spells or symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder.
From your own experience, what are the basic rules of excellence in school?
The most important thing is for students to put their trust in God and be prayerful. Focus, determination and perseverance are also very important. It is important to know yourself, your reading pattern, what works for you and, more importantly, stick to it.
Some students feel using the library is the key to success. How often did you use it?
I used the library a few times while in medical school. I preferred reading in my room or my hostel’s study room, maybe because I don’t really need a quiet or secluded environment to read. I could read anywhere.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for your performance?
I remember my parents taking me and my siblings for outings after every exam in primary and secondary school. The way they praised me and how much they felt proud of me were enough reward for me.
Did you have a social life?
I wasn’t always reading, but I’m an introvert. So, my own way of catching fun didn’t necessarily involve going out. At my leisure, I read magazines, novels, saw movies and played games.
Are there things you would have loved to do as a student that you could not do, perhaps because of the time you dedicated to your academics?
I would have loved to learn jewellery making, tailoring, etc. I would still love to learn those things, if I have the free time to do it. It’s always good to have a skill in at least one thing.
What are your immediate plans and aspirations?
To finish my internship programme at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, go for service, hopefully start my residency programme and of course get married soon.
If you are to go for residency training, what part of medicine would you like to specialise in?
The jury is still on that. I haven’t made a decision yet.
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