twenty three-year-old Pius Ojemolon made the headlines few days ago when he won 19 awards during the convocation of the University of Benin, Edo State for the 2015/2016 academic session. Pius, a graduate of Medicine and Surgery from the institution, emerged the best graduating student in the School of Medicine and best graduating student in the College of Medical Sciences. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, he talks about his feat
You won 19 awards during your convocation, despite being in a department that is seen as tough. What would you attribute that success to?
God’s grace, support from my family and friends, and mentorship by senior colleagues and lecturers. My parents did the very best they could and I don’t think any pair of parents could have raised my siblings and I any better. I grew up in a morally upright house. My dad is an accountant while my mum is a biology teacher and both of them are mavens in their respective fields, so that really counted for something for us the children. They nudged us on the right path. When I was much younger, I was having reservations about my upbringing as part of me was feeling restricted, but now I can see the importance. I was encouraged and that helped me to build the personal drive I needed.
Academic success has always been linked to how much interest a student has in his course. Have you always wanted to be a doctor?
I initially wanted to study engineering, as I was fond of dismantling toys and re-assembling them, as a child. After some time, my focus somehow shifted to the life sciences. I guess my mum being a biology teacher had something to do with it. It was in senior secondary school that I eventually made up my mind about studying medicine. The truth is, medicine is tough and voluminous, and when you really consider the enormity of its impact on humans, it should be. So, it surely wasn’t easy. Making it through medical school required the utmost dedication and willingness to make sacrifices.
Talking about sacrifices, with your performance, some people would easily think you were always reading in school, especially with the toughness of your course. What was your reading pattern?
Contrary to such thoughts, I wasn’t “always” reading; I usually read whatever my mind pointed at, and most of the time it depended on the posting I was in. So, the frequency of my reading varied and I was never able to stick to a reading schedule or timetable. Every time a new session began, I would draw a timetable but after a couple of weeks, I realised I could no longer follow it. Some could think I must have done something extraordinary, but there wasn’t any particular thing or set of things I could ascribe it to and I don’t think I’m a genius. In medical school, for example, the bulk of the learning you do comes from attending lectures and postings. So, there were some days I was lazy and I didn’t read at all and there were some days I read for the most part of the day. But most days fell somewhere in-between both extremes. And it would interest you to know that I didn’t play with my sleep at all. I had good sleep as much as I could to stay refreshed, even during exam periods. On the average, I slept for six to eight hours daily. Thus, it was a combination of God’s infinite grace and unrelenting support from my family and friends.
Have you always had such record in your previous schools?
Well, to a reasonable extent, yes. I had good grades in primary and secondary school. In my West African Senior School Certificate Examination, I had ‘A’ in Agricultural Science, four Bs, and three Cs. In the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, I scored 255, and in the UNIBEN post-UTME, I scored 73 per cent. All of them in one sitting, and thankfully, I did not have any delay in securing admission.
What part of medicine did you find most interesting?
Neurosurgery. Neurosurgeons perform spectacular and almost miraculous feats at times. I also loved obstetrics and gynaecology and internal medicine
What part of medicine would you like to specialise in?
I’m not entirely sure yet. I’ll be more certain after housemanship.
From all you have learnt about the human body, what amazes you most?
How so much complexity is wrapped up into a single living, breathing entity. It’s really amazing.
Due to the volume of materials you had to read and for students who believe that using the library is the key to success, how often did you use the library?
Not much. I did most of my reading in my room, ward day rooms, medical hostel reading rooms, and classrooms. I basically read everywhere but the library. I was never quite comfortable with the calm and quietness in the library, as ironic as that sounds.
Were there challenges you faced in school?
Yes there were. Time management was the biggest challenge. Most times, you felt like you needed extra hours in a day. Thankfully, I was able to manage it to some extent.
What were the awards you won?
Best graduating student in pathology, pharmacology, community health, obstetrics and gynaecology, surgery, and internal medicine; best graduating student in the School of Medicine; and best graduating student in the College of Medical Sciences. They were sponsored by different individuals and organisations as well as the university and they amounted to 19.
Did you win any award as an undergraduate?
I got special recognition by the University of Benin Medical Students Association and the Nigerian Medical Students Association as well as my graduating set (Avanti Guaritori Medical/Dental Graduating Set of ‘14) for academic excellence, sports, and versatility.
You seem to be a lover of sports. How did you create time for it?
That is one of my hobbies and it is one of the things I love to do at my leisure; watching and playing football and table tennis. Besides sports, I really enjoy watching movies and listening to music. A lot of the time, I could put on an earpiece, toying with my phone or laptop.
We learnt you designed a website for sports analysis. Could you tell us about it?
I have been watching football actively since 2002, and I’m a proud supporter of Manchester United. Writing about football comes easy to me but I did not have as much time for it as I would have wanted. So when the opportunity came to start a sports blog with three of my friends, I couldn’t resist. It’s called thefourmuskets.com.ng.
Does that mean you didn’t deprive yourself of being part of social activities?
I like to consider myself sociable. I was a part-time disk jockey during my school days, (and I use ‘part-time’ very liberally there) and I attended a number of parties but mostly those where the celebrants were my very good friends. I was involved in student politics; I was the Director of Sports of University of Benin Medical Students Association from 2012 – 2014 and a Congress member from 2014 till I graduated. So I had my fair share of social gatherings.
Do you also play football?
Yes I do, and so much too, but just for leisure. I have never played in a proper competitive tournament.
What were your most memorable moments in school?
I had a lot, especially regarding the UBEMSA football team which I managed from 2014 till I graduated and my class football team which I virtually managed throughout school. We won a bucket load of tournaments including the NIMSA games football competition in Owerri, Imo State in 2014. Convocation day was really memorable as well, for obvious reasons.
Were there times your parents rewarded you for good performance?
A couple of times. They didn’t make a habit out of it though. Seeing the joy on their faces was more than enough. I had always wanted to and still want to make my parents proud. It is the least I can do to repay their good faith and encouragement. So when I got admitted into UNIBEN, I reminded myself of their support and promised to do my best. Interestingly, my dream as a child was to become a really successful person in whatever career I chose to pursue. My parents appreciated success a lot and they encouraged us towards it; so I made it a point of duty to do my best to become successful in whatever I do.
Were there times you were discouraged?
Oh yes, there were. Sometimes the stress gets to you and you almost want to throw in the towel. It gets worse as you approach the finish line really, but when you remember your destination, how far you have come, and the several other factors that motivate you, you keep going. I believe students should set goals and strive to attain them. “Nothing good comes easy” may sound a cliché but it is entirely true. They should do the very best they can and believe in themselves. Human beings are designed to be limitless, so they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.
Some medical students tend to be scared the first time they are to work on a cadaver. What was your first experience like or did you lose sleep as well?
Yes, it is scary for some, but I didn’t have a scary first experience. I really didn’t lose any sleep over seeing a cadaver up close or seeing it being cut open.
To what extent has that feat changed people’s relationship with you?
Regarding persons I knew before, not much. But I have made new friends over the past one week, and they have been really nice.
And have you had offers from persons or individuals?
Yes, I have. All sorts really, but I don’t want to make any hasty decisions. I’d rather settle down and weigh my options. Only then will I make choices.
What are your aspirations?
To become the best caregiver I can be and render quality services so I can better the lives of persons and improve public health.
Did you see being in a relationship as a distraction for students?
I wouldn’t consider relationships as distractions. I had relationships during that time and I’m currently in one. The most important thing is finding someone with matching ideas who can make you a better person.