KOKO Magazine: Celebrating Nigeria’s 20 Women Medical Pioneers

Looking at where Nigeria started in medicine and where she is currently, one can say that she has indeed come a long way. In as much as Nigeria has come a long way, there are some special women who have joined hands and contributed their expertise and effort to make her get to where she is medically and they are worth mentioning. KOKO Weekly magazine brings you the top 20 Nigerian women doing great things in medicine.
The rate at which medicine and its practice has grown in Nigeria is commendable.
Top Nigerian Women In Medicine
While the growth is worth commending, the people behind this progress are worth applauding and talking about. So here are top women in medicine doing great things in no particular order;
30. Njideka Udochi
Dr. Njideka Udochi is a Nigerian-born physician
She is the very first black female to emerge as Family Physician of the Year in Maryland, United States. This award was bestowed on her by the Maryland Academy of Family Physicians (MDAFP) in 2021.

She has reportedly worked with about 152,857 patients from Maryland and Washington, DC as well as patients from 114 countries around the world.

29. Isiomah Okobah
Dr Isiomah is the Chairman, Delta State Primary Health Care Development Agency and Executive Assistant to the governor on E-health/Other Health Matters.

Dr. Isioma Okobah is a Medical Doctor who graduated from the prestigious University of Benin (UNIBEN) College of Medicine Benin City in Edo State, Nigeria, with a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery.
Isioma Okobah, in 2017, bagged the highest medical award in the US as the 2017 Prestigious Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians Award. The award is for practising physicians in the US who have distinguished themselves among colleagues and in their community by their contribution towards the development of family medicine.

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28. Abimbola Ayodeji Abolarinwa
Dr Abimbola Abolarinwa studied medicine at the prestigious University of Ibadan, Oyo State, graduating in 2004. She worked as a medical officer at the Nigerian Air Force Hospital, Kaduna, and the Baptist Medical Centre, Obanikoro, Lagos.

On 25th October 2013, she became a certified Urologic Surgeon after she passed the West African College of Surgeons Fellowship Examination, making her the first woman in Nigeria to attain this status in a previously male-only surgical speciality. She is the first Urologic Surgeon, in West Africa, in a male-dominated field.
Other fields of speciality:
She has special interests in Andrology and Pediatric Urology

27. Pharm. Stella Chinyeru Okoli, FPSN, OON

She is Dr. Stella Chinyelu Okoli, an entrepreneur, industrialist and a Pharmacist. She is the founder of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, a popular pharmaceutical company that has produced drugs for over 30 years. Emzor Pharmaceutical has since grown to become one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria with over 50 products since its incorporation. Dr. Stella Okoli is the fourth richest woman in Nigeria according to 2019 Forbes rating and is worth over $500 million. She came only fourth behind Folorunsho Alakija, Bola Shagaya and Princess Fifi Ekanem Ejindu.
She has received various national and international recognitions, which include Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Fellow Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Outstanding Service Award, Rotary International 21000, and ECOWAS International Gold Award. She has a B. Pharm (Hons.) degree from Bradford University (1969), M.Sc. Biopharmaceutics, University of London – Chelsea College (1971), and attended Executive Management programs of the Harvard Business School, Boston, USA, for owner-managers 1997-1999.

26. Dr Chito Nwana
She is an obstetrician and gynaecologist and the medical director/CEO of Tabitha Medical Centre in Abuja. She is the present chairperson of the Guild of Medical Directors, Abuja.

25. Prof Omolade Augustina Awodu
Professor Omolade Awodu had her basic medical education in medicine and surgery at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. She joined the residency training programme in 1993 and obtained the fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria in Pathology (FMCPath) in 1998, specialising in Haematology and Blood Transfusion.
Her clinical and research focus are to deepen the understanding of thrombotic disorders (blood clots) and bleeding disorders, thereby fostering their diagnosis and treatment as well as generating research interest in this field. Further to her research interest in thrombosis and bleeding disorders, she had undergone several trainings both locally and internationally which are aimed at improving the diagnosis, treatment, and research in bleeding and thrombotic disorders to this end. She obtained a fellowship in the management of haemophilia (an inherited bleeding disorder) in Mumbai, India in 2016.
She has over 20 years’ experience as a lecturer and researcher. She has trained and mentored over 20 haematologists within and outside Nigeria. She is constantly updating herself in her chosen field through active participation in workshops, conferences, seminars, or webinars held locally or internationally.

She is the current vice president and the president-elect of the Nigerian Society for Haematology and Blood Transfusion, one of the oldest medical professional associations in Nigeria.
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24. Dr Edith Osawemwenze Kayode-Iyasere
Dr Edith is the chairperson of the Augustine Bonaventure Omorogbe-Elizabeth Ekhator Amu Stroke Awareness Foundation.

Edith (ABO-EEASAF) and a Consultant Physician/Neurologist at Central Hospital, Benin City. Presently she occupies the position of the Chief Consultant/Board Director of Clinical Services, Hospital Management, Board Benin, which is the apex of her medical career.
As president of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, Edo State (2009 -2011), she raised awareness on the activities of the group through sponsorship of many programmes in radio and television channels.
23. Prof Adeola Fowotade
Prof. Adeola Fowotade received her education at the University of Ilorin Secondary School, Ilorin and University of Ilorin before receiving a PhD in Molecular Virology and Immunology from the University of Surrey, UK in 2017. She holds the fellowship of both the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and the West African College of Physicians. 
When she joined the faculty staff of the University of Ibadan and made history as the first Clinical Virologist with an MBBS and PhD degrees in Virology.
Special Contribution to the society
In response to the urgent need for molecular diagnostic support for COVID-19 testing in Nigeria, Adeola was involved in the pioneer effort to set up a Biosafety level 2 Molecular Virology Laboratory. The Biorepository and Clinical Virology Laboratory (BCVL) came into existence in April 2020 and she was appointed the pioneer coordinator of the Laboratory. Partnering with the College of Medicine, the University of Ibadan, she has been able to get the laboratory accredited by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and also enrolled for external quality assurance with WHO-accrediting organisations. Till date, the laboratory has tested and archived over 39,000 COVID-19 samples. Fowotade worked as a volunteer laboratory pillar lead for the Oyo State COVID-19 Emergency Operation Centre and was responsible for organising and training a team of laboratory personnel on sample collection from COVID-19 patients, production of viral transport media (VTM) for transport of nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal specimens as well as providing weekly report of activities to the EOC and the Oyo State Taskforce on COVID-19. As a clinical virologist, Adeola has also been involved in offering clinical care at the Oyo State Isolation Centre, Olodo, Oyo State.

22. Prof Folakemi Oredugba
Prof Folakemi A Oredugba is a Paediatric Dentist with a research focus on the oral health of children and adolescents with special needs

She was awarded a Diploma in Special Care Dentistry (M SND RCSEd, 2006) and a Fellowship of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS RCSEd, 2013) from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. She also bagged a Fellowship of the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities (FADPD, 2010) of the Special Care Dentistry Association, USA. She has continued her research in this area and is also mentoring both undergraduate and postgraduate students to pursue this speciality. She is the clinical director and African Regional Clinical Advisor (RCA) of the Special Olympics and also a member of several other professional and academic groups. She has at least 50 publications including book chapters relating to paediatric and special care dentistry.

21. Maj. Gen Abimbola Olatilewa Amusu
She is a pathologist who specialises in Haematology and Blood Transfusion.


She is the second female to attain the rank of Major General in the Nigerian Army and to command the Nigerian Army Medical Corps. As coordinator of the Nigerian Army AIDS Control Programme, she was instrumental to the integration of US PEPFAR-funded laboratory support for HIV and non-HIV patients in the army hospitals. The model in the army hospitals is now being replicated across the country.
20. Dr. Linda Iroegbu-Emeruem

Dr. Linda Iroegbu-Emeruem qualified from the College of Health Sciences of the University of Port Harcourt. Her interest in Neurosurgery led her to Memfys Hospital for Neurosurgery, Enugu and Shinshu University Hospital Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan for training.
She holds a Fellowship in Neurosurgery by the West African College of Surgeons and is presently the first and only woman Neurosurgeon from the South/South and South/Eastern regions of Nigeria. She is the current head of Neurosurgery and the first woman to hold the post of head of the department of surgery, Rivers State University Teaching Hospital Port Harcourt. Her areas of interest are Neurotrauma, NeuroOnchology, NeuroSpine, Neurovascular and Paediatric Neurosurgery.

19. Dr. Ngozi R.C. Azodoh
Dr. Ngozi Azodoh is a Public Health Physician, a consummate administrator, an accomplished manager, and an experienced coordinator of complex health projects. She currently serves as Director/ Head of the Department of Health Planning, Research, and Statistics of the FMoH. In this capacity, she coordinates processes towards the development of the National Health System and provides the secretariat for the key development organs of the Health Sector including the National Council on Health (NCH), the highest health policy-making body in Nigeria.
she was the Director/Head Special Projects Department and the pioneer National Coordinator of the Nigerian Health Sector Response to Humanitarian Crises Initiative, Health and Nutrition Emergency Response in the North East and coordinated health response in fragile/conflict states. She has served in various capacities such as the first Director of International Health in FMoH, Head of Medical Services of the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria, Technical Adviser to the Minister of Health, National Coordinator of the Health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and SDGs/Resource Mobilization secretariat. She has also coordinated early efforts towards the establishment/coordination of Health Care Financing consequent upon which she was appointed as the Director, representing the Ministry of Health on the governing board of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) from 2013-2015
She is the secretary of the National COVID-19 vaccine coordinating committee. A committee that is responsible for the acquisition and strategic distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
18. Dr. Ofondu Eugenia

A Consultant Dermatologist and Genito-Urinary Physician working at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri in Imo State. There she coordinates the delivery of comprehensive care, treatment and support services to People Living with HIV/AIDS and also oversees the adult and adolescent ART clinics plus the dermatology clinic.
Dr Ofondu is a member of the National Task Team on Antiretroviral Therapy and a certified National Master Trainer for Comprehensive HIV Care, Treatment and Support Service Delivery.

17. Kuyoro-Olatunji Catherine
If there is one Nurse in Nigeria who can use her last penny and drop of blood to fight against the menace of quackery in Nigeria, her name is “Catherine”. The Nurses revolution founder is a quintessential figure in the fight for Quality Nursing care for Nigerians.
She independently organized the first anti-quackery walk in Lagos state, Which led to the Closure and ban of many illegal Hospital training centres for quacks commonly referred to as” Auxiliary Nurses”. The Babcock University graduate is also one of the founding members of Africa’s largest media broadcasting organization -Nurses on Air, a platform she uses as a tool for preaching the gospel of Health and Wellness to the public. Her organization has organized health outreach within and outside Lagos state, sponsored events in collaboration with NJO &NGT, Online teaching and coaching of over 400 nurses on self developments topics, rebranding process, academics e.t.c. If it takes SARS 30 minutes to respond to a case of internet fraud, it’s definitely going to take Nurse Catherine a lesser time to respond and mobilize to tackle any issue of quackery across Nigeria.

16. Opeyemi Raji
Miss Maryam Opeyemi Raji might not be the best graduating student, but she’s probably the youngest medical doctor the University of Lagos has produced in the last two decades. Born on May 1993, Maryam gained admission to study Medicine at the prestigious university at 15, by 21 she’s now a doctor.
15. Otoijaghale Mercy Mary
She is popularly referred to as “A Nurse with a difference” is the founder of the popular Nurses lecture room forum. Her passion for academics led her to create the page, where she posts consistently; timely, valid and easily interpreted lecture notes to her viewers and subscribers. The page has active social media handles with over 5000 nurses /nursing students on their WhatsApp group, and more than 11000 followers on their Facebook page. The page helped prepare over 200 students for nursing and midwifery council exam in November 2018, and currently preparing 230 students for the forthcoming exam in May 2019. Her whet is to see that there is an overall high success rate by Nursing students in their final qualifying exams. This has further inspired her to develop a simple nursing application on play store which contains more than 200 lecture notes,1800 objective questions, and more than 200 past theory questions.
14. The Alui Family

The Aliu family is the epitome of Black Excellence. The family has 5 daughters all of whom are physicians in different medical specialities and are raising the bar and representing Black African women in the field of medicine well. The Nigerian family consists of Salamat Aliu, the first female neurosurgeon in West Africa,  Halima Aliu, a plastic surgeon, Khadijah Aliu, a family medicine physician, Raliat Aliu, an obstetrician,  and Medinah Aliu, a community health physician. The Alui family have produced 5 doctors enriching the country and giving inspiration to many young ladies.

13. Salamat Ahuozia Aliu
She studied Medicine and Surgery at the University of Ilorin. She graduated with honours in 2004 receiving several awards at graduation amongst which was the Best Student in First Professional MBBS Examination, Best All-Round Female Graduating Student, Second Overall Best Graduating Student, Best Graduating Student in Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Community Based Experience and Services. She also obtained a distinction in Pathology.

She’s Nigeria’s first female neurosurgeon and the first female fellow of the WACS in Neurosurgery
Other Field of Interest: 
Neurosurgery, Gynaecology, Pathology, Medicine

12. Prof Chinedum Peace Babalola
Peace Babalola (née AnyabuikeFASFAAS is a Nigerian Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Pharmacokinetics.
She is the first female Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan, FAS and FAAS and the second female Nigerian FAAS. She is the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of Chrisland University, Nigeria.

11. Adanna Akobundu
She is a young doctor, and a graduate of Medicine and surgery, Tbilisi Medical Academy in Georgia Georgian university of medicine
She emerged as the best graduating student in the medicine and surgery class of 2021.

10. Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri
Dr Maymunahis a Nigerian mental health advocate, Psychiatrist and psychotherapist. 

She is a
Goldman Sachs scholar in Entrepreneurial Management and a Fellow of the National Post-Graduate Medical College of Physicians. 
She advocates for mental health speaking at events. television shows, and as a columnist at the Guardian Newspapers. She produced Little Drops Of Happy in 2017, to create awareness about mental health in Nigeria. She is the founder of Pinnacle Medical Services Limited.

9. Folake Olayinka
Dr Folake is a physician and member on the WHO’s SAGE Working Group on COVID-19 vaccines. Her experience is in routine vaccination, polio eradication, maternal and child health (MCH), HIV, and malaria programmes.

Before leading the Global Immunization team on
USAID’s Maternal Child Survival Programme, aimed at ending preventable maternal and child deaths, she worked in the USAID Health Population and Nutrition office in Nigeria on the MCH portfolio. From 2010 to 2014, she was an inaugural member of WHO Immunization Practice Advisory Committee. based in Geneva. She serves on the WHO African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group and is a scientific advisor for the African Local Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

8. Olufunmilayo Olopade
Olufunmilayo I. Olopade (born 1957 Nigeria) is a haematology oncologist, Associate Dean for Global Health and Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. She works closely with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and has performed extensive clinical work surrounding the role of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in the incidence of breast cancer in women of African descent. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American College of Physicians, the Nigerian Medical Association, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine.

She has a long list of achievements, but are just a few to mention;
2017: Villanova University Mendel Medal
On Saturday, May 18, 2019, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois granted Olopade the Order of Lincoln Award, the highest honour bestowed by the State of Illinois.
2021: Member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences.
In 2003, she began a new study looking at breast cancer and genetics from African women from Nigeria to Senegal and also African-American women in Chicago. By 2005 she found that 80% of tumours in African women did not need estrogen to grow compared to 20% of tumours in Caucasian women. She also found that this was due to a different pattern of gene expression between African women and Caucasian women.

7. Bosede Bukola Afolabi
Bosede Bukola Afolabi is a UK-born Nigerian Gynaecologist, Professor, and immediate past Head of Department (2018-2021) of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the College of Medicine, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria. She is also the founder and chairperson of MRH (Maternal and Reproductive Health) Research Collective, a research and training NGO.
In 2021, Bosede was awarded a Special Recognition Award by the Physician of The Year Award Committee for her Commitment and Dedication. Dr. Afolabi is a gynaecologist with interests in maternal and fetal medicine, minimal access (laparoscopic) surgery and medical education. She is passionate about reducing maternal mortality.

Internationally recognized for her research in sickle-cell pregnancy, Dr. Bosede Afolabi is an associate professor and consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist.

6. Betta Edu
Betta C. Edu is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health, United Kingdom, and currently the Cross River State Commissioner for Health and National Chairman of Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum.
In 2015 she became the special adviser to Governor Benedict Ayade on community and primary health care the youngest in the country. In May 2016 she was later appointed pioneer DG of Cross River State Primary Health Care Agency until 2019 when she was appointed Cross River State Commissioner for Health.

In 2020, Betta Edu was chairman of the Cross River State COVID-19 Taskforce, She coordinated the Cross River State COVID-19 Response, and established and coordinated the Emergency Operations Centre for COVID-19 in the state. In August 2020 she emerged National Chairman of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum.
Hero of COVID-19, 
National Youth Council of Nigeria (2020).

5. Pharm (Mrs) Bukky George, FPSN
She is the MD/CEO of CasaBella International and Health plus.
She founded Nigeria’s first integrative pharmacy and a household name in retail pharmacy in Nigeria. She is a Registered Pharmacist with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria. She is indeed a force to reckon with in retail pharmacy in West Africa, with over forty strategically retail outlets across the country and a head office to monitor operations across Nigeria. She earned her B. Pharm in 1992 at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos.

4. Ola Brown:
Dr Brown was born in 1986, is a British-Nigerian medical doctor, healthcare entrepreneur and founder of the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group and a director of Greentree Investment Company
founder of Flying Doctors Healthcare Group which is active in air ambulance services, consulting/healthcare technology, hospital/clinic construction, diagnostics and equipment, health facility management and pharmaceutical retail.

3. Eleanor Nwadinobi
Eleanor is a Nigerian medical doctor and women’s health activist. She is the first Nigerian to be elected as president of the Medical Women International Association.

She has worked anaesthetic registrar in the UK. She worked with hospitals under the South East Kent Health Authority, including Dover, Folkestone and Ashford. She works with human rights organizations to advocate against rape, FGM and other acts of violence against women. She is the president of the Windows Development Organization.

2. Ayoade Alakija
she was formerly a Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, where she led the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

Dr. Ayoade Alakija was appointed WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator).  Dr Alakija joins former Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, WHO’s current Special Envoy for ACT-A, in this role.

1. Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi
Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi is a Dental Surgeon, Public Health Service Administrator, Manager and Planner with a career of over 30 years in the Federal Ministry of Health traversing various areas of the Nigerian Healthcare delivery system, including general dental practice, manpower development, healthcare financing, coordination and supervision of Federal Tertiary Health Institutions.
She has held several administrative and managerial positions including the Chief Dental Officer for Nigeria from November 2009 to April 2016. She had a stint as the Acting Director, Department of Hospital Services from May to June 2016 before her appointment as Director/Head, Department of Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria in July 2016, a position she held till January 2020. During the period, she was responsible for initiating policy formulation, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of health policies on Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health as well as Elderly care, Nutrition and Health Promotion. In 2013, Dr. Adebiyi was conferred with the Membership of the prestigious National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies and in 2014 she became a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and in 2019, she was conferred with the position of Member of Trustees of the Nigerian Dental Association in recognition of her contributions to the development of the Nigerian Oral Healthcare system. Dr. Adebiyi’s career goal is to use her God-given prowess to transform ineffective systems using cost-effective models. Based on her antecedents and in furtherance of the actualisation of the next level Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Honourable Minister of Health, approved the deployment of Dr. Adebiyi as the head of the Department of Hospital Services in the Federal Ministry of Health with effect from 17th February 2020 and she swung into action by setting in motion the processes for the institutionalisation of best practices in quality of care in Federal Tertiary Health  Institutions through reactivation of Hospital Standards Committees, review service delivery protocols and standardisation of the selection of Chief Executives of Federal Tertiary Hospitals for effective delivery of their mandates.

Medicine Photo Credit: Getty

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