Do you know that the first black neurosurgeon to be trained in the United States was a Nigerian? His name was EMMANUEL OLATUNDE OLANREWAJU ALABA ODEKU, the first professor of neurosurgery in Nigeria.
Born on the 29th of June 1927, to the Adubieye family of Awe, in Afijio Local Government in the then Oyo Province in Western Nigeria. He attended the St. John’s primary School in Aroloya, Lagos State in 1932 and Methodist Boys’ High School (MBHS) in 1945 then he left for America as a beneficiary of the New York Phelps-Stokes Fund Scholarship for Medical Education.
In April 1950, he came out top of his undergraduate class at the College of Liberal Arts in Howard University, Washington D.C, United States winning an $8,000 scholarship with which he completed medical school from 1950 to 1954 and he received his MD.
He worked as an intern Professor Edgar A. Kahn at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor (1954-55). After his internship, he was offered a residency position till 1960. He also majored in neuropathology under Professor Carl Vernon Weller, MD for his postgraduate internship
He later proceeded to the University of Western Ontario,Canada to gain a better understanding of tropical neurosurgery. He bagged the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) in 1955.
Professor Odeku turned down many American job offers and came back to Nigeria to become the first neurosurgeon in Nigeria. Leaving his first wife, Dr. Mrs Mary Gilda Marques who didn’t wanna come to Africa with him. By October 1962, he was already at the University of Ibadan as a lecturer in neurosurgery and later started the first department of neurosurgical in Nigeria. He became a Senior Lecturer in 1963.
He was so passionate, devoted and committed (especially to his patients) that within a short time, Professor Odeku had attained the status of a legend within the medical community that by November 1965, he was already a full professor of surgery.
Credit: Sunday Adelaja