23rd MWAN National Conference: Leadership and Partnership Imperatives for Upscaling Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria


In September, all road led to Port Harcourt – as members and guests of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria converged for her 23rd National Biennial Scientific Conference and Investiture of her 24th National President.

This year, the conference – with the theme, “leadership and partnership imperatives for upscaling healthcare delivery in Nigeria” – held as a six-day long event (12th to 16th September 2023), starting with a free medical outreach and cancer screening services to the populace of the Marine Base Community in Port Harcourt Local Government Area. For healthcare professionals, there was an organised pre-conference workshop with hands-on-training on basic life support skills, neonatal resuscitation and emergency management of burns. as well as a panel discussion on emergency medicine in Nigeria – defining the model.

At the opening ceremony, Prof Omosivie Maduka (host state president, i.e. MWAN Rivers State President) and Dr Obelebra Adebiyi (local organising chairman) welcomed all guests and participants. Highlighting MWAN as the most influential association with intellectual and impactful women of the society – the female doctors and dentists. They also shared their excitement about this year’s conference theme and the prowess of the keynote speaker – which were carefully selected to ensure the cornucorpia of plans and ideas on how medical women can work together and pool resources, networks, capacities and partnerships to improve the health of Nigerians, especially for women and children. After which all were invited to partner with MWAN, towards improving the health indices of our people in the spirit of “healing with the love of a mother” (which is the motto of the association).

The MWAN National President for the 2021-2023 biennium – Dr Adekemi Lillian Otolorin – also welcomed and recognised dignitaries present at the event. These included the Executive Governor of Rivers State and his wife, the Medical Women International Assocation (MWIA) president, keynote speaker and other guest speakers. In her speech, she reflected on the concluding two-year biennium (2021-2023), and how she and her team have worked to promote the biennium theme and were intentional in seeking leadership positions for qualified women in our country – a quest for gender inclusiveness.

MWAN is a non-government, non-political association, MWAN stands against gender-based violence, rape, and kidnapping. MWAN is saying to No to transgender and same sex marriages – all which are alien to our culture. MWAN embraces equity and inclusiveness for all women, and serves with the loving hand of a mother ~ Dr Adekemi Lillian Otolorin, MWAN National President, 2021-2023 biennium.

During the Abimbola Awoliyi Memorial Guest lecture, titled “Leadership and partnership Imperatives for upscaling Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria”; the keynote speaker – Mr Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heir Holdings and CEO, The Tony Elumelu foundation – ably represented by Owen Omiagiofo, President/Group CEO, Transcorp plc, stated that “female is the future and this times we find ourselves is a good time and a good thing to be female…”. Sharing insights from Mr Tony’s experiences – as an entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist – in facilitating multisectorial partnerships that provide sustainable solutions towards the social and economic development of the African continent. This can be related to issues surrounding the social determinants of health in the nation and continent as a whole.

The MWAN National conference keynote lecture coined “Abimbola Awoliyi Memorial Guest lecture” is named is the memory of Dr Abimbola Awoliyi – who was the first west African and Nigerian female doctor, as well as the first black African female specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

On the third day, the scientific aspect of the conference began with the first plenary session at the Atlantic Hall Hotel Presidential Port Harcourt hall, where invited guests and speakers discussed about “multispecialty collaborations and innovations in healthcare service delivery”. During this session, Dr Benjamin Anyanwu revealed that “multisectoral specialist collaboration doesn’t have to be under one roof”. As the advent of Telemedicine and Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps to bring care provision close to specialists. With Dr Ifunanya Ilodiba elaborating that:

“Technology is no longer a nice to have, but the only way we can reach the number of population we have in Nigeria today or in the future”. Hence, leveraging on tech in healthcare provision and towards improving quality of healthcare delivery to all patients is an inevitable curve everyone must get along with.

Likewise, in line with the practicality of multispecialty multisectoral collaboration, one of the panellists – Prof Faith Micheal Uzoka (a professor of computer sciences and information system) – expounded on his various works as a computer scientist in the healthcare sector, and his contributions towards interventions in epidemiology, clinical decision system and mobile health in rural place.

On another plenary session that discussed “Navigating the challenges of Governance in public healthcare delivery”, the panellists reinforced that, “To be a good leader, one needs to be a good follower. Plus, Doctors need to learn to work together as teams (i.e. MDCAN, NMA, ARDs etc) and speak with one voice”. Also, since it is the duty of healthcare workers to look after the infrastructure and equipment used in their hospital, we need to have management skills and imbibe maintenance culture. It was noted that the availability of needed infrastructure and equipment across facilities improves and serves as motivation to staff, and this can be achieved in conjunction with government and non-governmental agencies.

In addition, the panellist emphasised on the need for healthcare workers – especially young doctors – to take some management courses and be resourceful, in other to minimise wastages within the health facilities. While urging all to make wise decisions, be accountable and take healthcare back to collaboration.

The panel session on “leadership and partnership opportunities for healthcare delivery: The role of the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria” had the likes of Dr Salmas Anas Ibrahim – Special Adviser on Health to the President of Nigeria and Medical Woman, Prof Akin Osibogun – President, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Dr Uche Ojinmah – President Nigeria Medical Association, Dr Jide Obosi – Manager-Health, TotalEnergies Nigeria and Dr Solomon Obekpa – Country Representative, Pfizer specialties, Nigeria.

In terms of partnership at the family unit level, there was a debate on “spousal involvement in the workplace”, as well as a panel discussion on “winning the war against Gender based violence in Nigeria”. This plenary session had the Minister of Woman Affairs – Dr Calmelita Agborubere (Ph.D.), Chairperson International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Rivers State Branch – Adata Bio-Briggs and Executive Director Mother of Good Counsel Initiative – Lady Doris Onyeneke as lead discussants. In celebration of the rich culture of the nation, there was a cultural evening get-together, with presentations of multiple “Nigerian-made” and imported medical solutions – designed by us, for us – and patients’ healthcare focused interventions e.g. Febra Diagnostica, among others.

Further into the event, the MWIA President – Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi – during her speech elucidated that the biennium’s theme draws from MWIA 2022 – 2025 triennial theme “One humanity: Health solutions through our partnerships”, with one of the MWIA objectives geared towards overcoming gender related inequalities within (and outside) the medical profession. As we are currently experiencing unacceptable preventable loss of lives on account of poor leadership and government in health, which is worse for women. According to WHO, globally about 1 in 3 women have been subjected to physical and sexual intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. Also, every 2 minutes a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth, with Nigeria ranking among the top 3 contributors to this staggering mortality rate. She then called for more MWAN-led partnerships to reverse these losses.

Other recommendations from speakers at the conference – especially on the massive resultant effect of the Japa syndrome leading to the neglect and malady of the Nigerian Medical sector – include: placing more value on the health workforce of the nation by restoring the respect and dignity of health workers through decent and fair remuneration; turning around outsourcing to insourcing and reversing the brain drain to brain gain; encouraging smart private sector investments from business moguls and philanthropists into training institutions and the health sector; as well as encouraging the upscaling of healthcare facilities in private establishment.

Hence, by leveraging our collective resources across sectors and organisations, we could collectively reduce the Japa syndrome and save our “ailing” country.

Following the elections and AGM of the association, the investiture of the MWAN president for the 2023-2025 biennium – Prof Rosemary Ogu – and inauguration of the newly elected executives held. Revealing the MWAN Executive for 2023-2025 biennium:

  1. President – Prof Rosemary Ogu
  2. President-Elect – Dr Zainab Muhammad-Idris
  3. National Coordinator – Dr Vetty Agala
  4. National Treasurer – Dr Obelebra Adebiyi
  5. Assist National Coordinator – Dr Ugochukwu Madubueze
  6. Financial Secretary – Dr Bilqis Alatishe- Mohammad
  7. Publicity Secretary – Dr Maymunah Yusuf- Kadiri
  8. Internal Auditor – Dr Adesuwa Urhoghide-Edigin
  9. Young Doctors Forum (YDF) Coordinator – Dr Safiya Tanko
  10. Immediate Past President (IPP) – Dr Lilian Adekemi Otolorin
  11. Immediate Past National Coordinator (INC) – Dr Gbemi Daramola
  12. Immediate Past National Treasurer (INT) – Dr Adeola Akintola

A successful person without a good successor hasn’t achieved much. Whatever talent you have, let it roll on… share it. ~ Dr. Adekemi Otolorin, MWAN IPP

Editor’s note:
This article was compiled by Medical Mirror Correspondent and MWAN Benue Member – Dr Faeren Atsehe Cynthia (physical delegate at the conference), MWAN Enugu Immediate past YDF coordinator – Dr Ụzọ Ezenwugo and MWAN Lagos YDF coordinator – Dr Oluwakemisola Agoyi Awoniyi (both virtual delegates at the conference).

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