600-level Medicine & Surgery
University of Ibadan
Can you please introduce yourself to us?
I am Femi Afolayan, a Unilorin alumnus and a practising doctor in Australia.
Thank you very much. Glad to be doing this with you.
It‘s a pleasure.
Can you please tell us what your life was like in Nigeria before you left?
I finished in ‘08. While in school, I was the assistant class rep. I also once acted as Ilorin University Medical Students‘ Association’s (ILUMSA) treasurer. I did house job and NYSC between ‘10 and ‘12, a short stint of PP, and then started a residency in internal medicine in Bauchi. While there, I was able to learn the Hausa language, and I still speak it till date—it was a lovely time for me. I got a spot in National Hospital Abuja subsequently, but by then my Aussie move was in and I left. I enjoyed my internal medicine practice to an extent but the severe limitations to the practice were not always palatable. I left in 2012.
Were you always certain you’d leave the country or was there something during this journey that sparked the decision to leave the country?
I was always certain. I started preparing during my house job days. I saved up all my earnings to write the various exams.
No room for doubt I see.
There was no doubt; the only doubt was where I wanted to go.
Ha. So why did you choose Australia? Most people I talk to are either for the US or the UK.
I didn’t like the USA and felt the steps too cumbersome. The UK, I thought of, but the economic benefits were not particularly attractive plus the steps in post-graduate training seemed too long. I thought of Canada but as an IMG, it seemed a bit daunting. I thought of Sweden but the language and all. In fact, I sought and got a master’s degree position there pending IELTS; then I settled for Australia as it seemed to tick all my boxes—the only problem for me, initially, was the distance.
This was well thought out. Can you briefly tell us about the qualifying exams and how to go about them?
For a fresh IMG with no prior foreign exams, two steps: Australian Medical Council (AMC) Steps 1 and 2, a written exam and a clinical exam. You would first need to register with the AMC and get a number—that costs a fee—at www.amc.org.au. Then you get your Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) registration done—also comes with a fee and involves your graduating school liaising with ECFMG. That basically verifies your degree.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is also very important, with a band score of at least 7 in all domains. You don’t need the full score to register with the AMC, but you would need the full score to register with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) when you pass the exams and seek Australian registration, so it’s best to have it.
After your degree is confirmed, then you can apply to write the exam, a step at a time.
Can any part of the examinations be done in Nigeria or they all have to be done in Australia? And what is an approximate cost of taking on this process?
Unfortunately, none in Naija yet. A lot of people write Step 1 in UK, India and lots of other European countries. Step 2 is only in Australia.
The cost is steep and heavy, at the last I checked—you might need to check this on the website (www.amc.org.au). This is aside ECFMG fees, IELTS, AMC registration fees and other ancillary fees here and there.
Whew. The cost of leaving the country.
It’s steep, but it’s worth it if you’re keen. I saved up all house job to make this work.
How was your medical training like in Ilorin? Any fond memory of that time?
I enjoyed Ilorin to the fullest. I was fairly a troublemaker and got along with everyone quite easily. Ilorin was top in the country at some point when I was there.
Good times then.
Absolutely was a good time.
Now that you are in Australia, how is life?
Life is good. The Naija in me will say, we thank God. No one in life has it 100 per cent, but I’m grateful for where I’m at and the prospects of tomorrow. I wake up thankful I took those steps I took.
So what area are you specialising in over there? And why that field?
Acute care medicine, general internal medicine and geriatric medicine. It‘s possible to combine different specialities here and that’s what I have done.
I chose those fields because I love intensive care medicine (the action stuff). I love general medicine as it mostly involves having to rationally come up with diagnosis and management—more like detective work. Geriatrics, because I love cognitive aspects of medicine plus we will all grow old and need the care of geriatricians.
The acute care is the one dealing with the intensive-care style of medicine, all the high-gadget medical care ~lol~. Because of this, my residency program has taken quite long.
I can see why it would be long. This definitely has to be fuelled by the passion you have for them.
I guess so.
Are there any challenges you face, being a black immigrant from Nigeria? Is the issue of racism as prominent as in some other countries?
Australia? Maybe not as much. There are always going to be stereotypes and doubters, but when your work speaks for itself, then you have a smooth sail. Maybe, also, the higher you go, the less questioned you get. In the start, it was probably a bit rougher as I had to adjust to a new system and place—that took some getting used to.
This is understandable. Some aspects of it even happen here in Nigeria, life generally.
That’s true. Inasmuch as I don’t disregard racism or its impact, I still feel we can overcome the challenges, especially as professionals.
Couldn’t have said it better. To sidetrack a little bit, what made you start the MedTute hashtag on Twitter? That’s one thing you are quite famous for.
Nothing really. Actually, I only got active a year or so ago and just felt I could just drop some medicine knowledge for peeps to glean; so I kept doing that and people seemed to like it. Then someone suggested ‘why not hashtag it so it’s easier for us to search out’ and that was how it came about.
It has definitely been enlightening and even I have learnt my fair share.
Outside work, what are your favourite things to do over there. And have you come across any of the numerous dangerous animals that that country has?
I love gaming, tennis, power bikes, and cooking. I think the dangerous animal thing is a bit overrated and mostly in Queensland; I haven’t come across any. I have seen several kangaroos though.
Rather they stay overrated then. Have you returned to Nigeria since you travelled? How often do you visit Nigeria?
Several times. I was there 2 years ago and probably would have this year but for COVID.
Do you ever miss home or do you get a feel of home over there, enough to be satiated?
Home is where the heart is, and my heart is here. I mostly miss the Naija feel sometimes and the ease of catching up more easily with old-time friends, the amala joints etc. but one can always improvise.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to those who want to practice in Australia?
It’s a lovely place to practise clinical medicine if that’s your desire. It’s achievable, enjoyable and of course very cashable ~winks~
That last part is key, hahaha.
That’s why I winked. I should say that I’m almost through with my training, not finished the last component yet.
That would be a tally of how many years?
I’ve got a year to go and I would be done in all. So, seven years.
Seven years for three specialities—that’s a sweet deal Australia is providing.
To wrap it all, who are your favourite doctors on Twitter, people whom others can follow to gain knowledge such as you dish out.
Everyone is different. I follow quite a lot of docs and I enjoy them uniquely. Some are into politics, some into the general public, jokes and comedy, some into literature and arts, some finance; so I just enjoy what everyone brings to the table.
Thank you very much for your time Femi. This was very enlightening, learnt a lot myself.
It’s a pleasure, my brother. Anytime.