From Ilorin to the UK

Rosemary Komolafe

600-level Medicine & Surgery

University of Ilorin

Kindly introduce yourself.
I am a psychiatric trainee, a photographer and sometimes I write. Most people call me AdroitMedic.

AdroitMedic…that’s interesting. How did you come about this nickname?
I was randomly looking at the dictionary and saw the word ‘adroit’. I read the meaning and it resonated with me. I eventually used it as a pen name for my writing, photography and social media pages. It’s more of Adroit than AdroitMedic but I’m fine with whichever.

In which school in Nigeria did you have your medical education?
University of Ilorin, Kwara state.

Oh, the better-by-far university. What was your medical training like?
I finished in 2015. The training in Nigeria wasn’t bad, but we had to imagine a lot and cram lots of theory. Our hospitals were not as equipped but we still did a lot given the circumstances. Things weren’t ideal and so we had to make do with the facilities available in the hospital. I think that the way we were taught could have been better. Some of our lecturers shouldn’t be teaching; I feel that should be left for those who have the passion and skill. Also, if we were taught in our preclinical years by doctors, we would have a more solid and robust knowledge of the basic medical sciences. I think there is a lot we could improve on but we are doing okay and not at any clinical disadvantage. Our clinical acumen is great because we were taught not to depend on investigations. We eventually catch up with our other colleagues who trained abroad.

How was life in Nigeria before you left? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
It took me 9 months after my induction to get a house job placement. Eventually, I started as a supra for 3 months (I worked without pay). Practising was frustrating: I couldn’t do various things because materials weren’t available, patients didn’t have enough money to pay for procedures and hospital bills, senior colleagues were disrespectful and consultants didn’t let me leave their postings because there was no replacement. I had to use my leave as an extra week in some postings because of this. It wasn’t a nice period for me. After my house job, I went for my NYSC and I was lucky to work in a research institute which had a large Anti-retroviral and Infectious Disease clinic. That experience was different from and better for me than the routine clinical work and I was eventually retained. I had made up my mind that I was not going to go back to clinical medicine in Nigeria—no private practice, government work, etc. I focused on my photography and at some point, I was earning more from photography than medical practice. The maximum I ever earned from clinical practice when I was in Nigeria was about 157,000 naira.

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Those 9 months spent waiting must have been tough. What did you during that period?
I went from place to place submitting applications and awaiting interviews. I applied to LASUTH, FMC Ebute Metta, St Nicholas, Ilorin, Benin, and a host of other places. I still didn’t get any placements. After a while, I got tired and worked for my mum for about 3 months.

Wow, that’s a lot of places. At what point did you decide you wanted to leave the country? Was it an epiphany (an on-the-spot decision) or a gradual process? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
I had always known that Nigeria wouldn’t give me all the training I needed for my medical practice so I wanted to leave Nigeria right from med school. The period of waiting for house job placement and then starting as a supra was the final straw. I decided I was not doing it for another 5 years during residency. It was exhausting for me and I knew that there was a chance I would quit medicine if I continued that way. Nigeria was beginning to frustrate me. I was tired of the lobbying and the terrible system; I wanted to be able to get things based on merit. I didn’t even write primaries or apply for any state government jobs. I wanted no delays to my leaving so I was willing to put all my eggs in the basket of leaving the country even if it meant doing a masters program.

Haha! You really weren’t going to take any chances. What’s it like living in the UK?
Honestly, the little things make it great for me—constant power supply, good road network and transport system, the sense of security I had (I was once robbed in Lagos, on the bridge at night. It was a terrifying experience).

Oh my goodness! I am so sorry about that.
Thank you. My laptop was taken, as well as many other things in my bag. So you can understand why not having to watch my back constantly was important for me. I can call on the police when/if I need to. My professional options are great too. I got my job in the UK while I was still in Nigeria. It was strictly based on merit—I didn’t have to be connected to one professor or know somebody somewhere. There is also financial security— I can afford to pay my bills comfortably and also be responsible to my family. Although I am separated from most of my loved ones, I have family here and that has helped.

Ward rounds and ‘percussion’ is the norm in the Nigerian medical education system. How does medical education there differ? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
I have encountered a few medical students during some of my rotations. I’ll say they have a whole lot more confidence. The relationship with consultants is different. I remember one day at the A&E: I was with my consultant who I address by his title and last name, Dr Bob, and a medical student just walked up and said, “Hey, John. I was thinking of discussing this with you”. You can imagine my surprise. I think the consultants are more approachable and this makes the students more confident in asking and answering questions. The percussion is normal—students get percussed; even I get percussed.

John ke? Hahaha! How did you go about the process of leaving Nigeria?
Immediately after med school, I did USMLE Step 1 in April 2015. I wanted to apply for a masters in Canada so I wrote IELTS Academic in February 2017. My scores were good enough to register for PLAB. I also did GRE in April 2017 because wanted to try an MPH in the US/Canada. I got my transcript verified and then I applied to 4 different schools in the US for masters. During this time, I registered for PLAB 1. I wrote the exam in November 2017. I saw that I had passed the exams the next month. By January 2018, I had two admissions for masters from two schools in the US. However, there was no scholarship. So I decided to focus on my PLAB. I was retained at my PPE so I worked there for about 6 months. Then, I applied for my visa in May 2018, got it in June, travelled for the PLAB 2 Academy in July and took the exam in August. I returned to Nigeria four days after my exam and resumed work the day after I came back. In September, the results were released and I had passed. I got a job the next month, relocated to the UK in November, and began working in December. Here’s a thread I did a couple of months ago explaining the process in detail.

Thank you! What stumbling blocks did you encounter during the process? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
Asides funds and trying to put all my documents together, there wasn’t much else for me. The major issue I had was getting some documents from MDCN. There was an error with my registration date…it’s a long story. It was a real struggle.

Can you give us a breakdown of the cost to get to the UK?
IELTS – NGN68,000.
PLAB 1 – NGN105,000.
PLAB 2 – NGN1,500,000 (including accommodation and visa application).
UKVI for migration – NGN97,000.
GMC registration – NGN75,000
Certificate of good standing – NGN68,000
ECMFG verification – NGN100,000

That’s a little over NGN 2,000,000. These are the major expenses.


Wow. How did you raise the money to cover the cost?
I was able to save about 1 million from my house job. My parents helped a lot too—they paid for my PLAB 2. I was specific with my requests from them and it helped that they saw I was motivated and able to save up that much from my house job even when I hadn’t been paid for 3 months.

What do you miss the most about Nigeria? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
Haha! I miss Nigerian food. I miss the warm culture and society. I miss my loved ones; God! I miss them so much.

Of course, you miss the food. How easy is it to access Nigerian meals?
In restaurants here, the meals are more expensive compared to back home in Nigeria. I guess compared to other British meals, they’re not that expensive. Anyway, I try to stock up whenever I travel to Nigeria. There are also Nigerian stores in the UK where I get our local ingredients. I cook for myself mostly. I also order meals from Nigerian caterers here.

Was it easy to find a Nigerian community there? Does it get lonely? Do you have family there?
I have family here; my brother is here so I got to meet more Nigerians through him and his friends. The church is also a great place I found a Nigerian community. There are lots of multicultural churches here. Some of my school mates who have moved to the UK are also here. I don’t always see them but I know I can always reach out to them. I have stayed in big cities—London and Birmingham—and they have a lot of Nigerians and black people generally. So it’s been easy finding a community.

That’s great. Have you encountered any racism? Are there any specific difficulties being a black immigrant from Nigeria?
I have encountered some racist patients. I work in Psychiatry/Behavioural Sciences which deals largely with mental health, so most times, I attribute it to that. Also, I always have to make sure I am being culturally appropriate because I’m not familiar with the system. People can be aggressive but I just try to mind my own business and stay indoors most of the time.

What do you love the most and what do you dislike about the medical practice there?
I like that the practice is well regulated—there is a lot of protection for doctors. There is also a lot of sanity in the profession. Tools I need to practice are available, even the legal framework. There isn’t much I dislike; maybe after I spend more years, I will be able to say more about that.

I will be back to ask you again in a couple of years. Lol. If you had the option of moving to another country other than Nigeria, where would you go and why?
Canada. Their way of life is good; it isn’t as liberal as the US. I also know some people who work there and I hear the medical practice is great there.

What is your favourite thing about the UK? migrate to UK as Medical doctor from Nigeria
The National Health Service (NHS), which I happen to be a part of, the transport system, the constant electricity—OMG, I love that—and the security.

With your experience, if you could do it again, would you still move to the UK?
Yes. Definitely.

Have you returned to Nigeria since you travelled?
3 times. This seems like a lot, I know. Twice, last year and once, this year.

When you have time off, what do you like to do? What are your favourite spots?
I am mostly at home. At other times, I try to spend time with my brother and his family although I haven’t been able to do much of that due to COVID-19. I see friends once in a while. I try to go sightseeing but it’s not so fun going sight-seeing alone.

On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate your experience there?
A solid 7.5. Maybe 8 even.

That’s pretty high. Would you ever consider coming back to Nigeria?
Not likely. I feel like by the time Nigeria gets her act together, I would probably no longer be practising medicine. It is always on the table though if she does, not just in health but as a nation. I don’t hate Nigeria; I love Nigeria. Nigeria made me go into medicine but it also made me want to stop practising at some point.

Thank you for your time. I totally enjoyed having this conversation with you.
You are welcome.

Click here to watch our recent YouTube video on handling failure in medical school.


Pendical Admin

PENDICAL an educational weblog creates a platform for medical personnel/practitioners including medical students to share inspiring stories, lifestyles, and resources for medical personnel/practitioners or anyone aspiring to be a physician thereby encouraging and promoting diversity in lifestyle, mindset, thoughts and experience among medical personnel and medical students. PENDICAL started out, like many realities, a dream. It is a weblog whose contributors are medical personnel. In a most profound way, medicine and health meet art in the realm of writing. What we seek to achieve cannot be summarized into bullet points, but if through the pieces herein someone’s path is more illuminated or another is inspired to reach beyond its ‘limits’, if doubts are cleared from this mind or the spirit of another are lifted after a long day, PENDICAL would have served well in the line of duty. Our core values are creativity, excellence, truth, and passion.

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  1. I totally enjoyed reading and learning from this. Thank You for sharing your experience, Adroitmedic. Thumbs up to the Pendical team too, all the right questions were covered.

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