400-level Medicine & Surgery
Lagos State University
Good afternoon, Ma. Please, tell us about yourself.
My name is Shakirat Gold-Olufadi. I’m a consultant dermatologist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. I completed my MBBS degree from the University of Ilorin in January 2009 and went on with my residency at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital from 2012 to 2018.
What was growing up in Nigeria like for you?
I come from a closely-knit family—both my nuclear and extended families are very close. I am the first child of my parents. I got a lot of prizes in primary and secondary school and was encouraged by my parents and teachers to study medicine, though it was already my course of choice.
Did studying in Nigeria affect your decision to specialise in dermatology?
Studying at the University of Ilorin did, actually. I consider UNILORIN a community, and you’ll notice that the graduates always help one another. During clinical postings as a medical student, there was only one dermatologist in-house. One fateful day, there was a patient whose condition would not improve despite all the attempts by the doctors available. The dermatologist came in, administered some treatment and the patient started getting better. This spurred my interest in dermatology and having great mentors encouraged my journey into dermatology. Luckily for me, during my house job in UCH, I was posted to the dermatology unit.
That’s a very interesting journey, Ma. As an undergraduate medical student, what were the specialities you considered? What speciality would you have gone for if not dermatology, and why?
Dermatology was my first choice as a medical student but my mentor, Dr Adebola Ogunbiyi, encouraged me to be open to options. During my first few years of residency in internal medicine, I also considered neurology—probably because they are both ectodermal. I eventually went with dermatology because it allows me to be myself and offers the opportunity to carry out procedures. After all, I love carrying out procedures.
Wow, I had no idea that there were procedures involved in dermatology, quite fascinating. Can you walk us through what it takes to become a dermatologist? How many years are involved assuming one fails none of the exams?
I guess first you have to complete medical school, lol. After your medical degree, there’s housemanship and youth service; you write and pass the primaries and then you start your general rotation in internal medicine. After two and a half to three years, you write the Part 1 exam, either by the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria or West African Postgraduate Medical College. You then proceed with your fellowship. It took me three and a half years to complete my core dermatology training, and this is because LUTH has a fully-accredited dermatology residency program so I didn’t have to do any postings outside the facility. Then, you work on a particular disease condition, publish a dissertation on it, take the Part 2 exams and pass.
Altogether, it took me six years to complete my residency and I never failed any exams—I passed all at once.
That means you’re the proper definition of a scholar, lol. What challenges did you experience as a dermatology resident?
A lot, actually. I got married in my first year of residency and had my first child in my second year. This posed a great challenge to my work—bear in mind that Lagos itself is a challenge—but I had good mentors and a good working environment. I had an amazing friend that was very helpful—this is why I advise that you identify people of like mind and similar values to work together with, wherever you find yourself. Your strategy is very important; there is nothing you do that doesn’t have its fair share of challenges, and how you navigate these challenges shows how strong you are. I am also a deeply spiritual person so my belief in God coupled with my speciality of choice helped me also.
What’s the worst clinical case you encountered in your residency?
I can’t say I had any devastating case. One of the reasons I chose dermatology is that I’m very emotional and get attached to patients easily, and there are usually fewer cases of mortality in dermatology. I had an SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) patient, a fifteen-year-old girl, that died because she didn’t take her medications—her parents kept shuffling between the church and mosque, and when they brought her, she was in very bad shape. Asides SLE, I don’t think there are cases that really shake me up.
Do you think the pay you received is commensurate to the work you did?
*Laughs* Everyone knows that the pay is not commensurate, but the fact is that where we are coming from is not where we are now—it can be better, but it has improved. Another thing is that residency is very stressful, not just in Nigeria or Africa. A friend in Poland has complained to me also about the pay, but we still have to play our parts and be consistent and dedicated in our work.
Did you have to do other jobs to get enough money to cater for yourself and your family?
Yes. Along the line, I started cooking because I cook very well. I’d make moinmoin and soups to sell on order. So if you ask me, if you’re sure of your versatility and can combine other things with your residency, then go ahead; but you have to be sure you can do it, so that you don’t end up failing in your primary assignment.
This is a question I’m very interested in because it’s the way we discovered you and your brand. How and why did you delve into teaching on social media? Do you employ teaching methods used in medical school in your teachings?
I noticed a knowledge gap when it came to dermatology, generally—even amongst medical doctors—and it was a bother for me. Also, I love writing so I started teaching on Facebook about six years ago. Not long after, my husband and a friend suggested Twitter, but I was reluctant because I didn’t understand the dynamics of the app. I eventually got to it and saw that it was just like Facebook—you just have to break the post into shorter bits—and I’ve been consistent ever since. We all need to use technology to our advantage, and upon introspection, we’ll discover that we all have something to offer.
I’ve heard very outrageous lengths of time that residents spend on call and it can be frightening. What’s the longest shift/call you did as a resident?
I did almost forty-eight (48) hours in my junior residency in Cardiology, and I was pregnant. I had to stay the night on call, do ward rounds with my consultant the next morning and still go to the clinic. The residents that say they do three days, or four, at a stretch are usually in surgery.
How has residency affected other aspects of your life?
On this, I’m working on a book that is a guide for residents and medical students on how to maximise your residency period. Residency gave me very good friends and mentors, and I believe good support gets you through everything in life. My social support during residency was 100%—my husband did everything to make life easier and better for me. Also, as much as I like to do a lot of things by myself, I do not refuse help from well-meaning people. I have had to leave my children with my Mum because the nanny just disappeared when the first one was 9 months old; he stayed with my Mum till he was 4. I also pay people to do the things that I can outsource—I don’t overwhelm myself.
What food/snack is your go-to glucose/energy source while on call?
Coca Cola o. In fact, I had to do a de-addiction for three months when I was pregnant. And then egg roll. I literally can’t pass by egg roll without buying it.
Do you have other certifications, and how do they come in handy in your residency?
I have a Step 1 fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine—I didn’t go further because Step 1 is what I need for now. I also underwent a three-month mentoring program in Dermatologic Surgery in Brazil.
Would you rather have had your residency abroad? Do you think your counterparts abroad are at an advantage?
There is no wrong or right answer as to choosing where to do your residency. I don’t do regrets or wishful thinking. For me, wherever you are, do the work well enough to be remembered for good—make a mark. I still got a call from my mentor a year after my mentorship in Brazil, that they missed me and I was valued. Wherever my family is, that’s where I am.
Do you still plan on leaving the country to work abroad?
Nothing is too late. Whenever I want to go, I’ll write the exams and go. The problem that a lot of people have with going late is adaptability; they can’t conform to answering to people that were previously their juniors, and I don’t have a problem with that. There’s no late time as long as one is alive and has breath.
Could you give us some insight into how a random day at work would normally run?
Monday is my busiest day. I start with a consultant ward round and then have a break in which I read or write—I usually write every day and have like four to five posts for social media. Then I pray before going to the clinic which starts at 2 pm.
Would you like to add any other thing?
My advice for medical students is this: while enjoying social media, don’t let your devices control your lives. Control your time and use of social media, don’t be a victim of the ills of technology; identify someone you’ll want to be like, learn from them, be consistent and dedicated.
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