A story about how chance becomes an opportunity and opportunity only grow into something extraordinary with focus and drive, self-sacrifice and faith. This is the story of Temitope Oluwagbenga Alonge, who is a walking testimony of God’s favour and Grace.

Where did the passion for medicine come from?

I was raised in Ajegunle, and I had my first contact with a medical doctor when I was ten years old.  I went with my uncle to see a friend of his who was knocked down by a motorcycle at Ajiromi maternity centre.  There was a gentleman who was being attended to by someone wearing a white overall. He was tending his wounds, and I was stunned.  My uncle was wondering why I was quiet, and I said I was not used to people being nice to each other in Ajegunle. It was a dog eat dog world during the civil war era. All I knew were pistols, soldiers, and fighting. For me to see someone with a different approach to life surprised me.  I asked my uncle for his name, but he told me his profession instead and said that he was a doctor.  I assumed that his name was a doctor and told my uncle I’d like to be a doctor. And from that moment, I have never looked back

How did you narrow your medical focus to orthopaedics and trauma?

When I started residency training in 1987, I was being pencilled down for cardiothoracic surgery training.  At the same time, an opportunity opened up in England it was either coincidental or preplanned by the British, whichever way it was called The Overseas Doctors Training Scheme. I left Nigeria as a senior registrar; I had two years to becoming a fellow of the West African College, but this was an avenue for me to go to England and train properly. My late mentor professor Dijimon Tefari came to pick me up at the airport, and when I got home, he asked me to go through the British medical journal adverts. I applied, and the first job interview I got was within 72 hours, and that was in orthopaedics and trauma. The first job I got was within ten days of arriving in England, and it was also in orthopaedics and trauma. I have found a lot of comfort in being able to manage trauma patients.

Why did you decide to move back to Nigeria and come back to Ibadan after your training program?

Some friends have asked me too, and I only have one specific answer.  I thought I was going to be another orthopaedics surgeon without making any impact. And this is a background of my mentor in Nigeria professor Usain who was the former VC of LASU. When I graduated, he said, don’t be a doctor, you have to be The Doctor. When I became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburg in 1991, he said don’t be a surgeon you have to be The Surgeon. He kept hammering it into my ears from age 17 that I must do things that will make me stand out. So I asked myself, how am I going to stand out here? There are too many orthopaedic surgeons, and they don’t have the kind of injuries that we see in Nigeria.  But more importantly, I did ask God because I’m a Christian. I know that someone created me and HE has a plan for me. We left England in 1995, at the time I was on my way to becoming a senior registrar consultant. I left a 2000 pounds after tax job and came back to Nigeria in November 1995 to a pay of 150 pounds. Within 18 months of moving back I was able to go back for a fellowship I otherwise would not have qualified for had I stayed back in England. The fellowship afforded me the opportunity to become the First British Association for Surgery of the Knee (Johnson and Johnson knee fellow in history. Leaving all the pleasures in England was not a problem and coming back to face the hardship in Nigeria was equally not a problem because I had the backing of God.

How did you become the Chief Medical Director of UCH?

I did not think about being CMD. I was quite comfortable being an orthopaedic surgeon just doing my job and having a good time. I got appointed as the deputy CMAC in charge of special duties which came with a little bit of management responsibility.  In going through some of those responsibilities, I began to think about being part of a proper impactful change because as at the time I came back in 1995 things in the medical field were really ugly.  Six months before the exit of my predecessor I began to nurse the idea of becoming CMD. I started putting out all of these feelings of what the hospital should be like having seen it while I was growing up. As time went along, I became a little more convinced.  The contest for the position went through 5 phases, and I came first, and I was appointed. It has been a story of God controlling what things you need to do.  From coming back to Nigeria and having to use danfo to get around before my car arrived and then being appointed the Chief Medical Director.

What has been the most impactful change that has happened in UCH under your leadership?

I have the inspiration of walking under what I call the 3 B’S. The first B is to build people. When you have people, you develop them and provide them with what they need to be their best, push them to the limit in their chosen professions. The first thing I did when I took over was to try to build people by developing their skills, allowing them to go for training, courses, etc. The second B is to build systems. For 18 months I could not travel, I did not have anything to showcase because I hadn’t built people that were going to build the systems. Now we have operational systems that help govern the running of things. The third B was building the institution itself because if you build people that know what to do, they will build systems that work, which help build institutions that will last a lifetime. Those are the principles that I have operated upon. Also, my passion is to help the elderly people live a good life. We have the first purpose built a geriatric centre in the whole of Africa. Up to date, we have over 10,000 cases we’ve done. I go by this motto Rebirth of Excellence; I knew how good UCH was, and my focus is to see how we can bring it back.  At the moment UCH is the most advanced teaching hospital in Nigeria. My aspiration is to make us once more the envy Africa.

What makes Ibadan special to you?

Ibadan has too many firsts, and I’d like to be a part of the success story. But beyond that, Ibadan has some magnet that attracts you, and when you get used to it, you do not want to go anywhere else.

What is your favourite amala spot?

Quite frankly I don’t eat amala in Ibadan, but I eat in Oyo. I go to prince Afonja’s house and every time I am there I have amala, ewedu, and abula. But I think my friends like skye lolo.

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