Living a life of impact has been the call of a few persons whose pursuit of success which involves serving people and bringing smiles to their faces. To them, experience would always be a teacher, not an undertaker. They could look feeble but their inner strength is driven by passion and empathy. One of such rare personalities is Dr Olamide Orekunrin, a British-Nigerian whose ingenuity led to the establishment of the Flying Doctors; a firm that saves hundreds of lives in West Africa.
A medical physician, a trainee helicopter pilot and entrepreneur, Dr Ola is the founder and manager of West Africa’s first indigenous air ambulance service – The Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd. Born and bred in the United Kingdom, Dr Ola studied Medicine and Surgery at the Hull York Medical School of the University of York. She graduated at the age of 21, being one of the youngest medical doctors in the UK; and thereafter worked with the National Health Service also in the UK. Awarded the Japanese NEXT scholarship, she went on to further her studies in Tokyo, Japan.
The death of her 12-year-old sister had triggered her interest in developing an initiative through which children’s lives can be saved from avoidable deaths. And since its inception, the air ambulance service – the Flying Doctors – has been making significant impacts in saving hundreds of lives every year across the region; especially in the oil and gas industry. In a bid to improve medical services in Nigeria, the initiative under the leadership of Dr Ola renders medical evacuation services, remote site clinic management, first aid training and other medical solutions to make work safer in the industry.
Dr. Ola decided to return to her native land to contribute her own quota to national development, this is at a time many Nigerian medical doctors are known to seek greener pastures abroad. Recently, about 5,280 Nigerian medical doctors are reported to be practicing in the UK alone. It is also at the time the nation’s health sector is afflicted with industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU). Dr. Ola has carved a niche for herself and this she has been doing tremendously.
More so, Dr. Ola had always wanted to see and taste a different culture – the African culture. She had always borne in mind that she has something spectacular to do in Africa. In her.
“I always knew I wanted to do something in Africa and I wanted to do something different; and I knew that whatever I had to do, I wanted it to be something quite bold and quite unique, and also my younger sister who was 12 years old actually died as a result in Nigeria for not being able to get an air ambulance.”
“So, I came to Nigeria with the intention of starting children’s air ambulance service; that would transport sick children. And I started exploring the system I discovered there was no air ambulance service, not only in Nigeria but through the rest of the sub-continent; not for children or adults. So I decided to start an air ambulance.”
“Coming back to Nigeria as an adult and a professional, I love it. I love being in Nigeria; I love being in Africa. I think there are much opportunities and much dynamism within the economy, within the people, and I think the culture is amazing. Right now, I wouldn’t be happier in any other city than Lagos.”
Many young Nigerians have been making tremendous waves in various sectors of human endeavours. However, the nascent stage of their initiatives was never without challenges; same with Dr. Ola. According to her, the core challenges she faced revolved around finding talented people and right team members, licenses, money. But unlike many who presume money or financial capital is the biggest challenge, she believes that personal mindset and learning to believe in oneself are the fundamental challenges that one must overcome to become successful. “Money isn’t the biggest problem; it is self-belief,” she remarked.
It appears late music icon Michael Jackson had Dr Ola in mind when he said, “We have to heal our wounded world. The chaos, despair and senseless destruction we see today are a result of the alienation that people feel from each other and their environment.” Dr. Ola does not lead the Flying Doctors to rake in funds for personal glorification; rather she leads the team with a sense of empathy, with a view to making her environment, the nation and the world a better place for the downtrodden and depressed.
Attaining one’s goals and vision in life at times requires the guidance of a mentor. While pacing her path to greatness, Dr. Ola sees her kind of woman in the late amazon, Professor Dora Akunyili and also Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. It is no surprise that amidst other accolades she has received, she has also been identified as one of Diamond’s Women of Vision.
Success means different thing to different people. To some, success could be having enough cash in their bank accounts, while others could see it as having fleet of cars. But to Dr. Ola, success is all about good relationships with people – with clients, patients, children, family and friends; daily, weekly, and periodically. To her, being successful also means the ability to leave some sorts of legacy, which have significant impacts on the lives of others. Therefore, it suffices to learn from her story that a fulfilled and successful life is measured by its donations and impacts on others; not by duration. Lastly, you could be successful too when you realize that the relationships you keep are your network and your network in this century is your net worth.