‘At 50, i’m satisfied caring for patients without drugs’

Dr Taiwo Oyewumi is the head of Physiotherapy Department of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).

Not many people attain the age of 50 in a state of good health. So it was joy and fun in Benin City of recent when the Head of Physiotherapy Department of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Dr Taiwo Oyewumi, marked his 50th birthday in good health.

Aside serving as an opportunity for the former President of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) to reflect on his life in these past five decades, the occasion also served as an opportunity for him to reflect on the challenges facing physiotherapy profession-a profession he has used the better part of his life to serve.

It was all joy and happiness when the Head of Physiotherapy Department, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) and former President of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP), Dr Taiwo Oyewumi, celebrated his 50th birthday in Benin City, Edo state, recently.

Born at Ogbomoso Baptist Hospital in Ogbomoso, Oyo State in 1968 to the family of Oyewumi from Agboye Compound, Ilora, in Afijio Local Council, Oyewumi has shown early in life that he would be pursue a life of greatness. At birth, his left hand was positioned as if he were holding a writing material. So, he was nicknamed Akowe, meaning a writer.

Oyewumi said he had a great childhood. “My growing up was quite interesting because I knew early in my childhood what I wanted to become,” he said.

During his first decade on earth, while his mates were interested in studying law, medicine and engineering, Oyewumi’s early life experience rather directed him away from those popular fields to an unknown field of physiotherapy.

“At the age of 10, I had an injury on my right hand that limited my function. No medication could help the hand to regain function. I was eventually referred for a physiotherapy treatment at the General Hospital, Ogbomoso. I was amazed that what doctors, who attended to me earlier, could not achieve, a physiotherapist was able to achieve it. I saw many patients recovered from their ailments without using any form of medication. My interest to study was ignited at the age of 12,” he recalled.

Such experience persuaded him to apply to study physiotherapy at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). The university saw potentials in the young Oyewumi and admitted him into 100-level in the Department. But when the university’s Dr J.A.Balogun, now a professor of physiotherapy at Chicago University, USA, realised that Oyewumi had advance level result, Oyewumi was upgraded to 200-level within weeks.

Oyewumi was happy with the development, because, according to him, “physiotherapy profession is my calling and that is why I am passionate about it.”

Oyewumi took the passion and ran with it, forcing him to get a P.hD in the field recently. His special interest in neuro-physiotherapy and stroke patients’ management has seen him managing and restoring the health of many patients. The joy of appreciation that often emanate from his patients has been the sole motivating factor that has kept Oyewumi in Nigeria, irrespective of the various challenges facing physiotherapy in Nigeria.

But the Chairman of Board of Trustees and President of the Nwuga Physiotherapy Foundation is pained to know that many patients do not know the difference between a physiotherapist and a medical doctor. “There are many challenges facing the profession of physiotherapy in Nigeria. The biggest of all is that majority of the Nigerian population do not know who the physiotherapist is and what we do. The level of awareness about the profession is low. Physiotherapy profession is also “eclipsed,” the physiotherapist said.

“Given that physiotherapy profession is a doctoring profession, most clients and patients do not know the difference between the physiotherapist and other medical practitioners. It is even more worrisome that even among the medical practitioners a sizeable numbers does not know the scope of practice of physiotherapy profession. Most of the government facilities do not have state-of-the-art equipment, so a teaming population of Nigerians are going for medical tourism abroad to receive physiotherapy.”

Physiotherapists are allied healthcare professionals who treat people affected by injury, illness or disabilities through movement, exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. Physiotherapy is also known as a drugless medicine, because physiotherapists treat stroke, asthmatic, arthritis, chronic heart disease and back pain patients without drugs.

In order to change the low awareness of the profession, Oyewumi has done several things to move the profession forward. After serving the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy in different capacities, he seized the matter of leadership and became president of the organisation from 2012 to 2016.

During his tenure, Oyewumi’s administration developed Vision 2020 for the profession and engaged in activities to develop a Bill for an Act to establish the National Postgraduate Physiotherapy College of Nigeria. His administration also established Nwuga Physiotherapy Foundation and set up annual lecture series in perpetuity in the names of NSP co-founders: Dr. T. A. Oshin and late C. A. Ajao.

Not done, he noticed that UNIBEN had no department for students to study physiotherapy. Pricked by the development, Oyewumi developed and wrote the proposal for the commencement of physiotherapy programme at UNIBEN. He met a great resistance. The physiotherapist changed tactics and involved the late Oba of Benin, making the monarch to see what his people would gain in UNIBEN having a physiotherapy department. The strategy worked as the monarch called on the university authorities to establish physiotherapy department, a call that was adhered to by the university authorities.

Happy for the progress made so far by the young department, Oyewumi said he would ever remain grateful to the late Oba of Benin, the immediate past Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UBTH, Prof.Michael Ibadin, who served as a key catalyst to the commencement of the programme and other physiotherapists for their support for the programme.

Oyewumi said Nigeria was losing a lot of grounds for not developing her physiotherapy profession optimally. “There are many opportunities that are opened for physiotherapists in Nigeria and the global communities,” he said. “Physiotherapists have opportunity to work in hospitals and hospices settings, universities, sports facilities, research settings, administration, consultancy, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

At the global community Physiotherapists are taking leading roles in quantum medicine, driving simulation after stroke, manipulative therapy, classical hands-on skills and many more. Physiotherapy specialisation and sub-specialisation are providing huge opportunities to practice and make significant impact on health care delivery system.”

The physiotherapist is saddened to see many physiotherapists migrating abroad. “The brain drain has affected physiotherapy profession in Nigeria. About 160,000 physiotherapists are needed to cater for the Nigerian population. Less than 5,000 physiotherapists are on the register of the Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board of Nigeria (MRTB). Over 50 percent have migrated abroad, leaving less than 3,000 physiotherapists in Nigeria. This is grossly inadequate for the good people of Nigeria. Unfortunately more are migrating at the moment because employment openings are not created and no adequate equipment to work with.”

Oyewumi believed that aside providing opportunities for physiotherapists to excel in Nigeria, health authorities need to put strategies in place to stop professional rivalry in the health sector. “In other to end the professional rivalry in the health sector, all health practitioners and health workers must have a united front. It is difficult but possible for all of us to be on the same page. There should be platforms where everyone should come together. Further, there must be mutual respect for all stakeholders in health sector and team spirit should be imbibed by all,”he advised.

A father and husband, Oyewumi said he met his wife Mrs. Mogbonjubola Oluwatoyin Oyewumi, a psychiatric nurse, 25 years ago while she was in the School of Nursing at UBTH. The marriage is blessed with several children.

Like many family heads, “it has been quite challenging, but interesting being a father, husband and caregiver” for Oyewumi.

“As a father I project myself to my children as their upholder, protector, nourisher, friend, mentor and leader. I also see myself as their spiritual guide. To my wife I always strive to show her love, care, respect, understanding, reassurance, validation and devotion.

As a caregiver I put before myself three things before setting off to work. I always pray for God’s leading, appreciation to God for being a Physiotherapist and attending to my clients and patients like as if they are related to me. The joy of seeing patients recovering from life altering injuries and other ailments is exhilarating. It is quite fulfilling to be part of the team that improves the quality of lives of many.”

For the physiotherapist, it is not all work without relaxation. “I relax by spending quality time with my family and playing tennis,” he said, adding that he also relaxed with Mozart and Beethoven classical music as well as King Sunny Ade juju music.

Like an average Yoruba man, Oyewumi loves amala and okra soup. His mentor remains Jesus Christ (Hero mentor) and hands-on mentors like Dr Abayomi Oshin, the late emeritus Prof. V.C.B Nwuga, and Prof. L.N.Ajabor. Others include Prof. J.A.Balogun, Dr Muoyo Okome, Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, Dr Felix Faniran and Prof. Chukuka Enuemeka and others.

Oyewumi’s best authors are John Maxwell for his books on leadership; Robert Greene for his books on strategies war, seduction mastery, 48 Laws of Power; Brian Tracy for his peak performance coaching books and Bishop Oyedepo for his teaching books on the word of God.

At 50, Oyewumi said he takes care of his health through regular medical checkups, moderate physical exercise involving playing tennis, excellent diet, adequate rest and sleep.



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