The 21st Century Medical Student by Agboola Progress

This is the transcript of a talk given by this phenomenal friend of mine at the Nigerian Medical Students’ Association (NiMSA) Standing Committee on Capacity Building (SCOCB) virtual training session, sometime in March. It a long and very rewarding read. I’m a so grateful to him for allowing me to host it here. Enjoy.


Nigeria Medical school has shaped medical students in a way that all what we think about or know is our Keith Moore, not pale, anicteric, acyanosed et al. Some of us can’t survive in the outside world because the basic things needed are not taught in medical schools.

The future of work is evolving so fast and as medical students we need to be well positioned and equip our selves with necessary skills and knowledge so that we won’t be left behind.

Being a 21st century medical student is an intentional and deliberate decision to see beyond the walls of medical school, leave your comfort zone and equip your self with knowledge and skills needed to compete globally and not just be an average or the regular medical student.

As medical students, we should be able to align and apply what is being taught in class to solve real life problems and pressing health issues leveraging on design thinking to design innovative and feasible solutions to health issues.

A 21st century medical student is a 360 degree medical student, stuffy, innovative with esteemed leadership qualities, a problem solver and is building capacity to navigate him/herself for the future he/she wants. As a Nigerian Medical student, we should act local and think global. Our competitor is not our class mates or hostel mates but we should be able to compete with a Harvard medical student, secure top positions with World Health Organizations (WHO), United Nation Population fund (UNFPA) and other big health tanks.
We have some medical students in the country that are changing the status quo and redefining what a medical student is. You can search for Ogbemudia Eddy Uwoghiren on Facebook, Google and LinkedIn to see the phenomenal works he’s doing. He has influenced a lot of medical students and has mentored over 12 Nigerian medical students to get into the Prestigious President Obama Young Africa Leaders Initiative Training (Onsite Cohort) and I inclusive. Eddy won a grant worth 4393.67 US dollars for his organization and recently returned from Africa Health Agenda International conference, the biggest conference on Universal Health Coverage that was held in Rwanda.

You’re amazed right? But I’m sure you know Eddy started from somewhere too and was once like you but with the right information and knowledge he got started and you’re also privileged to get access to such information through the Standing Committee on capacity building page. You just have to leave your comfort zone and leverage on the opportunities that you come across.

My discussion tonight would be centered on 8 key things which are:
Passion/carving a niche
Capacity building/Personal development
Civic engagement/gaining relevant experience
Leave your comfort zone and risk taking
Handing Criticisms
Striking a balance

Passion/carving a niche.

The first thing is knowing what you are interested in, what you are really passionate about. Knowing what you’re passionate or primary interests would help to streamline the activities you will me engage in, associations or organizations to join, opportunities to apply for. You won’t be doing jack of all trades and it will enhance your productivity

It may be journalism, research, business, surgery, public health, global health, social entrepreneurship et all

What you’re passionate may or may not be in line with the course you’re studying. You may be passionate about climate change, journalism and in other sectors. The most important thing is developing capacity to influence change in the field or sector.

It’s not about you just following the crowd that because people are into public health or research and that means you should follow the trend. You need to know what interest you. If you are not passionate about the what you are doing, when difficulties or challenges arise, you won’t give up easily. PASSION IS THE FUEL THAT WILL PROPEL YOU TO ACTUALIZE A LONG LASTING SOCIAL impact.

When you understand or know what you’re passionate about, you can now work to carve a niche for your self. For instance public health is a wide field, you may need to narrow down your interest to a specific field, targeted audience and location for instance working on innovative ways to improve mental health care among adolescents or being an Orthopedic, plastic surgeon or a nephrologist.

Capacity building/personal development

Personal development is an intentional process and it requires deliberate and conscious efforts to develop your leadership and entrepreneurial capacity while in medical school.

As medical students, we shouldn’t spend 6-10 years and graduate with just only MBBS certificate and our curriculum Vitae still contains our nursery and primary school history for it to be up to a page. We need to gather relevant experiences and should be able to provide value beyond our certificate which means we have to do Extra and not just be the regular medical student.

Everybody would know the usual things taught in medical school and even if the don’t, they would understand it during residency. What will sets you apart from your mates is the other experiences you acquired and extra things you can do to provide value to people around you
I would divide this session into 3 key areas:
Access to resources online
Attending conferences/training sessions
Leveraging on opportunities
-Access to resources online

Thank God we are in the Google age. Someone once said we need 2Gs in life God & google.

With Google, you can learn anything and get access to any information. Instead of chatting for long hours on WhatsApp without achieving anything productive, you can learn stuffs on YouTube, Watch Tedx talks, sign up for news letters, develop your writing and public speaking skills.

You can join the Young African Leaders Initiative Network (YALI) and get access to relevant resources and also access their online courses which also comes with certificates

Attending conferences/training sessions
Attending conferences, seminars and training sessions like the one we are having now are also vital because you would be learn, unlearn & relearn, network with participants and speakers, broaden your horizon on some topics and it’s an opportunity to acquire and develop soft skills like design thinking to solve problems during some sessions in the conference, improve on your communication, presentation skills, team working ability and be able to work with diverse set of people, honing your cultural intelligence and having a stronger network. Your network is your net worth and sometimes the people you know is more important than your certificates.

But you need to be strategic with the conferences that you will be attending, you don’t just attend every conference or seminar, you go for the ones that aligns with your personal and professional objectives.

Leveraging on opportunities
Websites to access opportunities;

Also, you apply for opportunities that you have track record or experience in and you fits in the eligibility criteria.

Don’t be discouraged with rejection mails because it’s part of the process and keep shooting your shots, improving in your application, building more capacity because success is inevitable when preparation meets opportunity.


The place of mentorship can’t be undermined too. Get a mentor that’s in your field on interest that would guide you through your journey. Having a mentor would make your journey easier and faster and you would make lesser mistakes.
Isaac Newton once said “ if I have seen further it’s by standing on the shoulders of giant”.

Note that mentorship shouldn’t be a parasitic relationship but should be symbiotic. You should be concerned about your mentor welfarism and career too and be willing to assist in your little way.

Students interested in global health can apply for this
Application for the 2019 Student and Young Professionals (SYP) Global Health Mentorship Program is now open!. Application for the 2019 Student and Young Professionals (SYP) Global Health Mentorship Program is now open!


Another key thing is that you need to be deliberate with the people you keep in your network. You need to work with like minds and people that would always Inspire you. The people you follow in life determines the path you follow in destiny. If you have a group of friends and what they discuss is traveling out of the country, you would notice that subconsciously all what you will also be thinking about is getting Visa. You need to be strategic about networking with the right set of people. There are some opportunities that are shared within a certain network and you won’t see on the internet.

What have helped me overtime is the set of people I surround my self with.

Civic engagement and gaining relevant experience.

You also need to garner relevant work and volunteer experience. You can work or volunteer with organizations working in your field of interest, setting up your own Nongovernmental organization or starting your own social enterprise or business in line with your passion and providing value to meet a need and proffer visible solutions to problems.

You can also work with committees within your medical student association, take up leadership roles and positions in your MSA, NiMSA, FAMSA and IFMSA.

All this experiences will put you on an edge when applying for fully funded scholarships, prestigious fellowships because some of the questions asked is for example, Tell us about your leadership experience and how you have Impacted your community.

Leaving your comfort zone and risk taking.

As medical students, it’s very easy for us to remain in our comfort zone and don’t aspire to MAD (Make A Difference) or aspire to do something phenomenal. Our lives already have a pattern come to medical school, go to fellowship and ace exams and graduate to start residency and that’s all. Ask your self this question what will I be remembered for when I leave medical school? Will I just graduate being a local champion with no impact beyond your MSA.

You have to leave your comfort and fear zone to your learning zone and then to your growth zone.

The greater the risks you take, the greater your chances of success. Most of the highly successful people you would see in the world are risk takers.

Handling criticism

If people are not criticizing you, that means you’re doing something normal and regular and you are not redefining the norms yet. You will never be criticized, made fun of or looked down upon by someone who does better than you. It’s normal for people to criticize you for doing extra stuffs while in medical school. Even by your friends, senior colleagues and by some of the people you really look up to.
Don’t ever take criticism to your heart and remember that RESULTS SILENCE CRITICS. Always work to ensure you deliver results in your academics and in whatever you’re doing.

Striking a balance

I do tell junior colleagues and my mentees interested in not being a regular medical student that regardless of your activities and engagements, you MUST not forget your primary assignment which is to study Medicine & Surgery which now brings us to our final point of striking a balance. With all that you do trying to gather relevant experiences, attending conferences et all we should ensure that it doesn’t affect our academics. It may be challenging tho but it’s achievable. Thank God we have senior colleagues that have shown that.

We need to work on most importantly time management, doing the right thing at the right time and there’s always time for what you create time for, your multitasking ability would improve along the line and you need to be strategic in all that you do as we all know that wisdom is profitable to direct.

Thank you for having me.
Facilitator- Agboola Progress Obaloluwa
Phone no- +2348163805562
Email address-


Question and answer session
Question from a participant in on the CUMSA_SCOCB page:

What happens when your talents is not aligned with your course?

Response from Agboola Progress;
The thing is that you would always find a meeting point around it aligning your talent with your course of study
One would eventually complement the other we have medical students into journalism, reporting underreported health issues et all

And some of us may study medicine and surgery and may not eventually practice.
Medicine itself is a very nice platform you can leverage on to exhibit your full potentials

Response from Ogbemudia Eddy Uwoghiren;
Keep studying your course and also spend time developing your talent.

I am passionate about Journalism but currently studying medicine. I have taken online certification courses in Journalism and Volunteers with The Nation Newspaper all in a bit to developing my writing talent.

Response from Ekene Blasingame Ahaneku
Kaunda, three things that shapes and directs your talent most times are your vision, mission and finally passion in life. Do not live other people’s dreams. When you do it shows that what you call your passion isn’t yours rather you’re living another man’s life. Be yourself.
Know things that makes you happy. Never undermine your capacity and never look down on your vision just because it isn’t appealing to many. Through the execution of your mission, people will love to join you. And share from your passion. So keep studying your course, and remain focused the vision will get clearer just with time.

Olorundunsin from ILUMSA: I have a question.
What if one isn’t interested in becoming a public health guru or all these other things.
How does one build capacity and personal development if the person is planning to solely practice medicine maybe as an internal medicine or an Obs and Gynae.

Response from Ogbemudia Eddy Uwoghiren
You don’t need to be interested in Public health before you start venturing in Personal development. There is Personal Development in Internal Medicine.
In all my years of traveling to attend conferences and trainings, I have met serial doctors who are consultants in different medical specialty and what stood them out was the extra they had in the area of personal development.

The World has changed. The era of being just a doctor and expect everything to fall in place has passed. My experience meeting Health Professionals over the years have validated this.

Response from Agboola Progress
Okay. Very nice question
You can build capacity by acting local and thinking global. Apart from what you’re being taught in class also familiarize with global trends.

You can leverage on standing Committee on professional exchange (SCOPE) to gain international exposure by going to other medicals schools outside the country to see how they are being taught et all

There are numerous opportunities you can leverage on too
like the InciSion (International Student Surgical Network for students interested in surgery.

You can also engage in research, build your research skills and engage in relevant research works in your chosen field.

Response from Ekene Blesingame Ahaneku
Personal development is key in every field. It’s not just for public health lovers. Always be creative and innovative with things you do. Like I’ll always tell my colleagues in IMSUTH don’t struggle to be the best in Imo state or Nigeria, struggle to elevate your game so as to meet up with Harvard standard and if ever possible do better than them.

For those lovers of specialties in Internal medicine and surgery, hope we know it’s no longer news that AI is taking over the profession? You need to build capacity to remain relevant in the field if not robots will take your jobs.

Diversification is a great tool in globalization today just as collaboration is the new form of competition. eg: In a tech emerging world where robots can carry out major surgeries beyond just VAT ie with the use of 5G networks, this is not same with minimal invasive like in endoscopy and all that. Many average surgeons are going to be eliminated by robots but the few that will remain are those with extra capacities. Go for trainings that will place you ahead of other average doctors. That is building capacity. Progress already said it all about attending seminars, conferences and boot camps. Attend them even if you have to pay, the connections and knowledge keeps you in a different class from the averages.

Special Thanks to Nigeria Medical Students’ Association Standing Committee on Capacity building and the contributors during the question and answer session.

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