Professor Regina OLADOKUN
DEPARTMENT OF PAEDIATRICS
Foundation: Although the Department of Paediatrics was formally created in 1962, Paediatrics as a specialty had always existed in the UCH. However, this was as a unit within the Department of Medicine. With the appointment of the first Professor of Paediatrics in 1963, teaching and examination in Paediatrics for medical students was done independently, and not as a part of medicine.
Teaching: As the first academic Department of Paediatrics in Nigeria (and West Africa), the teaching of facts, skills and attitudes essential for the effective care of children has always been done at all levels, postgraduate as well as undergraduate. However, emphasis was on undergraduate training initially. This was done with Social Paediatrics as the hub around which the wheel of all these activities turned. Students were encouraged to see each patient not merely as a clinical case, but as a child within a family, home and a neighbourhood by organizing home visits thrice a week and discussing the findings on such visits at weekly Social Paediatrics Seminars at which the students were the principal presenters. Until recently, student nurses also took part in these activities.
Emergency Paediatrics: This began as a Children’s Emergency Room in the Medical Outpatients Department (MOP) which closed at 6.00pm at which time children who were too ill to go home were transferred to the Casualty Department together with the adults. Later, a part of the Casualty Department was set aside for children. In 1988, after the Casualty Department moved to the new Accident and Emergency Unit, the Department of Paediatrics took over all of the old Casualty Department and with a generous donation from a Nigerian philanthropist, Otunba Subomi Balogun, the unit was re-designated the Otunba Tunwase Children’s Emergency Ward in his honour.
Postgraduate Training: Initially, postgraduate training comprised the gaining of experience for a year or two in the UCH while preparing for foreign professional membership/fellowship postgraduate examinations for which such trainees went abroad. In 1975, a Master in Medicine (M.Med) Programme set up by the University of Ibadan marked the beginning of the local postgraduate training in Nigeria, but our department did not enroll any students on this programme before it was very soon, quickly overtaken by the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria in 1976. Currently, the department presents candidates for the National Postgraduate Medical College Examinations in Paediatrics as well as the West African Postgraduate Medical Examination of which Ibadan is the regional headquarter. The Doctor of Medicine (MD) programme in Paediatrics was inaugurated in 1973 and to date has been awarded to eight deserving teachers/clinicians/researchers. Three others are currently working on various theses on this programme.
The UCH Department of Paediatrics retains the leading position among similar departments in Nigeria. It has trained a number of specialists since the inception of the Postgraduate programme in Nigeria and has 14 established Consultants posts which are filled mainly by our graduates.
Research: Our department was a pioneer in most areas of Paediatric research in Nigeria. A Paediatric Research Laboratory was established where bilirubin estimation on samples obtained within and outside the hospital was carried out. This laboratory set the pace in research into neonatal jaundice, malaria and sickle cell disease in children. Our cytogenetic facility was for many years, the only one of its kind in Nigeria. The prevailing economic situation in the hospital and Nigeria forced a discontinuation of this facility several years ago. We have also established a modification for the qualitative estimation of peroxidase haemolysis as an indirect measure of vitamin E which impacts on several research areas. Our research laboratory maintains its leadership position in research on G6PD and neonatal jaundice.
Research funds have come from the WHO and UNICEF, as well as sums from the Senate of the University of Ibadan. However, much of our work is done through the sheer ingenuity of the staff often supplemented by money from their own pockets. Senior Registrars working for the Postgraduate Professional Part II (Final) examination sometimes receive small grants from UCH, in addition to some funds from their own pockets, particularly in undertaking studies which are not completely covered by the research facilities of their supervising consultants.