Ten years ago, if I had been asked how many people I knew personally that died from cancer, I probably would have said one. The case is very much different today. The rate at which cancer rears its ugly head is indeed frightening. Not just in humans but also in animals as I wrote about in these dog chronicles, here, here and here.
That is why this interview is a must-read! It’s a call to attention for us all to take this important ailment seriously. To get enlightened about cancer. To do what we can to prevent it especially where possible.
One of the aims of this series is to introduce young vets, veterinary students and Nigerians in general, to the numerous opportunities that abound out there for veterinary professionals. My hope is to broaden our minds when it comes to veterinarians and the potential we carry to be world-changers.
In today’s post, I interview Dr. Ekundayo Samuel, a veterinarian who works in the area of cancer research. He also works with an NGO that focuses on cancer awareness amongst other things. Hopefully, this post will open our minds to how prevalent cancer is in our society. I also hope we realize that this is a fight we all must get involved in.
What is the name of your NGO?
I have not started an NGO. However, I have been working with an NGO called Gracious Youth Empowerment Center (GYEC) in Osogbo, Osun State. I do plan to start one in the nearest future, though.
Can you shed more light on the activities of GYEC?
GYEC has a long list of activities they are involved in to better the society. Such as empowerment and skill acquisition programs, direct support services, advocacy engagements, health care (which I am involved in) and several others. It is worth mentioning that these activities have benefited the vulnerable children, youths, women and widows in Osun State society and even globally. This is as a result of most of our activities having been on the internet and even national dailies where the world easily has access to them.
Why women and children?
These categories of individuals in some respects, are usually considered vulnerable in our society today.
GYEC is a non-governmental, non-profit-making organization with vast interest and experience in the area of provision of support and necessities for the vulnerable youth, women and widows in the society.
How many workshops have you had so far?
The NGO had embarked on so many workshops and support outreaches even before my involvement in their health section. We just concluded a programme on cancer prevention in partnership with the Osun State Government and Federal Ministry of Health. This program involved cancer awareness seminar, development of the capacity of several health personnel on cancer screening while a sizeable number of people had the privileged to be screened basically on cervical cancer for free.
I have been involved also as a lead speaker in various seminars organized by professional bodies and religious groups including; Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) and Association of Community Pharmacist of Nigeria, Osun State chapter just to pass the message of cancer across. However, I was so happy when I was invited by the Federal Ministry of Health as one of their facilitators on International Cancer Day in Abuja, a few months back. It was broadcast live on air and one of the callers appraised and commended my involvement as a veterinarian.
However, let me also mention it here that for our government to get rid of the many health challenges in our country, veterinarians will need to play an active role. Health issues are not dealt with in isolation.
Ways the society has benefited from this initiative?
We have been able to create awareness amongst people in the community; training of health personnel on cancer screening for the purpose of reaching the grass root level, and free screening of participants. Through this, people have been able to know their cancer status.
How does an NGO work?
I believe an NGO should be a non-profit-making organization with vast interest and expertise in a particular subject area. All with the aim of translating that to the benefits of the society/community.
What is required to start one?
The requirements for starting an NGO in my opinion are vision, passion, perseverance, commitment, well-based knowledge and finance. You need to get persons with like passion to join in the struggle. It also needs to be registered with the appropriate regulatory body and if it applies, a professional body.
Statistics have it that by 2030, 1 in 2 persons globally, will have one form of cancer or the other.
How have you been able to marry your vet profession with your NGO activities? Has it been beneficial to GYEC that you are a vet?
What I am doing now is part of me. My veterinary knowledge has massively equipped and helped me to have a better perspective in dealing with health issues. Knowing fully well that the university’s veterinary curriculum develops the capacity of the trained veterinarian to handle almost anything that comes his or her way, the NGO has benefited from that. Not only do I oversee the health section, I am also consulted when an input is needed as regards other issues that is outside the norm.
Was this always in the pipeline for you or you stumbled upon it? How did you get involved in cancer awareness?
My involvement in health, especially cancer awareness, has been of interest from my 400level days in the University of Ibadan. This was when I served as an executive member in the Redeemed Christian Fellowship (RCF). On several occasions, I have had brethren who requested I join them in praying for their loved ones suffering from cancer.
In addition, statistics have it that by 2030, if nothing is done, 1 in 2 persons globally, will have one form of cancer or the other. Let me shock you, the incidence (new cases) of cancer budding in Nigeria in 2011 was around 250,000. By 2016, Globocan reporting the new cancer budding incidence in Nigeria put it at 500,000 for the year 2015. I also discovered that veterinarians seldom talk about cancer in animals like our human counterparts do. This suggested to me that we might be missing something. So I developed interest in this area of research.
You must live a very busy life. How do you balance your roles as a responsible family man, school and NGO team lead?
Wisdom must be embraced and given its place. I try as much as possible to prioritize, organize myself and plan. Discipline has also helped me to make sure that I follow what I have laid down to do. My family has always been a part of what I do. I believe every family established by God is designed to achieve a specific purpose even in the society aside the general purpose of family.
I also give credit to my lovely wife, a woman with a large character, high sense of understanding and a strong pillar of support.
Any words of wisdom for younger vets and veterinary students?
My final word to my colleagues and veterinary students is for them to discover their niches, what they are designed to achieve and cut out for in God’s plan. This is because every manufacturer has something in mind before he or she designs or creates a product.
Ekundayo Stephen Samuel (DVM, M.Sc., PhD in progress) is a native of Kogi State, Nigeria. He is a young and vibrant graduate of Veterinary Medicine and Biochemistry ( Distinction cadre) and Masters degree levels respectively. Both degrees obtained from Nigeria’s premier and prestigious University of Ibadan. He is also a PhD candidate at the same university. His research focus is in the area of cancer.
Ekundayo is currently a recipient of the prestigious Commonwealth split-site PhD scholarship to the University of Bath, UK. He was recently awarded the 2018 Royal Commonwealth Society Bath and branch-Dent Young Award for his progress in cancer prevention. He also has several honours and prizes to his name.
Recently, he has been invited to present a talk on “The Right Focus In Cancer Prevention”. This will take place on the 8th of June, 2018 at the Royal African Society in Bristol, United Kingdom.