Rhodes scholarship, a prestigious scholarship that grants international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford, recently announced its class of 2018 awardees and excitingly, a Nigerian is on the list. Rhodes scholarship was established in 1902, named after the South African politician and British mining magnate, Cecil John Rhodes. The selection process for the scholarship is arguably one of the toughest in the world, with the following cornerstone set for the selection process; outstanding intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service. After 21years of being denied participation in the scholarship, on account of political interference, a young Nigerian medical doctor is being given the opportunity to make Africa proud.
Awoyemi Toluwalase who holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (M.B.B.S.), University of Ibadan, hails from Osun state, he was a recipient of 19 awards during the university’s convocation in 2016. Doctor Toluwalase has the following to say during an interview for Glitz Plus Magazine with Roluseye regarding his journey and his recent success at securing a seat in Rhodes Class of 2018. Toluwalase and his counterpart from Ghana, Emmanuelle, will receive full funding (£50,000-£60,000) annually from next year 2018, to study at Oxford University, United Kingdom for 2-5 years.
Read except of the interview we had recently below;
Have you always been exceptional academically from basic education?
No, I have not and I still wouldn’t place myself in that category yet. I learnt early that success is a product of grace and principles. In my primary school I remember always being in the last five for so long I got used to it. I didn’t care about studying all I could see was me becoming a great footballer someday. On the other hand was a young lady who led the class from start to finish. I love to say I had all the possible combination of grades except f9 that is, I had from A1-E8 at some point in my life. So I know what it means to have failed and to have succeeded.
Your experience as a student in UI and what is your medical specialty?
Towards the later end of my secondary school, I decided to become serious and I prayed about it. I was fortunate to get into the best medical school in the continent where my classmates were high profile individuals. Majority of them prefects with quiz medals. My experience in UI was challenging but propelling. We hardly went for breaks, had large books to read. We had tests every two months, then four major exams and I had to combine this with my passion of teaching and mentoring, leading, watching movies and sports, entrepreneurship and writing. The experience taught me how to multitask and plan. My medical specialty of choice is most likely Interventional Cardiology, but there are still options to choose from.
From all the accolades you received from UI, upon your graduation, which one is more important to you?
The most important would be “Brain of Medical School”. It was an award for my group, Group D and beyond that my set. Everyone got up with me to receive the award.
How do you manage to maintain distinction all through your UI days?
Well Distinction in UI is more difficult to get compared to other schools being that it has a higher cut off mark and you still had to face a panel of professors to prove yourself worthy of the distinction. I had to rely on God and work twice as hard as anyone else. I also ensured I passed on knowledge. It is a very important trick for deeper understanding.
How do you feel being one of the only two West Africans to be representing your continent at Oxford under Rhodes scholarship?
I am Grateful to God, my family especially my Dad, Reverend ‘Niyi Eboda and Harvest House Christian Centre, C. H. E. C. K. Medical Missions, my classmates, my referees and mentors too numerous to mention, resident doctors of the University College hospital and the University of Ibadan.
What do you hope to accomplish in your journey at Oxford?
I hope to make the world proud of Nigeria.
Aside medicine, what other thing are you passionate about?
Mentorship, leadership, volunteering, creative writing, movies, football, food and having intellectual conversations.
The other recipient of the scholarship is a lady, Emmanuelle Dankwa a First Class statistician from Ghana, what’s your thoughts on women breaking barriers to achieve success?
There is a saying I came across which says, “a woman of the same age as a man is about two years smarter than the man”. Since the turn of the century women have begun to break grounds and discover new ones, but I don’t view these things in terms of gender. Everyone is equally entitled to success if you are willing to pay the price.
In your journey as a medical scholar, what would you say keep you going, amidst all the challenges staring at us?
My goal is to be the best God has made me to be, so that at the end of the day, I can be sure I have finished my race that is what keeps me going.
What’s your thoughts on medical experts leaving the country to go practice in Europe or America?
This problem is multi factorial and it is an unfortunate situation. The truth is no one wants to leave his or her home country if not because of the way things are. O am certain things will improve. The calibre of young Nigerians I met at the finals gives me the confidence that things will get better.
Do you have anything to say about politicians and leaders leaving the country to seek medical treatment?
It is not encouraging to us that look up to them particularly because I believe in leading by setting an example.
Any last words to inspire young boys and girls, especially those who aspire for success just like you?
Hard work still has its rewards. Ensure you are ready when the opportunity comes knocking.
Thank you Dr. Tolu, we are so proud of you, your story is an inspiration to us and will remain so, to many coming behind. Have a splendid time at Oxford and keep making the continent proud.