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Dr. Abiodun Olaya Paul is a public health professional whose exceptional initiative helped flatten the Covid curve in Nigeria.
He and his team coordinated monumental efforts to transport Covid-19 samples (blood, swabs, etc.) of those showing symptoms of Covid to laboratories for testing.
Testing enables rapid identification of cases and quick treatment and isolation. It could be one of the single most measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic/epidemic.
“It was crucial to close the testing gap in this battle against the pandemic, and that was a challenge, but something which we overcame with resilience, and many sleepless nights,” says Dr. Paul, who AfriSAFE awarded the Best Public Health Specialist for his contributions to the society during the Covid-19 crisis.
It is essential to know that AfriSAFE is an award project that works to celebrate the best professionals and their achievements in ensuring that facilities and lives are safe. It recognizes exceptional professionalism, rewards excellence, and raises awareness on the prevention of hazards.
“The fear of contracting the infection always hung over our heads, but we were single-minded in our effort to pick up samples from patient sites, secure them in triple-layered packaging and transport them to the labs – we were ready to do anything that helped prevent deaths,” Dr. Paul said.
As gatekeepers of this operation, Dr. Paul and his team took the lead to stop deaths, even if it meant that their lives are at risk during an emergency, which has now eased and stabilized, giving great relief to a region scarred by the burden of malaria.
Dr. Paul, who completed a doctorate in public health at Texila American University (TAU) in Guyana, is passionate about biomedicine and believed his choices would further cause a sustainable health care system in the African region.
I pursued public health as I believed that prevention of diseases is the top priority rather than treating them, said Dr. Paul, who as a child lost a loved one to typhoid – “a preventable disease.”
“TAU was a remarkable experience. From a highly supportive faculty to well-structured modules on the specialization, my learning process was enlightening,” he said.
Public health students worked on custom projects and wrapped up modules with ‘wiki,’ a collaborative tool that helps students enhance course content.
“One of the most useful skills I mastered at Texila was writing,” Dr. Paul said, adding the university writing module was a prominent plus.
I realized my usefulness and started discovering myself when I began expressing myself better, said Dr. Paul, who has authored Research Methodology for Low Income and Developing Countries, and will be published soon.
He has also worked on the book titled Public Health Management in Developing Country.
TAU stands out for its multi-cultural environment, which furthered students’ understanding of healthcare systems around the world, he said.
“I made many friends at Texila and now am connected across the world.”
Today, D Paul is a Compliance and Laboratory Advisor (Africa Region) at Akesis Health (formerly Axios Foundation). In this role, he aims to enhance quality training for emergency preparedness and facilitate the use of technology to track future pandemics. Besides, the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic will be featured in books on emergency preparedness.
Dr. Paul, who has worked in east, central, and west Africa, says he would like to play a role in the coming years that will ensure healthcare sustenance and improve the area of maternal health by providing free nutritious food, besides nurturing a wellness culture by promoting health insurance.
“Nigeria is a resource-rich nation, and even its remote villages enjoy good technology and connectivity, but the GDP does not reflect these strengths.
“There are good systems and policies in place, but better implementation would make a lot of difference,” said Dr. Paul, who has published over 55 scientific papers.
I would like to see better education infrastructure and efforts to build better sports facilities and strong cultural systems, he said, voicing his dream for his country. “I would like to make a change one day.”