Recently, University of Uyo conducted their Sponsio Academica/Oath-Taking ceremony for the 6th Batch of Medical Graduates and Idongesit Eseneyen, 21, stood tall as Youngest Graduating Medical Doctor and Best Graduating Doctor in Pharmacology. She has the beauty, brains and the charm…read her exclusive interview with Wetinhappen Magazine as she talks about medical school, the challenges and her future prospects.
Congratulations! Medical School is finally over, are you excited?
Of course, I am excited. Medical school has been a rough road and I am grateful for the respite.
Tell me about your Primary and Secondary School education.
I started primary school just before I turned two years old. I attended Grace and Gold Nursery and Primary School, Calabar. The school back then stopped at Primary Four, and in that class every pupil was expected to take Common Entrance Examinations into their secondary schools of choice. I was eight years old when I wrote Common Entrance Examinations for Federal Government Girls’ College, Calabar and got accepted. I spent one year at Federal Government Girls’ College, Calabar before we had to relocate to Uyo, so I finished my secondary school education at Bright Stars’ Model Secondary School in 2007, at the age of 14.
Did you ever feel too young for your class back in school or too privileged to be the youngest in your class?
Too young? Yes, I did sometimes. I used to be like ‘Idy, you are too young to handle this’.
Tell me about the Awards you have won so far
At my Primary School graduation, I got an award for Best Graduating Pupil. In my Secondary, I used to represent my school with other students at Zonal and State competitions. I remember going for Cowbell Competition, I was 13 years old then, and came in third in the State for the senior category. I also was awarded Best Graduating Student in my secondary school. In the University, at the Physician’s oath-taking ceremony, I won Best Graduating Doctor in Pharmacology.
How did you feel when you were called upon as the Best Graduating Medical Student in Pharmacology?
Well, it came as a surprise because Pharmacology was not even my favourite course. I remember when I wrote the examination, I wasn’t really sure if I would make it or not. That was because we were given just a weekend to prepare for it and I didn’t feel well prepared. I wasn’t the only one tensed after that examination, every other person in the class felt that way. I thank God for working out all of that. I was really happy when I got that award.
At your Sponsio Academica After-Party, in your dad’s speech, he mentioned a letter you wrote to His Excellency Dr. Donald Duke in Primary school, what inspired you to write it?
In my Primary school, our Headmistress gave us assignment and asked us to write a letter to thank the Governor for completing the construction of the road leading to our school. My letter turned out to be one of the best letters in my class, the best letters were recopied and sent to the Governor then, His Excellency, Dr. Donald Duke. The Governor appreciated it so much and felt the need to write us back personally. So when I came home I showed the letter to my Dad, he thought it was a nice effort so he filed the letter away. Anytime I come across the letter, I still look at it and smile.
Why did you choose to study Medicine?
I chose Medicine for a number of reasons. First of all, my mum is a nurse, and when I was little, I used to get sick a lot, so she used to take me to work. Back then, I used to admire the doctors and the medical students in their white coats looking so smart, walking around like they owned the place and answering questions like they knew everything. So, I wanted to be like them someday. Secondly, I usually love a challenge and I feel fulfilled when I succeed in doing something other people find it difficult to do. It’s a sort of an ego boost, it makes me feel good. I knew it’d make me feel good to make it to last lap. Thirdly, back in the days when my brother was a baby, a doctor really helped save his life. My brother had to undergo a kind of treatment, it was difficult to find a doctor who wanted to go through with it, but this doctor took it upon himself to help my brother. When my brother got well, my parents were so thankful and felt indebted to him. The doctor inspired me so much. I wanted to be a doctor so I could make a difference in people’s lives like he made a difference in our lives.
What did you like about medical school?
(laughs) Oh, I really have to think about that one. What I did not like was examiners’ bias, especially in clinical examinations. That is, one student who goes to two examiners will not get to have the same score. I also disliked the tight schedule and long hours of lectures, I barely had the time to do most of the things I would have loved to do.
When was your happiest moment in medical school?
That was in my second year in Clinicals, when I got a phone call that I had passed a particular course, Laboratory Medicine and Pharmacology. I didn’t have enough time to prepare for it, so I was really scared after the examinations. At first, the caller tried to play around a bit, which just made me more scared…then he finally told me I passed. It was quite a relief.
When was your saddest moment in medical school?
Well, there were a lot of sad moments, more like every day. Some of the moments were having a close friend fail an examination, having a favourite patient pass on and seeing the kind of suffering most patients had to go through while in the hospital.
What was your social life like?
I didn’t really have much of what you’d refer to as social life. I was not a nerd though. My social life was limited to the few friends I had back in school. I usually went to the movies, I loved watching House and I read a lot of novels too. I love reading novels, my favourite author is J. K. Rowling; The Harry Potter Series, and then Dan Brown too.
You mentioned that you love reading novels. How did you balance that with your studies in medical school?
(laughs) I would say it was a miracle! Honestly I don’t know. But usually, if there is a novel I really like, I won’t be interested in any other thing until I am done reading that novel. In order to compensate for my study time, I will have to read the novel fast, so I can relax and then focus on my books.
Being in medical school is a commitment that comes with a lot of sacrifices like not having to be with family always. How supportive was your family?
My parents were really supportive; I really don’t know how far I could have gone without them. Apart from financial support which they loaded me with and the material support which they gave me especially during the examination periods, they also gave me emotional support. My dad would always tell me he didn’t expect me to come top in my class, but that I should always take it easy, do my best and pass. That even if I failed once, he wouldn’t have a problem with that as long as I decide to try again…and that I should not put too much pressure on myself or try to outdo others. That was his philosophy. That sort of helped me relax and put things in a proper prospective. My mother believed in me more than I even believed in myself (laughs). Even when I didn’t prepare very well for an examination and I was sure I did not write a particular examination well, she would tell me with every amount of confidence, ”don’t worry, you have passed”. However, 99% of the time, she would be right. I really appreciate the confidence she usually had in me.
While awaiting your final examinations result, did you feel any form of tension?
When we heard that results were going to be pasted soon, a few of my course mates and I went to our Faculty in the Town Campus. There was tension in the air, I could feel it. We just hung around and waited till about 8pm, because there was a Faculty Board meeting going on. After the meeting, it was not pasted. That night it was difficult to sleep, because one can never really be sure of an examination especially a medical examination. The next day, I got a call from my Dad and was told I had passed. I was so thrilled and very happy.
When was your Happiest moment at the Sponsio Academica?
That had to be after taking the oath and the three bows, then the Registrar’s Representative told us Congratulations! I was very excited.
After six years plus in medical school, who would you love to appreciate?
First of all, I thank God. I wouldn’t have made it this far but for His tremendous grace. I remember sometimes, I‘d be at the end of my tether and all I would say is “God just help me through this medical school”. At the end of it all, I am thankful because everything has turned out way better than I expected. I am grateful to my parents for their love, care and support. I also thank all my teachers and lecturers especially those who were personally interested in my academics. I want to thank all my friends too.
What are your future aspirations?
I haven’t given much thought to that. I hope to contribute to building the society in my own little way. For now, I have just set short term goals. I will go for Housemanship…then probably specialize after my service year.
What lessons have you learnt about excelling in medical school?
Excelling, for me was all about putting God first and trusting Him, this worked all the time. I learnt that I always have to put in my best at all times, face challenges and never give up no matter what, and always be ready to face anything at any time. I learnt to handle tough situations. To excel, one has to work hard and most of all be focused.