Happenings media had a sit down with Dr. Martina Abgerien, Deputy Director, Medicals, NTA, who is who is also one of the judges for 100 Most Influential Deltans, an event put together by Happenings Magazine to recognise and celebrate well meaning Deltans. In this interview she discusses the joys and challenges of her profession and gives a glimpse into her personal life.
Can we meet you?
I am Dr. Martina Agberien
What do you enjoy most about your job?
As a medical doctor what I enjoy most about my job is touching lives and seeing that people get healed. There’s nothing as interesting as when a patient comes to you looking like a very helpless situation and somehow you apply your medical training in restoring their health, and seeing that the patient begins to regain his/her health gradually, and at the end of the day you find the patient walking out of the hospital – The joy is fulfilled because the aim of attending to that patient is actually met. So seeing the patients get well and get their health well restored gives me joy.
What do you hate about your job?
When I don’t have working tools and you need to get the work done. There are certain things you need to do but you’re restricted because the tools are not there. But as Nigerians we are trained to get results so you must look for alternatives. That’s why I give it to the Nigerian medical doctors. There’s always a way out, they have a way of getting things done even if the things are not available; they go the extra mile. Alternatives – they have to apply them.
What would you say about doctors who demand deposits before treating patients? How do you relate this with the Hippocratic oath?
I don’t do that. The truth is as medical doctors the first instinct is to attend to the patient. So I don’t think doctors would see a patient who is bleeding and ask that they make a deposit before they attend to the patient, I stand to be corrected, but I don’t think so. They may ask for deposits after they might have stabilised the patient but not going out of their way to ask patients to pay first.
What I know usually obtains is when you have a patient with robbery/gun shot wounds and they ask you to get a police report. Doctors were usually very skeptical not until they said we could treat and then ask for the police report because in the past when doctors treated patients like that they usually got into trouble as they were seen as an accessory, and doctors are human, they aren’t spirits.
It’s the same thing when you find an accident victim along your path and you take them to the police, they would detain you, it’s exactly what happens when you have gun shot victims walk into the hospital. They are just being very careful. Hippocratic Oath – The patient first, you must handle the patient first, save life and not money first.
How do you think the government can bridge the obvious gap between Nigerian medical doctors in US and doctors in Nigeria?
The gap has to do with remuneration and salaries actually. I don’t think doctors are well compensated here in Nigeria – the salary is nothing to go by. Most doctors working here do it out of love for the profession. If they consider what they would gain out there, I can assure you that 80% of the doctors will be out of this country. But be that as it may, those that are still left behind are still here because of the interest for the job. Majority of doctors in Atlanta are Nigerians. Any doctor who is able to do well in Nigeria can survive anywhere in the world. Imagine a doctor being trained here with limited work tools/ facilities, but when you put those trainings into practise out there with the available facilities they do very well outside Nigeria; They excel. Nigerian doctors are actually well trained, well read and can stand anywhere in the world to compete with their counterparts. It’s the salary that’s the challenge we have.
The Nigerian government should work on the salaries and facilities. Most times when doctors go on strike its not only about salaries, it’s often about the working facilities, the tools are are not there. For instance they bring a machine/ tool the hospital for technicians to use but since the technicians aren’t well trained the machines just stand there without being used. So they are fighting for upgrade of facilities – Put these things in place so doctors can work. You want to work but you can’t work because these facilities aren’t in place so you just manage with the little ones you have to restore health.
If you were not a doctor what else would you love doing?
That’s a tough one – I’ve always wanted to be a medical doctor since childhood. I’ve never really thought of any other profession … maybe broadcasting.
I love all types of music
My favourite destination?
The Vatican City
One item you can’t do without?
There’s no item I can’t do without…My wedding ring must be on my finger, unless that, I’m 25 years in marriage and since my husband put it there I haven’t taken it off.
Advice to young Nigerians?
Remain focused. Have your goal, set your goal and don’t let anything distract you. It’s probably going to be tough but keep going. If you get discouraged you won’t get to your goal. remain focused. Distractions would come and they are part of the challenges, they are part of the things that would make you strong. When you overcome you’ll look back and smile because they are actually stepping stones for you to get to where your destination. If you don’t have a challenge find one because those are the things that would propel you. If you have no challenges and you’re sailing smooth, you’re going to get there too fast and you’ll come crashing down. If you let some challenges come, they toughen you, you step on them and move on.
What advice would you give to any young man or woman who wants to go into medicine?
It all starts from primary and secondary school where the foundation is built; take note of the subjects that you’re doing well in. You need to determine if you’re interested in sciences, interest is important. Then go ahead and take the required UTME subjects to get into university.
How do you relax after work?
I love exercising a lot. I listen to music and watch movies.