Dr. Anuma Kalu Ulu, Nigerian-born medical practitioner based in the United States was in the country recently on medical mission, writes Peter Uzoho
Dr. Anuma Kalu Ulu is the founder, The Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation, a tax-exempt non-profit organisation geared towards improvement of the health and socioeconomic status of indigent rural-dwellers in Nigeria through provision of free goods and medical services.
An encounter with him by THISDAY reveals that despite his great accomplishment he remains a study in humility.
Born to a humble family in Obiene-Ututu, Arochukwu, Abia State where he said he was taught the tenets of humility, hard work and giving, Ulu has continued to nurture the same beliefs, ensuring that the indigent are given helping hand, not only to survive but providing them with hope for a better future.
Little wonder, following his deep involvement in humanitarian activities over the years he was nominated for the "2009 and 2010 CNN-Heroes Award" for his philanthropic work.
Due to his passion for charity he has continued to live a life where philanthropy defines his daily life.
"I derive joy from giving and changing people's circumstance and I am always willing to share what I have and assist communities to the best of my ability," he revealed during the encounter.
"I give not because I have so much, but because I know how it feels not to have. I can say that the heart to give runs in my family. I took after my father (now late) who was probably the greatest philanthropist of his time, a benevolent giver, so is my elder brother Kalu Ulu (Snr) who lives in Umuahia, Nigeria"
It is the same philosophy that has over the years motivated him to reach out in his small way to the needy.
Asked to dissect what is wrong with the nation's healthcare system compared to that of America where he is practicing, he said without mincing words that "everything is wrong with the nation's medical situation as in reality there is no medicare system in our land which is sad."
The accomplished family doctor and geriatrician said "There is really no basis for comparison, everything we are doing here is wrong. I have to be frank. Some of you may have had the opportunity to travel and see what obtains in other climes.
"I trained here at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) before I travelled, and since I travelled and got my further training, I have been coming here to practice. So, I stand in a better stead to actually compare and say as it is based on world standard, we really don't have anything here that is called a hospital or medical delivery system.
"The system is rippled with many practices that would land a medical staff in any other clime in jail or a situation where he or she would lose license. There is no checks and balances here and I believe that some people might know what to do, but because of self-aggrandisement or the need to make profit beyond the need to serve, then they get derailed."
He disclosed further that "The main problem in Nigeria is lack of medical education about what you're suffering from or what you're going through.
"You ask doctors which medication you are giving me. They would not tell you; they would scrape the names and tell you to just take it; what do you know, what or why do you want to know? You ask them what is my diagnosis, they can't tell you, t
hey will just tell you, 'Why do you want to know, did you go to medical school?
"The situation is sad. So, lack of information, medical information, to the populace is the greatest bane of Nigeria's system. Also, the populace believes in a lot of myths and superstitions."
Ulu is of the view that Nigerian doctors need proper orientation if they want to provide the non-profit, value oriented service associated with the profession.
"Nigerian doctors need new reorientation. If they see medicine as a profit-oriented thing, then I don't think they would go far. In my own situation, I am not putting profit as the foremost thing; but if it comes then it becomes a consequence but not the reason.
"They have to reorient themselves to think that they can serve first and along with the service, they can also better their lives. I don't believe in government thing because our government has always disappointed not only in health sector but in almost other sectors."
He appealed to successful individuals to always endeavour to assist in any small way they can as great things begin small.
"Like in my village, when I started my medical mission programme in 2004, over 90 per cent of the people had hypertension and we used to have stroke like 10 to 15 people a year which was attributed to somebody not killing goat before laying house foundation and all sorts of traditional beliefs.
"Over four years of my programme, it reduced to like 20 per cent because the people were compliant. Six years down the lane, there was only a time that we had two strokes and one of them happened to be my mother who died at age 84 years."
With resources permitting, Ulu said he is planning to build a state-of-the-art hospital in the country where part of the hospital will provide free health services to the indigent people.