Dr. Dumebi Mordi is a public health consultant and clinical pharmacist. She parades an intimidating resume. She holds two masters degrees (Masters in Public Health and an MBA) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, before capped it up with a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy from Texas Southern University, USA. Dr. Mordi whose experience in pharmaceutical management spans over 15 years has worked has worked as a clinical pharmacist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and has served as a consultant and advisor for NGOs and governmental bodies.
Her passion as a public health consultant is to help improve health care systems in developing countries over Africa and Central Asia. Presently, she sits atop the management of Rx3.0 Pharmacy where she engages in patients’ counseling, teaching on proper use of drugs as well as disease control and prevention methods.
In this interview, Dr. Mordi told Daily Sun that that people travel out of Nigeria to get healthcare services because they don’t trust the current system, which is broken. Dr. Mordi whose experience in pharmaceutical management spans over 15 years revealed that drugs are not regular commodities like biscuits and chewing gum and as such, Nigerians should not buy them without prescription.
How would you assess the health sector in Nigeria today?
We have a lot of work to do. The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Nigeria as number 187 out of 190 countries when it comes to healthcare. There is no doubt that we are facing serious shortages in healthcare manpower. Healthcare professionals in Nigeria do not have the necessary equipment, training and medicines to do their jobs. We sometimes, have to work in the face of great challenges such as inconsistent power supply, inadequate diagnostic machines and scarcity of medicines. Yet, the demand for healthcare service is increasing as our population keeps growing. This leads to undesirable consequences including medical tourism, improper healthcare, and poor outcomes.
What practices do you think have become obsolete?
Obsolete practices are obsolete because we have found better ways to do things, especially when it comes to providing healthcare services to people. Therefore, I think we should focus more on updated and modern practices that are in line with international standards. Nigeria has all the potentials to become a hub for medical practice in Africa and the world as a whole. However, our challenges lie in inadequate funding provided to the health sector and inefficient use of the scarce resources which already exists.
Health is wealth, they say. As a nation, we give out this wealth in what is known as medical tourism. How do we correct this?
I actually believe that Nigeria’s wealth is her people. Our greatest strength is our large, growing population, most of which is under-utilized and not adequately challenged. These same people are the ones who facilitate innovation, drive our economy and are the largest untapped resource that we have. Additionally, we are spending billions of dollars in medical tourism annually which is generated by people who live and work in Nigeria.
If you meet their healthcare needs, you redirect the flow of their money and keep more in the Nigerian economy.
So, how do we correct medical tourism?
It is simple. We must invest more in the health sector and provide more support to healthcare professionals. The truth is that people travel out of Nigeria to get healthcare because they don’t trust the current system, which is broken.
Furthermore, there is a need to improve financial compensation for healthcare professionals and make it more feasible to practice in Nigeria and live well. It is discouraging to spend time and money on acquiring the necessary medical training only to be devalued and still struggle financially. The irony is that the same calibre of professionals that people travel to see also exist in Nigeria. Modern-day Nigerian healthcare professionals are a diverse group with different training from countries all over the world such as India, US, England, Ghana etc and some are from the same institutions that people travel to seek healthcare from.
For example, I worked in one of the top hospitals in the US (The Johns Hopkins) but I live and practice here in Nigeria.
The key is to not frustrate the existing healthcare professionals and make it more desirable to stay in Nigeria. The after-effect of this will be a decreased desire to relocate abroad and provide a conducive environment for more Nigerian medical professionals in the diaspora, to return to Nigeria and practice here. In essence, a reverse brain drains.
How have we progressed in the matter of medical drugs safety and quality check? Shouldn’t we remember the likes of late Dr. Dora Akwunyili and other good persons who have helped to push our health sector?
Absolutely, Dr. Dora Akunyili was an icon and inspiration to us all.
What are the current issues/trends in the field of pharmacy?
We have a myriad of issues including the fact many non-pharmacists want to practice pharmacy illegally in order to make a profit. Pharmacy is a science and it takes years of dedicated training during and after school. It is not something you can learn by watching pharmacists or by “osmosis”.
The challenge we have is that a lot of people see community pharmacy as a profitable venture and are willing to go to great and sometimes illegal lengths to establish pharmacies. This is dangerous as the unsuspecting public is exposed to people who do not know what they are doing and sometimes this increases the risk of buying fake drugs or toxic medicines.
Drugs are not regular commodities like biscuits and chewing gum. Anybody can sell snacks because the potential for harm is very low but not just any person can sell drugs. I always ask people who insist on buying drugs from non-pharmacists because of cost, “if something negative were to happen when you take this drug without the proper advice, who would you hold responsible?”
The person who is selling drugs without adequate knowledge is not liable and can easily disappear. But a licensed pharmacist faces severe repercussions from regulatory bodies if they were to mislead you. “Who would you rather trust? Someone who is a trained pharmacist with a license to protect or someone who cannot even pronounce the name of the drug they are selling to you?
Pharmacists don’t always get the respect and appreciation we deserve. In many cases, we work closely with patients for hours and the patient goes across town with the hard-earned knowledge of the pharmacist to buy the cheapest drug possible. Even more so, people compare pharmacists to non-pharmacists who sell drugs without the requisite knowledge. It undermines our effort and knowledge as professionals because the value is now placed on the drug as opposed the person who told you how to use the drug in order to get well and not harm yourself in the process.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is the interaction with patients. People come to Rx3.0 Pharmacy because they know that they know our pharmacists are very intelligent and will give them honest, accurate answers about their medicines.
Rx3.0 pharmacists are more focused on providing pharmaceutical care to patients than anything else. It is very rewarding when you work with a patient with a challenging health issue, you find a solution and their quality of life is improved.
What happens is that the patient forms a trusting relationship with you that money cannot buy and in most cases, you become their pharmacist and trusted confidante.
What advice would you give to someone getting into the field of pharmacy?
I would say go ahead for many reasons. Nigeria has a shortage of qualified pharmacists so the job market will favour you and if you wish to be an entrepreneur, you can open up your own community pharmacy in an underserved area. There are many places in Nigeria where there is a need for a proper pharmacy.
It is a field with many opportunities for growth and expansion. You can choose to work in the community (retail) pharmacy setting like Rx3.0 Pharmacy, in the hospital, in the pharmaceutical industry, in government or you can even teach in the universities. There are many options depending on where your interests lie.
Pharmacy is a very rewarding profession and interesting, to say the least. There are many steps to take and one must be resilient and focused in order to become and practice as a pharmacist. It is not easy to achieve but then again, nothing worth having in life comes easy.
What influenced your choice of career in this health sector?
I decided on a career in the health sector because I am passionate about people and want to help improve their healthcare. I know that some people die from unnecessary health-related causes and easily curable diseases and I want to help change that narrative in Nigeria.
I value human life and it is my life’s work to help preserve it.