Dr Babatunde Wale Okewale is a UK trained Consultant Obstetrician –Gynecologist with over 30 years active practice in the United Kingdom and Nigeria , and a leading fertility expert in Nigeria . He is a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UK. He spoke with Saturday Sun in Lagos.
It was reported not long ago that male infertility is on the increase, what is the situation report now and how could it be curbed?
Male infertility is on the rise generally worldwide and Nigeria is no exception. One of the reasons is environmental pollution and exposures to certain pesticides, metals and solvents in many industries and especially in the plastic and printing industries. Smoke from cigarettes and environmental smoke from industries and generating set also affect sperm. Another reason is in the increase of untreated or badly treated STD infections such as Chlamydia.
What can you say about Nigerians’ response to fertility treatment when you started your career and now?
Nigerians have always been aware of the general infertility treatments such as ovulation treatment. Acceptance of assisted conception technology such as IVF and IUI was much slower because people were skeptical of the availability of the procedure in Nigeria and of the success vis a vis the cost. The awareness is more now all over Nigeria. Partly because more IVF centres have been set up all over Nigeria and because of the visible successes achieved. More and more Nigerians and other Africans now come to Nigeria to have their IVF done.
Could you share one memorable moment as a doctor?
The recent most memorable moment for me is the conception and safe delivery in our unit of the oldest IVF mum at 67 years in Africa and second oldest in the world, in 2018. The other is when we reached the 2000 IVF baby mark last year with a twin baby delivery.
What lessons has life taught you as a person in the course of dealing with expectant couples?
I have learnt again and again to always appreciate the ultimate God factor in fertility treatment. I try sometimes to predict which couples will get pregnant easily from the treatment based on how difficult their cases are and I am always humbled and surprised at some outcomes. Our job is to consistently follow our treatment protocols and leave the final outcome decisions to God.
As a fertility doctor, what keeps you going?
The joy as a fertility Doctor is to see couples trying to conceive get pregnant after treatment, and deliver healthy babies. As of the last count, our IVF units in our four locations have over 2000 delivered healthy IVF babies.
Have you always wanted to be a medical doctor; a gynecologist for that matter?
I have always wanted to be a doctor and a gynecologist since my secondary school days. While in secondary school in 1978, the first IVF baby, Louise Brown was born in the UK. It made worldwide news. It was a medical breakthrough, the effect of which can be likened to when man went to moon. There was so much controversy worldwide about the new technology. I was fascinated by the technology and the ensuing controversy and it helped shape my carrier decision.
Did you study medicine in Nigeria?
I qualified as a medical doctor in 1985, at the University College Hospital, in Ibadan, Oyo State. I then proceeded to the United Kingdom where I trained as an obstetrician and gynecologist at Leeds , Manchester and Oxford, before returning home after 10 years to set up St. Ives Specialist Hospital in 1996. My specialty is in all matters of infertility.
You have a branch of St. Ives in Abeokuta, Ogun state, what informs that decision considering the fact that we have more buoyant states in Nigeria?
Ogun state is the second most buoyant state after Lagos in Southwest Nigeria. The decision to site an IVF clinic in Abeokuta was formed because we were seeing quite a lot of clients from Ogun state and other Southwest states. Ogun state also shares borders with all other South west states except Ekiti. It also shares an international border with Republic of Benin. It was therefore a natural choice when we decided to move our practice closer to our clients in Southwest region. The results from our Abeokuta branch are nothing short of spectacular. We thank God.
How did you come about the name St. Ives?
There is a small town in the UK, during my post graduate study in the United Kingdom, it s a small tourist Island called St Ives, the main stay of that community is tourism. I had one of the best time of my life in the UK at that time. So, I like the name St. Ives, I felt it’s a name I would want to use for anything I want to do in my later years. So when the idea came for me to set up a hospital it was easy to pick the name St. Ives purely because of the town I worked at that time.
How do you unwind when not thinking about St. Ives?
In my spare time, I spend time with my family and friends. I love traveling to different places in the world.
Where is your favourite travel destination?
USA. There is always something to do and somewhere new to explore within it.
Why did you embark on establishing the first female radio in Nigeria?
A radio station has always been a lifelong ambition because I came from a family of broadcaster. My father was a broadcaster with WNTV, OGBC. My sister Toun is a veteran Broadcaster with OGBC, Ray Power FM, Choice FM, UK. When the means and opportunity came, we grabbed it with both arms to set up the first commercial Women radio station.
Your dad as a broadcaster, what influence does he have on you?
My parents were middle class, contented, their lifestyle was better than ours. I remember he comes back from work , 3.30/4.30pm, change into his shorts and goes to Abeokuta Sports Club to play tennis till 7pm and he is back home for the network news at 9pm. It was s very simple lifestyle. We lacked nothing. We lived in one big community housing in Abeokuta, not the kind of rat race we are living. Their generation was contented. They were not acquisitive in nature. They were not envious. They had a strong impact on us.