Today’s interview is not only a countdown interview, but a full one, conducted by the UGMSA Editorial Board in conjuction with SCORA UG, to crown our countdown towards International Women’s day!
Admired by many, especially the ladies in MB3 for her poise, finesse and decorum, Dr. Yvonne Dei-Adomakoh, a cheerful yet diligent lecturer sat down for an interview with the Editorial board. Enjoy this interview:
UGMSA Editorial Board(UEB): Good morning Dr. Yvonne, we are the MB3 representatives of the Editorial board, and we are here to conduct an interview for the UGMSA which will also be a feature for the International Womens’ Day SCORA project.
YDA(Yvonne Dei-Adomakoh): Okay, so you want to know about me? I hope you did well in your exams *gives a warm laugh*
UEB: We’ve not seen the results but we hope so 🙂 Dr Dei – Adomakoh, could you tell us about yourself, growing up: basic school, SHS, etc
YDA:I did the ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ levels programme. I was in Wesley Girls for three years, then I left and completed my ‘O’Levels in Nana Girls Secondary School up north Nigeria. I did my ‘A’ levels in another school in northern Nigeria. From there, I went to University of Maiduguri, Nigeria for my medical school education, where I completed in 1996.
UEB: That’s a very long time ago! Did your stay in Nigeria influence you in any way?
YDA: Well, I think the school I went to had a lot of competition because it was a school for expatriates. There were all these Indian and Hungarian girls who were so brainy and that really helped me a lot.
I went to Form 1 at age 11. At that time, I was very playful, but when I got to Nigeria in form 3, I realized that there was a lot more that I had to do. I had to study. I sat up and I said, “well, If I want to be a doctor, I have to learn”. So that competition really helped me.
UEB: We would like to know more about your family life, social life or any extracurriculars that you are involved in.
YDA: With regards to family life, my dad is an academician, a professor. He did Social sciences, and he’s in Cape coast working part-time. So we grew up in the university environment. My mum was a business woman.
Childhood days were really great! We were pampered, yet we learnt a lot. Being an academician, my dad was always there to make sure that we were learning. Growing up was good – except for the part where we had to leave to Nigeria because of certain things that were happening in Ghana. In Nigeria, it was only my dad working so it was a bit tough in the beginning. Fortunately my mum also started working later on. Even there, I was still in the university environment.
As a child, I learnt how to play the violin, and joined an orchestra group at the age of ten. At that time in Winneba, there was a music school at the University of Education and just before I went to form 1, I went there for some weeks. I also used to play Badminton and lawn tennis.
UEB: Do you still play Badminton and lawn tennis?
YDA: Well, now I don’t. I guess I’m a bit too busy now so it’s difficult to be engaged in these other social activities.
UEB: So what do you do during your leisure time?
YDA: I surf the net a lot. *laughs* I like social media. I like to read a lot, and know what is happening around me. I like to update myself a lot, so if there was a conference somewhere that I wasn’t able to attend, I’d like to know what happened at the conference, what was discussed, what are the new updates in hematology, etc .I do that a lot. And then of course, when my kids are home, I just enjoy them. We go out and have fun.
UEB: Thank you Dr. Dei -Adomakoh. After your university education, what influenced your choice of speciality?
YDA: Ummm, I’ve been in Korle-Bu for the past 22 years. I did my house job here and I haven’t been anywhere except Korle-Bu. Hematology…well I don’t want to tell you the real reason…*laughs* but I was at Child health actually for 5 years as a resident. Back in school, I loved hematology and the fact that I could just look at a drop of blood under the microscope, make a diagnosis and treat. I loved the fact that I could help with the diagnosis in other departments, not just hematology. So I thought hematology was quite broad, and actually, every disease has a hematology flavor. From there I said to myself, “I think I’ll do well in hematology”; and I haven’t regretted it.
It is the only area where the molecular studies is so well advanced that you can actually tell the prognosis. Also, I love the fact that all the other departments call for our help when they see something strange It’s kind of fulfilling.
UEB: You mentioned your kids earlier, so we would just like to know a bit about them and where they are.
YDA: I have two children. A daughter in SHS(Christian High) and she’s almost 18. She didn’t want to go to Wesley Girls. My son is in JHS 3, almost 15 years, so he is preparing for his exams. Two beautiful kids. And they learn a lot. My daughter keeps saying to her brother, “You don’t learn! Mummy has told us that she’s not going to beg anyone to admit us.”
I keep telling them that they better do well or else they will rewrite their exam;). They are always learning. So far they really haven’t let me down and I’m grateful for that.
UEB: Moving on to the next question on your working life as a hematologist, what has been the biggest driving force that pushed you to where you are now?
YDA: I became a medical educator about 8 years ago, and a doctor about 22 years ago. As a house officer, in all the departments that I worked, I was well known because I am very thorough with what I do. When the patients are happy-especially the kids- that gives me a lot of joy. With the adults, the fact that I can sit and really help them go through the malignancy that they have, or a benign disorder and make them comfortable by improving their quality of life gives me great joy.
As a medical educator, when I see you guys graduating I am so so happy! If someone looked at me, they would even see tears in my eyes -just so much joy.
I love it when someone decides to do hematology and is passionate about it, I just love it. Once you are hardworking, I will take you through hematology till you finish. That is me:). I just love sharing knowledge, and encouraging people. If you are not hardworking, you may not really like having me as a boss.
UEB: We know Dr Dei -Adomakoh as the Head of Hematology, and that is one of your achievements. We would like to know if you have any other achievements as a doctor or lecturer?
YDA: Well, I had a fellowship in 2004 to a Hematology Diagnostic Centre. It was a UNDP. In 2014, I went out as a visiting scholar. Apart from that, I’ve been in clinical trials involving sickle cell disease. I am also the Head of the Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics, that is, the Sickle cell clinic, under Ministry of Health. I have done quite a lot to help my department as well, at the Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics by making patients comfortable and getting guidelines and proposals together so that the standard of care is good.
UEB: And how has it been like as HOD?
YDA: When I became HOD, one of the things I really loved was my residents coming to me to tell me that I have their full support. That just told me that I have been doing my work right. So far, it has been great. My senior residents take part in a lot of things in the department. We are short staffed, so I use my Chief resident and Senior residents for a lot of things, and they really deliver. My nurses are also very cooperative. The staff at the Sickle Cell Clinic are just amazing, and everybody helps out. Together, we have been able to achieve a lot of the things that we set out to achieve.
UEB: Do you have any regrets you have any regrets about this field of specialization or about being in Korle-Bu?
YDA: Not at all. Well, sometimes I get a bit frustrated because I want things to work, and they don’t work out as i want … or when trying to get money to do something in the department, and it’s not coming.
Aside that I like working in Korle-Bu because you can always have a multidisciplinary approach to the management of your cases, with the help of specialialists from other departments.
UEB: March 8th is the International Womens’ Day, and SCORA Ghana is running an excerpt on women doctors in Korle-Bu. You were nominated as one of the doctors, so we have some questions for you. Are there any obstacles to being a lady, and a doctor/ Head of department?
YDA: Yes yes yes yes! *laughs* Being a doctor, mother and wife really wasn’t easy, because it was difficult to combine post-graduate training with my role as a wife and a mother. At the time, I also didn’t have a lot of support from family so I depended on house helps.
One thing I did was not to move too far from Korle-Bu, so I lived in Korle-Bu for a very long time (about 6 years ) and then moved to Dansoman till I completed my fellowship. When I completed my fellowship, I moved to my own home in East Legon. Living around here, and my kids going to school around Korle-Bu really helped a lot, because I could leave work to pick them up, take them home, come back to work and then complete my work.
To be honest with you, I sacrificed a lot. At that time doctors were not paid much, my salary at the beginning was about 200 Ghana cedis, and my house help was taking more than half my salary but because I didn’t have help, (my parents are in Cape Coast) I was prepared to sacrifice my salary for someone good to take care of my kids in my absence, so that I could have peace of mind.
UEB: Was there ever a time, especially at work, where you felt discriminated against because of your gender?
YDA: No. I think because I’m a tough woman, *laughs heartily* I don’t easily get bullied. So no, not at all. Pediatrics was mostly women, and when I came to Hematology too, the head was also a lady and there were more ladies than men in the department so really, no.
UEB: Any advice for female medical students about the journey ahead?
YDA: Just let them know that it is not easy. You should organize yourself in such a way that, wherever you find yourself you can always find a way of combining it all. You must try as best as you can to be hard working and dedicated. Just remain focused till you finish your medical education. When you finish as well, just keep going on.
Right from the start you must know where you are going. I knew I wanted to be a lecturer, so I had a plan right from the beginning, and made up by mind not to leave Korle-Bu because this is what I wanted to do. As soon as I finished, they took me on as a medical officer, then I started residency, then finished my fellowship and went into academia. In academia, I knew I had to be a senior lecturer after my probation (period of 5 years). After 5 years I knew I had enough qualifications, enough publications, enough articles to push me to the next level and become a senior lecturer.So you must always plan! Now I have given myself 3 years, maximum 4 years to be a professor, so I’m almost there.
At the beginning, my head of department was worried that I was always turning down things, with the explanation that, ‘my kids are so young, and I want to be there for them as well. There are certain things that I just can’t take on.’ Once my kids grew up and they could do things for themselves, I started going on courses, going for international conferences, presenting at conferences and all of that. So you need to sacrifice a lot but always try and combine the two. If you don’t, by the time your kids are grown and you want to start your residency you will be too old, tired, rusty to go back and you may regret later on.
YDA: Mmmmm and the girls should stop cooking for the boys, that one I keep saying it. You waste all your time cooking and they are busy learning. You should think about it, mmmm.
UEB: What are your future goals, and what is your vision for the department of Hematology?
YDA: For the department of hematology, I want a department that is going to be the best in the University of Ghana in terms of research, education and service work. Right now what I am doing is looking for investors, and building a centre of excellence here at the hematology department. Even if i don’t get there, at least I will start the process.
UEB:Any personal goals or future aspirations?
YDA:Yes of course, I want to be internationally known. To some extent I am taking part/collaborating with other hospitals and universities outside. I also want to do more through research. I want a situation where the students will go ‘Wow this was my lecturer, she was so good and I loved her as a lecturer. She taught me this and taught me that…’ I really want to see that happening. When I come to class and I ask the hematology questions I just want the answers to come quickly *snaps fingers*
UEB: Any final words for all students of University of Ghana School of Medicine and Dentistry?
YDA: You should all just be hard working. People don’t take the basic sciences seriously. A solid building is always built on a solid foundation. The basics of medicine is really the foundation of medicine. If you don’t get that right and you become a doctor, you will be a doctor who will always keep referring your cases and you will never critically think and solve problems related to health. That foundation should be solid.
So don’t forget the things you learnt in first, second and third year because those are the things you would apply in the clinical years. Forget social life for now. Just focus. When you finish you can attend all the parties in this world.
UEB: Thank you Dr. Yvonne. Continue to be our inspiration 🙂
Kwabena Asiedu Nana Agyei Asante, Afia Kwabiaa Baah, Sam Fordjuor and Raphaela Agyarko.
ED by: Hillary