There was a media buzz when Philip Ozuah, MD, PhD made the pledge to support the Students' Hostel Building Project with One Million United States dollars ($1,000.000.00). I could imagine how Philip’s name must have been at the top of most Google searches, and he rightfully earned that recognition with his generous contribution. However, I want to take a moment to write about Philip's extraordinary generosity one year after.
Philip was my classmate at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan’s MBBS Class of '85. We were not only classmates, but we were also in the same group (B82) which meant we went through the same clerkships and so in 1983 we spent eight weeks during our rural posting in Igbo-Ora. Philip was one of the few students who owned a car at that time in my class and so I asked him to allow me to join him in his car and grant me the front seat for our weekly commute between Ibadan and Igbo-Ora. He graciously agreed, and for the eight weeks of our posting, I enjoyed the comfort of the front seat during our journeys between Ibadan and Igbo-Ora.
Forty years later, I am proud to have Philip by my side, as I sit once again in the front seat with him, as we embark on the Students' Hostel Building Project journey.
When we first discussed the need for this project, legitimate concerns arose from various quarters. However, we were steadfast in our belief that it was a necessary venture. One of the primary concerns was the potential risk of losing the College's accreditation with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) due to inadequate student accommodation. Therefore, the construction of a student hostel became imperative. By providing accessible accommodation for our students, we believe we could ensure they can attend classes as well as visit the wards and emergency room day and night without the challenges of long commutes and security from moving around at night. At that juncture, many believed we needed a miracle to bring this over 2.5 billion Naira project to fruition.
Philip turned out to be our miracle.
Through another of my wonderful classmates, a distinguished neurosurgeon, Chinyere Obasi MD, Philip was kept abreast of my activities as provost, and he sent a beautiful message through Chinyere to me on 24 July 2022 just after our class reunion in Atlanta which he was unable to attend:
Trust you're all having a great time.
Would you be so kind as to give my mobile number and email contact to Provost Omigbodun? And kindly inform her that I said I would welcome a chance to explore how I might support her leadership and her vision. If you could find an opportunity to do that, I'd be much obliged!
I immediately reached out to Philip when I got that message, and he was so kind and agreed to be the Keynote Speaker and Fundraiser in Chief at the sod-turning event on 1st August 2022 giving a must-watch and exceptional lecture titled: From Initiative to Finishiative- An Academic Journey:
I wholeheartedly celebrate this exceptional man for his remarkable commitment and dedication to the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan. Philip has demonstrated an unwavering passion for the betterment of our alma mater and the success of its students.
I am a firm believer in the Nigerian project. While I understand that not everyone can contribute from within the country, I firmly believe that everyone should be involved in its building and rebuilding. Our nation has produced many outstanding individuals, including those who have received quality training from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan—the first and the best. It is crucial that these individuals, who represent the excellence of our institution, are committed to giving back. I am immensely grateful to Philip for embodying our mantra of "Built to Build" and leading the charge on the Students' Hostel Building Project.
Please, take a moment to listen to the speech I delivered at the ICOMAA-NA Meeting where we presented him with a special plaque in honour of his generous contribution:
Philip Ozuah is funding Block C, the largest block, featuring 88 two-bedroom units with 13m2 per unit, along with four reading rooms. This block will house 176 students at completion and work has commenced in earnest!
I am immensely proud of Philip's accomplishments and his leadership as the president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine. After 34 years of dedicated service as a medical practitioner and rising to be a distinguished Professor of Paediatrics, he assumed the role of president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine in 2019. Montefiore Medicine serves as the umbrella organization for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System. He oversees Montefiore's 13 member hospitals and 300 clinical locations, which collectively handle 7.5 million annual patient encounters. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine is renowned as one of the premier centres for research, medical education, and clinical investigation in the United States. These institutions employ 10,000 physicians and 53,000 employees, providing a home to 800 M.D. students, 190 Ph.D. students, 120 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 250 postdoctoral researchers.
This is the remarkable legacy of a great man who is more than a friend or classmate. He is an important advocate and contributor to the growth and success of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, and our great nation, Nigeria.
May his example inspire us to nurture more individuals like him.
Olayinka Omigbodun FAS
Professor of Psychiatry
Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan
CoMUI MBBS Class of 1985