HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ICOMAA-NA 2023 AGM & REUNION - Dresses and Dreams: Celebrating Elizabeth Olufunke Adegboyega-Panox nee Olowu M.D.

I am delighted to share this personal note for reasons that are very dear to my heart.

During my remarks at the Ibadan College of Medicine Alumni Association North America Chapter Annual General Meeting (ICOMAA-NA AGM) Meeting in New York on Friday June 23, 2023, I had the profound opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Elizabeth Olufunke Adegboyega-Panox (nee Olowu), an alumna from the CoMUI MBBS Class of 1980, for the beautiful dresses she graciously gave me during my time as a medical student. To many, it might seem like a simple gesture, but to me, those handed-down dresses were a lifeline and an embodiment of the caring support that helped mould my outlook towards life. After several years, I was so grateful for the rare opportunity to meet her again at the AGM. I had no idea that she would be there. We had lived in the same neighbourhood in Bodija, Ibadan in the early 1970s until everyone moved away and into different cities and parts of the world. My mother, a widow, faced numerous challenges in raising her four children. During those formative years, Olufunke's mother, Mrs Carol Olowu, provided tremendous support to my mother in so many ways. This support directly extended to me as I received a steady supply of beautiful dresses from Funke.

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I started medical school in 1980, with a supply of beautiful dresses from Funke. Receiving these beautiful dresses especially in the early years of medical school meant I felt that I really looked great. I suspect it contributed to my ability as a young woman to focus on my studies without distractions that youth are known to carry in a bid to look good. The support and care I received exemplify how seemingly small acts of kindness can make a monumental difference in a student's life, creating an environment where their true potential can shine.

Those experiences amongst others and the dotted lines of kindness I received especially in the vulnerable years of adolescence and youth have left an indelible mark on me. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist and mental health professional, I know only too well the difficulties that occur during the years of youth and how this provides a platform for stable adulthood.  Every day, they continue to inspire an overwhelming sense of gratitude in my heart. This is why any opportunity to give back to young people who need support holds immeasurable significance to me. The Sponsor-A-Student-Programme (SASP) in the College of Medicine, for example, has already yielded heartwarming testimonies, as levies and feeding supports have literally saved the academic completion of several students, opening doors of opportunity they might not have otherwise had.

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Every act of kindness has the power to set someone on a definite path of success, forever shaping their journey. I will forever be grateful to people like my big sister Funke, who extended her hand of support. Her selflessness which she must have learnt from her mother, helped teach me the true essence of compassion and the transformative impact of reaching out to help others. As I interact with people, I am a living testament to the far-reaching influence of small acts of kindness and the profound difference they can make in someone's life.

I am sharing this because I want us all to be inspired to pay it forward and uplift those around us.

Olayinka Omigbodun FAS
Professor of Psychiatry and Provost

Postscript: Plan to attend next year’s AGM and Reunion on June 21, 2024, in Anaheim Resort. You might just run into a long-lost friend!

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