Forgive me, it’s been almost a year of radio silence, but I’m back…
Why the really long break?
Basically, LIFE! Life decided to go downhill, not just in one area but in every area, and unfortunately, Neuro Gist took a hit. But guess what? It wasn’t going to be long, before everything got a WHOLE LOT BETTER, and now, greater things are ahead!
You’re here to read about ‘a little bit of my journey so far, from neuroscience to clinical epidemiology’, so here it is! It’s not a short story, so I’ll break it down to three parts. Here’s Part I. Enjoy!
Let’s throw it back all the way to the beginning. As a child growing up in Nigeria, I would always say “I want to be a scientist and a medical doctor when I grow up.” I had no idea then how I would do both, but I was sure of what I wanted to do with my life. It started becoming a reality when I opted for higher level biology during my International Baccalaureate (IB) program and chose to do a biology research project as my Extended Essay. During my biology class, I was introduced to the intriguing world of neuroscience by an assignment to draw an animal cell. I ended up drawing a nerve cell instead of the conventional animal cell like everyone else did, and I knew then that whatever I’d do for the rest of my life would be neuroscience related.
Then it was time for higher education! I attended the University of Leeds for a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience, still unsure if I wanted to go the research route to become a scientist or continue to medical school to become a medical doctor. My first year was quite challenging as I was thrown into a world I wasn’t quite prepared for; culture shock got the best of me, moving from Africa to Europe, and being far away from my support system really affected me; my grades were the worst they had ever been in my life.
After going home during the summer break, I got my bearing and decided to return to the United Kingdom, determined to repeat failed courses and do my best, even if it meant being an external student (not attending class but taking exams) for a year. I used the year to adjust properly to my environment, and by my second year, my grades picked up. Still unsure of my path, I took an internship at a hospital (Triumph Medical Centre) in Lagos, as an opportunity to experience the medical scene and confirm if I wanted to be a medical doctor. I really enjoyed researching patient diagnosis and providing them with more information about their conditions and treatments, but I wasn’t keen on administering treatment, especially since I was very squeamish during surgery. By my third year at Leeds, when I became more knowledgeable on Advanced Topics in Neuroscience, I made the decision to pursue research as a career. Neuroscience research was and is still intriguing to me because there is still so much more to discover, and I want to be part of that process that births knowledge. Before graduating from University of Leeds, I applied to Roehampton University for a Master of Science in Clinical Neuroscience, to gain a more clinical approach since I had already studied brain structure and function, molecular pathology, and brain disorders.
I started my MSc program at University of Roehampton three months after graduating from University of Leeds with my BSc. During the program, I gained more understanding of theories and concepts relating to brain research and the application of these principles in the treatment of brain disorders. My research project helped me to develop data handling and analysis skills, use of applied theory and statistics. Immediately after completing my MSc program, I decided to serve my home country under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program, where I was trained in a para-military camp for three weeks before deployment to my Primary Place of Assignment. I was posted to a psychiatric hospital as it was the only place that could benefit from my neuroscience knowledge, as neuroscience isn’t studied in Nigeria, nor is there any neuroscience related research done. At the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Rumuigbo, I assisted the Medical Director’s secretary in his duties, presented neuroscience lectures to the psychiatrists to help update their knowledge, and I was also part of the psychotherapy team to help patients understand their illnesses and treatments.
Once I finished with my service year, while researching where to further my education, I came across Memorial University of Newfoundland, specifically Dr. Michelle Ploughman and her research in Multiple Sclerosis and Stroke. After losing two family members to stroke and having a number of people around me with MS diagnosis, I felt helpless despite my neuroscience knowledge. I had the basic knowledge with my degrees; I could write papers, I could explain concepts, I could do bench work, I could do animal studies, but there was little to nothing I could do in a clinical setting, and that’s exactly where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a clinical researcher, involved in human studies. It was then I decided, I needed something more, to the neuroscience and clinical neuroscience, I needed a degree that would put me smack in the middle of clinical research.