Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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What has the study of Medicine got in common with the study of Sociology?
The University of Abuja tried to answer that intricate question at the 32nd Inaugural Lecture of the University held last week, 30th August 2018.
“Impact of human health care delivery system and utilization” was up for discussion at the Inaugural Lecture. To shed light on this arcane topic, the university elected a thorough bred authority in the field, Wilfred Shaapera Tile, a professor of Medical Sociology.
There couldn’t have been a better choice for the topic of the day. He took a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology at the University of Ibadan in 1979, a Master’s Degree, this time specializing in Medical Sociology in 1985. Finally, he capped it up with a Doctorate, again specializing in Medical Sociology in 1995. It is significant to note that all these degrees were acquired at Nigeria’s premier University at Ibadan – the first and the best.
To demonstrate his interest in the field of Medical Sociology, the lecturer devoted all his post graduate dissertations to topics in that field. His dissertation for his Master’s degree was on the Social Factors affecting utilizing of Hospital Services in Makurdi, Benue State while his Ph.D thesis was on the Development and utilization of health Services in Benue State. After acquiring all his degrees from the University of Ibadan, he spent some years there as a lecturer and was also engaged in research work for the university.
Outside the walls of the University of Ibadan, the lecturer was further engaged in research and academic pursuits. He was a teacher and researcher at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS); assisted many state governments and Non- Governmental Agencies in research work across the country. Finally, he ported at the University of Abuja where he re-enacted his Ph.D thesis and defended his scholarship as a Professor of Sociology, particularly Medical Sociology.
“This was not my preferred topic for this lecture. I had chosen a different topic but the organizing committee of the Inaugural Lecture imposed today’s topic on me,” Professor Tile told his audience last week.
“Do not worry. Any topic that has to do with medical sociology I can handle it any day”, he assured the agitated audience.
The organizers were not yet done with the lecturer of the day. The normal time allotted Inaugural lecturers at the university is one hour. For Professor Tile, the organizers decided that forty-five minutes was enough for him. Not to worry, the erudite scholar again assured his audience.
It was not an empty assurance. For forty-five minutes the Professor kept his audience spell bound. For a topic that everybody assumed would be very boring and even sedate the audience into sleep, Professor Tile kept his audience animated with his sense of drama and humor. He did not read out the neatly printed text but delivered his lecture extempore, doling out statistics, figures illustrations etc. As one man sitting beside me observed, whoever convinced Professor Tile to go into the study of medical sociology ruined the career of a successful actor. It was evidently a very dramatic, intellectually stimulating and rewarding exercise.
“Medical Sociology,” to the dramatic erudite professor “is the study of the distribution of disease patterns in human populations, caused by socio cultural, bio medical, economic, political, religious and environmental factors as well as the ecological/climatic conditions, the disease prevention or treatment in human populations.”
To Professor Tile, the study of medicine as a science without social behavior may constitute a serious challenge to addressing societal problems. He argues that the behavior patterns of world leaders and top bureaucrats should be understood in the context of their medical history. He cites the examples of President Idi Amin of Uganda, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and President Franklin Roosevelt of the USA.
According to him, President Idi Amin suffered from Syphilis, a fact that was revealed by his personal physician Dr. Kibukamussoke and this medical condition led him to suffer organic brain disease which in turn “brought about his unmitigated policies and programs with disastrous consequences on the Ugandan people and Nation.” Sir Winston Churchill he opined suffered stroke which coincided with the decline of Britain as a world power. President Franklin Roosevelt of the USA suffered from hypertension, pulmonary heart disease and cardiac failure, all of which left him in such a state of mental confusion that he signed a disastrous plan in 1944 to remove all heavy equipment from Germany after the outbreak of World War 11.
Also, quoting profusely from global models of health seeking behavior and health care utilizing patterns – including nineteen models developed by him which he calls ‘Tile’s models of health seeking behavior utilizing of health services in African communities’ – the lecturer expressed abundant confidence in African traditional medicine.
He cites several examples globally to illustrate his point that African countries must not throw away their traditional medical practices. Rather than jettison traditional medical practices, he advocates integration.
“The integration of traditional and Modern medicine is thus important because if traditional medicine had not been efficacious many of our people would have died a long time before the introduction of western medicine. Furthermore, if traditional medicine is not efficacious, many of our people would have for long abandoned the practice. Since it has remained efficacious and it is culturally based and Africans have their cultures, whether backward or uncivilized, they will continue to use traditional medicine.”
As a way of implementing this integration, the professor called for the establishment of schools of Nursing and Midwifery, Health Technology and Herbal Medicine or trado-medicines attached to every Comprehensive medical center at community level to every General/Missionary Hospital, private hospitals in the federation and all family members advised to use both or any of their choice.
In his words, “integration should be done not only at primary health care but secondary, and tertiary levels. They could be easily integrated with modern health workers such as Physicians, Pharmacists, Modern Midwives, Lab technologists. Integration of Physicians with bonesetters/Berber surgeons, pharmacists and herbalists, modern midwives and traditional birth attendants, Lab technologists with soothsayers and sorcerers etc.”
For the growing crowd of Medical Sociologists, there is going to come a period of job boom if Professor Tile has his way. He advocates that they should be employed and sent to all hospitals and state institutions in Nigeria as research/statistical/ record officers on morbidity and mortality rates and as desk officers for the implementation of NHIS.
In sum, the 32nd University of Abuja inaugural lecture was an exercise in knowledge sharing that was a credit to the premier University to be established in Nigeria’s Federal Capital. The success of the lecture must be credited to the Professor who brought a mixture empirical studies, humor, panache and drama in giving me and others who attended a treat I have not had for a long time.