In 2021, the Danbuba Umar-led NIMSA administration gave birth to the Emerging Leaders Forum where Preclinical students could grow, connect, and actively learn about the ropes of NIMSA. However, renaming the platform this year to the NIMSA Preclinical Forum gave the team the much-needed wings to fly.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the team’ is the first-ever NIMSA Preclinical Quiz in which 36 MSAs participated. Here, Torobong Obot, the outgoing Chairperson of the forum, speaks on the activities organized during her administration, the challenges of the team and the way forward.
Medivoice: Can we meet you, please?
Torobong: My name is Torobong Obot. I am a 300-level medical student from the University of Uyo, Awka Ibom state. I hail from Akwa Ibom, and I’m an Ibibio girl by tribe from the South-South region. Currently, I serve as the National Coordinator of the NiMSA Preclinical Forum.
Medivoice: Can you give us a run-through of what the NiMSA preclinical forum is?
Torobong: The idea of having a preclinical forum came from the immediate past president of NiMSA, Umar Danbuba, to cater to the preclinical students who were like the minority in NiMSA programs to connect and learn the ropes of NiMSA activities.
The forum started as the Emerging Leaders Forum. However, it was renamed during President Webster’s tenure to the Preclinical Forum.
Medivoice: Can you tell us how you got to the position of National Director, NiMSA Preclinical Forum? Was it by appointment, or did you contest for the position?
Torobong: President Webster appointed me. Last year, I served under the current director for the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including HIV and AIDS (SCORA), who at that time, was the Chairman of the Preclinical Forum as his vice. So this year, I got appointed as the National Director of the Preclinical Forum.
Medivoice. Next, what were your goals as the NIMSA Preclinical forum Chairperson?
Torobong: I’ll be very honest. I had a long list of goals in mind upon inception as the chairman. At some point, they felt like they were not feasible, however, I achieved them. My ultimate goal was a significant increase in the involvement of Preclinical students in NiMSA, FAMSA, and IFMSA. We did our work rigorously, so watch out for the results next year. Preclinical Students are set to show up and show off!
Medivoice. Furthermore, the just concluded National Preclinical Quiz Competition was a major event for the preclinical forum this year with a huge number of participants. Because 36 MSAs is quite huge for a quiz in NiMSA itself. What inspired the quiz competition?
Torobong: The major drive was to set up an avenue where Preclinical students can have a healthy academic competition ‘amongst themselves’. It was also to foster inter-MSA rapport and also create a good sense of sportsmanship among students across various MSAs.
Furthermore, looking at the prolonged ASUU strike we were stuck in, I felt there was the need to awaken the academic kids😂
The Preclinical Forum set up an erudite team of efficient people across medical schools in Nigeria, we even reached out to our Clinical Chiefs to be of assistance, and they obliged.
It was quite stressful to reach out to over 40 MSAs and their presidents and gather representatives but we got a hundred per cent cooperation from the President, and follow ups from various MSA academic coordinators. The response was really encouraging.
Oh, dear! I can’t even appreciate my team members enough. They were very instrumental in the success of the event.
Medivoice. Do you still have any unchecked boxes for your administration? If any, how do you hope to achieve those goals?
Torobong: Yes, I have some unchecked boxes, but at this point, we’re already in December, and the administration is gradually ending. I plan to start these plans, transfer them to the next administration and try to follow up. After the General Assembly, we’ll be left with the transition process. We may not really have much to do after then.
Medivoice. Looking at the current state of preclinical education in Nigeria, do you think we’re where we should be and what can be done to improve the current situation?
Torobong: I think the syllabus and academic system are okay. I only have a problem with how some schools handle it. Why admit 400 students when your quota is 50? Now, this puts us, as preclinical students, under pressure. Med school is stressful. When you now put medical students under pressure, it messes people up. So it is emotionally exhausting to endure this.
Schools should not admit more than what their quota permits. It is not fair for students to get withdrawn from Med School due to preventable situations. Some happen in their second year due to overly tough questions and cut off just to lay off students. I feel it is a critical aspect MDCN should look into.
Medivoice. We all know that preclinical years in medical school are one of the best periods to secure internship opportunities and make good networks locally and globally. Over the past year, how have you helped bring preclinical students to this reality?
Torobong: First of all, there’s no actual ‘handbook’ or pattern to getting opportunities. Communication and indulgence is key. If you have the right set of people with information or updates, you would be updated. That was our work as a forum. To source all kinds of important updates and share. Ranging from links to recommendations to contacts and how to go about the application process. Most time, we made referrals to senior colleagues to put some of us through.
We are grateful for the quality of the Standing Committee Directors we had as most updates were gotten from them. As a forum, we were sure to extend invites to Preclinical students to enable them to participate in the events the various directors had planned out such as certification courses,
Furthermore, with the help of the NiMSA Director of scholarships, we had a webinar earlier in the year on how to apply for scholarships and get them. This was because we noticed that most scholarships favour preclinical students as they usually include it as a criterion that students should be either in their year one or year two. We made it a norm to regularly send out information about scholarships and internship opportunities shared across MSAs. This has yielded good news as a lot of Preclinical students are scholars from the just concluded FSB award.
Then recently, we made a mailing list. This mailing list is to help reach out to preclinical students directly in case the local officers are not prompt in delivering the information.
That is one of the things we did in the last two months of my administration. Subsequent administrations will follow it up and update the list with the email addresses of year one students and freshmen.
Medivoice: Are there basic guidelines for preclinical students looking for opportunities to expand their network and increase their capacity?
Torobong: My first piece of advice is to join a Standing committee. Standing Committees always have updates, I mean sure updates! Make friends with people, and connect with people outside your MSA.
Interact with senior colleagues, they are the actual hacks of this medical school. Technically, it still balls down to networking. Someone’s WhatsApp status might be just what you need to connect to a scholarship or internship opportunity or that NiMSA group you’re on make just have the information you need.
There is really no conventional way to get this done. Just connect, expand, and network. Be at the right place at the right time and move with the right people.
Medivoice: As the Preclinical forum coordinator, What is your take on the involvement of preclinical students in NiMSA politics and activities, and how can it improve?
Torobong: I feel like there will be a lot more participation if we can reduce the stereotype of “You’re too young to lead in NiMSA” or “You’re inexperienced”. Preclinical students have rich ideas and are ready to make things happen. If they are given a shot at it, I believe they will do more.
Also, preclinical students should understand that NiMSA is not just about politics or contesting for offices. Rather they can enjoy many other benefits and life-changing opportunities. So for our apolitical folks, NiMSA is still for you, please indulge. There are various programs that medical students attend free of charge and are certified that others pay heavily for. There’s also the chance to socialize and meet people from various walks of life, thereby building worthy and long lasting connections.
Medicine takes a lot from medical students, so preclinical students should see NiMSA as a platform to penetrate the outside world.
In some MSAs, there are limits to the position preclinical students can contest for. Preclinical students should see it as an opportunity and harness it. No position is too small to build up your leadership skill. It is better to try out the election and lose while gaining experience than never trying. It is a building ground for the experience.
Medivoice: Mentorship is essential in medical school, both academic-wise and career-wise. Getting it early enough in medical school goes a long way in shaping who the medical student turns out to be in the future. So can you tell us what you did in this aspect? Also, going forward, how can preclinical students secure some of these mentorships on their own?
Torobong: Concerning mentorship, I’m a product of solid mentorship hence I don’t joke with it.
The Liason officer (LO) to MWAN did something really big. I was honoured to work with her on the mentor-mentee pairing she did for female students from all MSAs. It was an inter-MSA pairing where we put out a Google form to every female student for pairing with senior colleagues for mentorship. We were able to do it, and it is like a six-month program. It started in June and will be ending in December.
We got a lot of positive reviews on how it has helped the mentees. Some mentees have been able to subdue the pressure and fear of med school because of advice and guidance from their mentors. . While some got monetary support from their mentors. Some got gifts on their birthdays. This shows how much energy some of these mentors invest in these students, it shows the willingness to grow with their mentees
It worked well this year, and we will be pushing for it to be given a shot next year. If it could work well for females like this, then there is a possibility that there are male students who would benefit from the mentorship program. It’s a goal for next year.
Medivoice: What would you say has been your greatest challenge so far?
Torobong: Apathy was my biggest challenge. People were just not interested in anything outside of medicine. I had to devise a different method of reaching people without coming from a political view.
We employed other means like Man Crush Monday and Woman Crush Wednesday posts, movies, games and all whatnot, and this was to get their attention while still achieving the aim and objective of the forum.
Medivoice: What is your advice for the next administration?
Torobong: My advice for the next administration is to go easy. Although it’s frustrating, don’t give up easily. Try to devise creative and exciting ways to gain students’ attention. You don’t have to do what someone else has already done. You can think outside the box.
Be sure to deliver value and solid impact.
I’m rooting for you all!
MediVoice: It’s been lovely talking with you. Thank you so much for your time.
We hope you enjoyed reading this! For more NIMSA interviews and events MediVoice has covered, including the third NIMSA SCOPH’s International Public Health summit and the recently held Southwest Convention, click here.
Also, feel free to surf through the creative and lifestyle pieces on our blog. You’d find that they are an interesting escape from the pressures of Med-School! Lastly, subscribe to get notified whenever there is new content on this blog.
See you next time!