Laughter Is Still the Best Medicine: ANPA 2013 Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina

Getting Nigerian physicians to attend any function is like drilling a hole through a tooth. However, they came in droves for the 2013 ANPA convention held between June 27 and June 30th in Charlotte, North Carolina.

People flew in from Canada, England and Nigeria. My family and I came in from the state of Connecticut.

Among the dignitaries in Attendance were the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Mallam Lamido Sanusi and Mr. Hakeem Belo-Osagie the chairman of Etisalat, Nigeria.

ANPA stands for: Association of Nigerian Physicians in America. Its primary goal is to look for ways to prop up the frail Nigerian health care system. Its main vision is to sling shot enough cement to cover up gaping holes in the Nigerian health care delivery pipeline. Members help by contributing their skills or by donating medical materials to health facilities back home.

The convention enlisted panoply of star-studded intellectuals who delivered cutting edge talks in their fields of specialization. Taking history into account, they examined many factors contributing to the Nigerian health crisis. At the end, they wrote their prescriptions and offered some helpful advice.

Lessons learned from the convention include:

1. One out of every six child in the world who is not in school is Nigerian.

2. 70% of Nigerian revenue is used to pay salaries of civil servants and politicians.

3. Indian medical adventurers have taken the advantage of the deplorable state of medical practice in Nigeria. They set up all Indian staffed medical suites wherever there is a thick population; making an enormous financial windfall.

Simmering underneath the echoes of the lectures was a philosophical debate between ANPA members in the US, and their guests from Nigeria.

While ANPA members whined about the slow pace of change in the medical structure of their beloved country, their Nigerian guests would chastise them to leave their comfort zone abroad; to come back home and spearhead the change they wish for. Then, a stalemate ensues and the argument comes back from a different route.

The question, which none of the attendants could answer to my satisfaction, is how ANPA intends to continuously support a health care system that has no legs to stand on? ANPA therefore has their work cut out for them.

There is something unsustainable about giving without expectation. Communities that receive from ANPA ought to step up with their own medical responsibility. A matching model of 'help' where communities can meet ANPA half of the way or even a fourth of the way, is necessary.

The picnic held on Saturday- day three- gave attendees the much-needed escape route from the burden of listening to all that was wrong with Nigeria. People trooped to the field. I played soccer with my middle-aged peers and crushed them.

A comedian was at hand on the last day of the convention. He was funny and easily got belly laughs out of most people. I looked at my neighbor, he was sobbing with laughter. All the grooves from his stress had melted away. Truly, laughter is the best medicine

    I have a lot of respect and admiration for the women and men who pulled off the 2013 event.
    Going forward, the association must learn how to demand something in return from its beneficiaries.

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