Heard Of Pangolins? – Christianah Folakemi Oki

 

I met Christianah through a mutual friend on LinkedIn called Ifeoluwa Oladapo. I was amazed by her passion for parasitology and wanted to know more about what drives her desire for public health. Here is our interview about her STEM journey:

Hi Christianah, thank you for joining us today on Words That Count. How are you doing?
Hi Winnie, thank you for inviting me. This is very beautiful work you are doing! It is my pleasure to add my voice to it. And, I am doing very well, thank you!

Thank you for the kind words. Please introduce yourself to the audience
My name is Christianah Folakemi Oki from Nigeria. I am currently employed as a project officer for One Health and Development Initiative (OHDI). I am also a budding researcher in the field of parasitology. I’m passionate about wildlife conservation, and my enthusiasm has developed in recent years for the conservation of pangolins through advocacy. Pangolins are the only mammals with scales that contain keratin, a protein found in our hair and nails. I also spend time contributing to the publication of scholarly articles by writing and reviewing them.

Wow! This is a new finding for me. I didn’t know that about Pangolins! I now understand why they should be preserved.

How did you join the world of health sciences?
At Age 8, I was in an event that was hosted by the then Commissioner of Education in my state where I gave a speech on how I would love to become a Medical doctor in the future. The journey, however, was difficult. Despite having outstanding grades in my entrance exam to study Medicine and Surgery, I did not match the admissions requirements. I was accepted into the university to study Biology. And I enrolled in the course of study that was provided to me. I didn’t take my classes seriously during my first year of school because they weren’t what I wanted to study. However, in my second year, I began to develop interest in them. I ended up loving my courses and ever since, I’ve always wanted to be the best in everything I do.

What challenges have you encountered along the way?
To be honest, no one likes facing problems and wasting time, energy, or money. To begin with, I used to be a serial procrastinator. I got away with it in school, so I figured the same strategy would work while working in our organization. I was mistaken, I came dangerously near to missing crucial deadlines. Another challenge is inability to confront academic pressure. At some point I was under a lot of stress.

How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
These challenges have compelled me to dig deeper and rediscover the value of my identity, which has provided me with a wellspring of strength and courage. Writing an itinerary for the day becomes my act, since it allows me to refresh my thoughts and give me cue to doing the right thing at the right time. I now set my priorities right. I have surrounded myself with like-minded and supportive people.

Tell us about your prestigious achievements
I was elected as my departmental student representative and I graduated as one of the best students in my class. I have made connections, stayed in loop with others in my field, met quite a number of professionals both home and in the diaspora. Some are my mentors already.

Who is Christianah outside work?
I enjoy watching interesting movies and listening to music. I’ve always enjoyed playing musical instruments, particularly the piano, because each solfa piece seems to train my mind to learn something new. It’s also a terrific way to unwind for a while.

What is your favourite quote?
Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do” ~ Nelson Mandela

What are your words of encouragement for a young girl in STEM?
Men succeeding in your field should not be a hurdle for you. Many women achieve success in STEM professions; for example, Marie Curie discovered a cancer therapy. As a result, you can simply turn your passion into a career. Whatever you’re doing, be enthusiastic about it.

Thank you very much Christianah, for accepting to join me today and for being part of this project. Your story is an inspiration to a young girl out there. Thank you for teaching me about Pangolins.

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