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It was painful watching 6 sets graduate ahead of us—KASU’s best medical student

Auta Goodswill James graduated top of his class with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the Kaduna State University (KASU), in…

Auta Goodswill James graduated top of his class with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the Kaduna State University (KASU), in November 2020. In this interview with Daily Trust, Auta, narrates how accreditation problems suspended their studies in year three and how they watched half a dozen sets graduate ahead of theirs.

How do you feel topping your set?

At first, it was an exciting feeling but later it turned out to be a humbling experience. I was excited about the fact that I was doing good in school but in the end, when I was identified and given the award as the best graduating student, it became more of a humbling experience with not much excitement because of the burden of responsibility, but I felt very good about it.

Was it something you worked towards becoming?

No, I was just trying to stay in the system when we started, nobody wants to be kicked out of the system because that is one of the things with medical training. But subsequently, you get to start loving what you are doing. So, I wouldn’t say I wanted to be the best student but subsequently, somewhere between my fourth and fifth year, I wanted to.

Did you face stiff competition from course mates that were also good?

Trust me, it was a flock of talents. You know the admission criteria were two best students from each of the local government areas. If you pick two of the best in each local government of the state, you can imagine what you are getting. You must be having great minds so, yes, they didn’t make it easy.

Which of the sets did you graduate from?

My set was the third because there were two sets before me. The very first set was sent to Uganda to complete their studies while our own set and the second set had to be merged in our third year to make one class due to some challenges with accreditation.

Was there any student who graduated and received a similar award?

Well, I’m not sure because the first set went to Uganda so I’m not aware.

What was your GPA like?

In the medical line, we don’t use GPA after your first professional examination, we don’t use grade points. We only use the pass or fail. The pass mark is 50 although, we use other things like credit, distinction, etc.

What were the criteria used to identify you as the best graduating student?

Although the courses are not graded using points average but with your scores in different courses like internal medicine, surgery, and a whole of others. So out of the grading of the best student in each category, I had more courses where I was the best student.

Was medicine your first course of choice?

As a child yes, you know the dream of most children especially those from my generation is either to become a doctor or pilot. At a point, I filled for Petrochemical Engineering but I later realized that Petrochemical Engineering is not as big as being a doctor. So, I applied for medicine immediately after secondary school. I was unlucky the first time in 2010 because I ended up with Chemistry here in KASU, I spent a year and re-applied again the next year and got admission to study medicine.

During graduation, your father described you as a miracle child, do you think you are a miracle child?

(Laugh) I wouldn’t be able to use the word to describe myself but I think I will agree with him if he thinks I’m a miracle then I’m one. I always thank God for my family for describing me as such, it’s an honour. I’m the only surviving child of my mother, she had four kids, I was the third and only surviving child.

So, after graduation what next?

I have to do my housemanship for a year after which I have to serve for another year then there would be examinations here and there. Go for residency training after the whole thing and then specialization.

How prepared are you for all these?

So far, I’m just recovering from the rigorous exercise of writing the final examination. I’m prepared to start a house job but for any of the examinations, my level of preparation is not encouraging. It’s something that I should have time to do.

I understand there was a time you felt discouraged at the pace of your studies and felt like changing courses, what happened?

The normal duration for studying medicine in Nigeria is six years but in 2013 I think, ASUU went on strike for almost a year, so that added a year to our programme. When we resumed, we studied till 300 level then we discovered we could not write exams and we couldn’t progress. We were stagnated for a while because the accreditation of medical schools in Nigeria is quite a tedious task. During that time, we saw the same students within the same university graduating, we saw almost six sets of students graduating. So, we wondered if it will ever be our turn to graduate. That was when the thought came to me as to whether I will ever graduate or if I should just switch to another course to graduate like other students.

What will you like to specialize in?

I have a special interest in orthopaedics and trauma. So most likely, I will want to specialize in that area. I have a lot of exposure in trauma and so I will truly like to look into it. So far, I will say the practice of orthopaedics and trauma in Nigeria is almost competitive and the result is encouraging. I will like to be somewhere, where my knowledge and skills will make an impact.

Any advice for other medical students?

It is easy to get carried away by the fact that you are in medical school, that you forget that there is a lot of hard work that is required of you and it’s also easy to be carried away by the fact that you are talented. Any student you see in medical school is an excellent student but some fail on the way and some succeed. The trick to being successful doesn’t depend on talent because we are all talented. It’s all about hard work for me. I believed in hard work and determination. Once you set your goals and define them early and work hard towards them, you will likely succeed. So, all they need is hard work and let them set their goals early not to wait until a week or month to the exam before they start thinking of whether they want a pass, credit, or distinction. You need to start that from the very beginning if you can do that, you may likely succeed.

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