Until recently, Ondo State was noted by the World Bank to have the worst healthcare indices in South-West, Nigeria. One woman died every 16 minutes during childbirth and one in 10 children died before one year of age. His Excellency, the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko on assumption of office in February, 2009 decided to reverse this alarming and unacceptably high trend in rates of maternal and child mortality in the State. In particular, the government identified the lack of access to quality health care as the major issue that need to be addressed to improve various indicators of health in the state. At that time, Ondo State was the only State that did not have federal presence in terms of quality tertiary health care services. To address these myriad of problems and also to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, the Ondo State government under Dr. Olusegun Mimiko set up the Mother and Child Hospitals (MCH) at Akure and Ondo to provide quality free health services for pregnant women and children up to five years of age. Thus, with the Abiye (Safe Motherhood) project and the Mother and Child Hospital, Healthcare delivery in the State was turned around.
In order to sustain the remarkable achievement made so far, a tertiary medical education programme that will prepare future generations of competent health professionals and provide a stepwise referral system essential for successfully addressing the health needs in the State is being established. The University will function as the apical Centre of research, education and service delivery in health care that will be second to none in the world.
- i) Scope and Reach: The University of Medical Sciences, Ondo (abbreviated UNIMED) is sited in Ondo town in Ondo State to address the immediate training, research and service delivery needs of Ondo State and its environs in all aspects of health care. However, right from the onset the institution will be designed as a world-class institution that would focus on addressing the human resource and health care needs of all Nigerian States as well as the entire West and Central African regions. These regions being characterized by high endemicity of infectious and non-communicable diseases, and with the deficit of quality human resource to confront these health challenges, it is only appropriate that a Centre of excellence in training, research and service delivery in the health sciences would evolve to confront the related health problems. Thus, UNIMED is being developed to evolve as a central hub of medical education, training, research and service delivery for the whole of West and Central Africa and indeed, the entire African region. In terms of students' enrolment and staff recruitment, UNIMED will focus on the entire African region, and will also seek collaboration and partnerships with top-ranking health and related institutions in all parts of the world.
- ii) Focus on Comprehensive Quality Education in the Medical Sciences: Also, over the years the quality of undergraduate training in Medicine and Allied courses has declined largely due to lack of adequate equipment and resources for training. The number of students per University often outstrips the available equipment, resources and staff. It is therefore not surprising that many students requiring quality undergraduate and post-graduate education often travel abroad, the majority of whom remain in the country where they trained and never return to the country. To address this problem, UNIMED will provide state-of-the-art resources for training, which would be comparable to those available in more developed parts of the world.
The quality of indigenous health research has also declined in Nigeria over the past two decades, largely due to lack of specific provision for research in the budgets of Universities. Thus, research skills are being increasingly lost in most Nigerian Universities, with the result that the quantum of high quality health research contributed to the international literature by Nigerian academics and institutions have declined over the years. Despite the high burden of disease in Nigeria - maternal and child ill-health, HIV/AIDS, cancers, cardiovascular and renal diseases, etc. - it is worrisome that no Nigerian institution has been able to make significant breakthroughs in finding major innovative solutions and discovering new pathways of prevention and treatment. We envision that UNIMED will be designed from the onset to be a research-driven institution with undergraduate and post-graduate students being provided with skills and knowledge on the rubrics of essential and applied research. Essential facilities will be provided to ensure that research for solving regional challenges in health are conducted using multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches that involves regional planners and stakeholders to ensure effective translation of research results into products, policies and actions in health care. Various departments of the University will also be linked to their counterparts in high performance Universities around the world to ensure that research methods, and results meet international benchmarks.
One major challenge facing the Nigerian health sector has been intense inter-professional rivalry among the different professionals, leading to frequent strikes and lock-outs. This is now believed to be due to the silo-ed nature of training of health professionals, where each profession develops and applies its training separately, without an attempt to cross fertilize training modules between the different health professions. It is now considered that an integrated approach that brings the training of health professional under one philosophy and strategic vision will largely enable health professionals to focus on the core mission of providing services for the attainment of good health. Through its collaborative approach to program development, planning and implementation, UNIMED will be designed to integrate the training of health professionals, producing graduates that see the health profession as an integral part rather than as antagonistic parts. This indeed, will be a major innovative contribution to human resource development and the fostering of inter-professional harmony in the Nigerian health sector.
In sum, UNIMED will be a major tertiary institution in Nigeria that would correct the deficiencies in human resource development for health in Nigeria. It will set a good example for our educational and health care systems to attain the best outcomes and successes comparable to those in more developed parts of the world. The project would be a major legacy of the government and people of Ondo State and a crucial sustainable contribution to social change on youth development and knowledge transfer on health in the region.
In 2014, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, signed into law the bill for the establishment of the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo proposed by the Ondo State House of Assembly under Schedule 1, Section 5(2), and Article 39(1) of Ondo State Laws.
The Law was designed to find ways to sustain the delivery of model health services that had been the hallmark of the administration of the State under Governor Mimiko. Under the Abiye program, Ondo State was the only state in the country that had achieved the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 aimed at reducing maternal and child deaths. The State had established model Mother and Child Hospitals in Akure and Ondo, ultra-modern diagnostic services and a Medical Village with considerable investments made in infrastructural and human resource development. To sustain such a groundbreaking vision, and to ensure high quality delivery of health services for all Nigerians, the idea of a University came to the fore.
The alternative options for implementing the vision of sustaining human resource development for health in Ondo State was to either to establish a College of Medicine in the existing State Universities in Akungba or Okitipupa or to establish a mini-campus on Medical education linked to one of the Universities. However, these options fell through because of experiences which shows that Colleges of Medicine established far away from the operating headquarters of the main Universities have not worked very well in this country. There is always the problem of primary loyalty to the initial founding vision of the parent Universities and also administrative bottlenecks that often prevent the full realization of the full potentials of the medical institution. Also, many mini-campuses of Universities have never really functioned well in this country, and because of the big vision of transforming West Africa's health care delivery system being envisaged for this initiative, it was felt that a new University right from the onset will be more appropriate.
Thus, following the enactment of the law establishing the University, the State Government mandated a consortium led by Professor Eugene Okpere of the National Universities Commission assisted by Professor Odugbemi, Vice-Chancellor of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology to develop academic briefs for the new university. Part of what is being reported here is the results of the work of these two frontline medical educators. Additionally, a consultant - Okoh Investment, Nigeria Ltd - provided a detailed master plan of the University for its location in Laje Road in Ondo town.
On presentation of the State Law establishing the University, the Master Plan and the Academic Briefs of the University, the National Universities Commission (NUC) gave official recognition to the University on April 22, 2015. In presenting the letter of recognition to the Executive Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the Executive Secretary of the NUC said inter alia: "I wish to congratulate the Government and people of Ondo State for this establishment of the Ondo State University of Medical Sciences. With effect from 22nd April, 2015, the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo has been recognized by the National Universities Commission as the 40th State University and the 139th University in Nigeria. It is however advised that the University should invite the NUC to assess the resources and facilities before the enrolement of students into the medical programmes". Responding, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko said "our goal is not only to produce one of the best Nigerian Universities but we want a University of global record. We were driven by the passion for excellence in medical services in Nigeria and we thought that we needed a specialized University dedicated entirely to training, service delivery and high quality research in the medical disciplines. We also want an institution that will be a medical tourism destination where we can give first class quality service to every Nigerian and beyond.
In accordance with the University Law, the State Governor thereafter appointed Professor Friday Okonofua, FAS, a renowned professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology as the first Vice-Chancellor of the university in March 2015. Dr. Funke Oyebade, mni, a former Registrar at the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure was also appointed the first Registrar of the institution in March 2015.
PROFILE OF ONDO STATE: LOCATION OF THE UNIVERSITY
The University is located in Ondo Town in Ondo State, one of the 36 States of Federal Nigeria. Ondo State was created from the old Western Region of Nigeria on February 6, 1976. It originally included what is now called Ekiti State, which was split off in 1996. The Capital of the State is Akure.
Ondo State has a population of 3.4 million people, of which 1, 679,761 are females and 1,761,263 males. It is the 20th most populous state in Nigeria, and has a total land area of 15,500 sq kms. The state lies within latitudes 50 45' and 80 15' North and longitudes 40 45' and 6' East. It is bordered in the Northwest by Ekiti and Kogi States; West-Central by Osun State; Northeast and East Central by Edo State; Southwest by Ogun State and Southeast by Delta State. The southern coastline rests on the Atlantic Ocean with considerable territorial waters offshore, and is rich in aquatic, mineral and oil resources of significant importance. Ondo is one of the oil producing states of Nigeria, and has an impressive GDP per capita of US$ 2,392.0.
Ondo State is administered under 18 Local Government Areas, the major ones being the major ones being Akoko, Akure, Okitipupa, Ondo And Owo. The ethnic composition of Ondo State is largely from the Yoruba subgroups of the Akoko, Akure, Ikale, Ilaje, Ondo, and Owo. Ijaw minority (such as Apoi and Arogbo) populations inhabit the coastal areas.
The State is noted for the high priority it gives to education and health care delivery, and has devoted a substantial part of its annual budget to the delivery of these essential services over the past years. Ondo State has the largest number of public schools in Nigeria, with over 880 primary schools and 190 secondary schools. Under the administration of Governor Mimiko, many of these have been transformed into high standard model primary and secondary schools with quality learning and teaching environments. The State also has a number of tertiary educational institutions. These include: Elizade University Ilara-Mokin, Federal University of Technology Akure, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa, Achievers University, Owo, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Adeyemi College of Education (now Adeyemi University of Education), Ondo, Wesley University of Science and Technology, (WUSTO) Ondo, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) Ondo, Millennium College of Health Technology, Akure Ondo State, and Ondo State School of Health Technology, Akure, Ondo State.
Ondo State has one of the most robust and focused health care system in the country, devoted to reducing health inequity and promoting access to quality health care to all citizens. From having the worst health indicators in the old Western region, Ondo State rose to the occasion in the last six years developing several policies that have substantially improved the health challenges in the state. Ondo State is now recognized as one of the few states in Nigeria that has achieved MDG 4 and 5, a reality that enabled the UNFPA country director to declare in May 2015 that the State remains a model for the African region in terms of effective and innovative health care delivery platforms by government agencies.
Despite this, many challenges remain. The most obvious is the paucity of human resource for health needed to sustain the delivery of effective health care not only in the State but beyond. Ondo State is largely a rural State, with up to 60% of the residents occupying the rural and sub-urban parts of the State. The Doctor/Patient ratio in the State is currently 1:14,000 as against 1:5,000 recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)/global standard for the health sector. To correct this situation, Ondo State's 2010-2015 strategic plan has as one of its objectives to "plan and implement strategies to address the human resources for health needs in order to enhance its availability as well as ensure equity and quality of health care". Part of the implementation strategies for actualizing this part of the strategic statement is to strengthen the institutional framework for human resources management practices in the health sector, and to improve the capacity of training institutions to scale up the production of a critical mass of quality, multipurpose, multi-skilled, gender sensitive and mid-level health workers. The establishment of UNIMED will fit squarely into this strategic framework, which would help the process of rapid development of the State.
UNIMED commenced academic activities in the 2015/2016 session from its permanent site located at Laje Road, within Ondo Town in Ondo State of Nigeria. The site is about 50 kms from Akure, the State capital. The University encompass and include the already established and functioning Medical Village that has state-of-the-art facilities for the delivering of effective tertiary health care. This site (permanent site) has a total land area of 574.1 hectares. The site is bounded to the North with vacant tracts of land which are interspersed with spur heights and desired lines, to the west by a stream, to the East by some developed properties, and to the South by the Adeyemi College of Education (now Adeyemi University of Education).