LASUCOM: An Emerging Stalwart In Medical Education
The Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) was finally commissioned by the Lagos State Government on the 9th of February, 1999. Medical education in Nigeria began with the establishment of the University College Hospital, Ibadan as a College branch of the University of London in 1948. Since then four generations of medical schools have evolved. 24 fully accredited and 5 partially accredited by MDCN. In the top tier, there are 13 medical schools, one of which is our own Lagos State University College of Medicine.
The first Vice-Chancellor of the University was the first to set up an Advisory Board which made the first attempt toward the establishment of LASUCOM in March 1987. Although the Advisory Board submitted its proposal in 1987, the University College of Medicine was not founded but in 1997 when Professor Fatai Akesode came into the office of the Vice-Chancellor, he re-submitted the proposal. The Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) was finally commissioned by the Lagos State Government on the 9th of February, 1999 with the primary aim to provide high quality, ground-breaking education and research opportunities to doctors and health professionals of the future with the best, up-to date and current practice. The primary purpose of the establishment was to produce competent West African medical professionals to serve the Lagos population by satisfying the medical needs of the rural and urban communities.
At her commissioning, no one could have imagined that over a decade after, the college would be emerging as a frontrunner in health care delivery and medical education excellence in Nigeria and West Africa. Now, LASUCOM is the toast of all other medical schools having been recently registered on the AVICENNA World Directory for Medical Education, a registry of renowned medical schools in the world facilitating networking with other institutions abroad and assisting alumni applying for postgraduate education abroad. The College is arguably the best Medical School in Nigeria at the moment and other medical schools seek the method of LASUCOM as their blueprint for development. The contributions and support of the Lagos State Government to make this dream a reality cannot be over-emphasized. Foresight of the government taking seriously the advice of experts, forthrightness and vision of administrators of the college are amongst the factors that contributed to the success story of LASUCOM. Most importantly, awareness and support of the Government helped transformed this then cottage hospital into this global revolution.
Of immense and invaluable contribution in the quest to attain this noble objective is Deux Project, a consultancy firm with huge interest in construction and provision of health infrastructures and equipment, new structures and state of the art buildings. Modern facilities and up to date equipment, development and facilities maintenance have become major features of LASUCOM. One month away from LASUCOM, and one would be lost, because it is constantly being upgraded, obsolete structures being demolished or refurbished as deemed fit, state of the art facilities been brought in and so on. In the words of Dr Tunji Olowolafe, the Chief Executive Officer, Deux Project, “our brief as a firm is to make LASUCOM as a comfortable citadel of medical learning as possible for the students”. Himself a qualified Medical Doctor, Olowolafe went further that “a College of Medicine is the labour room where the births of future Medical practitioners take place and should therefore reflect the level excellence that is expected from these practitioners upon qualification”. In line with the above, development is a continuous process at College of Medicine, Ikeja; maintenance, a culture for existing and newly built facilities. Recently, a brand new four- storey Faculty of Clinical Sciences building was completed by Deux Project. Other structures in recent past include the new mega hostel structure, Medical Research Centre, Sports complex for students and a 180 capacity car-park. Construction work is about to start on a brand new 4 storey Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences building. Facilities Maintenance has become a culture at LASUCOM to ensure that the structure and the equipment can serve their life span and problems are discovered early to forestall excessive spending on refurbishment in the future.
For the 340 students presently undergoing training at LASUTH, studying at The College of Medicine, Ikeja is an opportunity of a life-time, and a pedestal on which they hope to step unto, rise through the ranks and reach the zenith of their careers. “The experience of study at LASUCOM is a great feeling, and I believe that one of the smartest choices I made was deciding to study Medicine & Surgery in LASUCOM. It's been rewarding all the way” said Oluwasola Wilton-Waddell, a final year student of Lagos State University college of Medicine. Another final year student, Olawunmi Akinsanya said “All my colleagues in other medical schools wish they were here in LASUCOM. It's hectic here, but they try to make us the best doctors”. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) fixes the number of students each college of medicine should admit. This quota is determined by a number of variables: staff strength, especially in pre-medical faculties; the carrying capacity of teaching and research facilities; and funds for renovation and expansion of facilities. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria recently approved an intake slot of 75 medical students per year ensuring that medical education received at LASUCOM is standard and adequate and the student-consultant ratio is kept at is optimum (presently 12:1). 10 dental students have been admitted as LASUCOM commenced her Dentistry and Dental Surgery program this year and the Nursing school will be operational at Igando (an annex of the Lagos state University College of Medicine) from next year. Student welfare is paramount in LASUCOM, as all students are accommodated in three mega-hostels. One is freshly built with guaranteed 24hrs electricity all day in the college and all night electricity over night in the hostels, constant water supply, study centers, comfortable cafeteria, and sporting facilities.
Beyond undergraduate training, postgraduate programs available in LASUCOM include Masters in Anatomy, Masters in Biochemistry and Masters in Physiology; Masters in Forensic Science, Masters in forensic Medicine and Masters in Public Health. Other programs in the offing include Masters in chemical Pathology, Masters in Occupational Medicine, MD programme in all clinical specialties including Medicine, Surgery and Paediatrics.
As regards those that run the college, staff strength currently stands at 124 academic staff and 257 non-academic staff. Members of staff are also well catered for as the College with the assistance of the Lagos State Government has been able to either purchase or rent housing units for its staff including 8 units at Ojokoro, 12 units at Shasha, and another 12 units in Marwa gardens. The College also ensures that staff are transported to and fro work in comfortable, fully air-conditioned staff buses plying 6 routes – Ojo, Sango, Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos Island and Ikorodu.
In the aspect of research and training, significant research, some of which has gained global significance has been carried out by LASUCOM lecturers. Prime on the list is the development of bilateral uterine artery ligation in the management of uterine fibroids which is a safe and effective method for the treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids especially in areas where access to high level medical technology is restricted. Studies on abortions and its sequelae, assessment of presentations in haemo-oncology in Lagos State have also been carried out just to mention a few. Grants for skill acquisition and human resources development and research grants for projects that have scaled through a strong medical ethics committee to establish the veracity of the research and its significance to the society are available in LASUCOM. Individuals are sent abroad for training in various advanced procedures depending on advancement in areas the Lagos State University Teaching hospital is willing to venture into. Some consultants have been previously sponsored for advanced training in Aberdeen, India advancements in Paediatric Cardiology over a year, another consultant for advancements in vascular surgery.
There are essentially three functions of institutions such as LASUCOM. These include Training, Research and Service. As regards service, community development and Impactful contributions to advancement of the Lagos Health sector and improvement of lives of the Lagos people is taking seriously. Being the apex health institution in Lagos state, it is at the fore-front of projects geared towards reduction of maternal mortality in Lagos. In conjunction with Lagos State Ministry of Health, LASUTH has been involved with several grassroots development projects including Operation smile (for correction of cleft lip and palate), Limb Deformity Correction (for correction of bow and K legs), Cataract Surgery missions, Open Heart Surgery, Hypertension and diabetes Mellitus awareness programs. In-vitro fertilization will be starting in a few months. LASUCOM is also involved in training and re-training of staff in the State, especially those employed at the secondary and primary health care levels. According to Dr Tunji Olowolafe, “the mammoth development of LASUCOM by Deux Project, has helped transform 'Brain Drain' to 'Brain Gain' thereby enriching her strength in advanced specialist skills and ensuring that advanced medical support available out of the country are now obtainable and accessible at home, which is gradually turning Lagos into a hub for Medical Tourism”.
Till date, 236 medical doctors have been graduated by the College of Medicine with great prospects. The alumni have effectively ingrained themselves into various segments of the health sector, with some already undergoing residency training in various fields including Surgery, internal Medicine, Paediatrics, Haematology, Anaesthesia etc. some on Post-graduate training in various institutions all over world including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh and so on. Others are working in the evolving Health Insurance field, with different Health Management Organizations (HMOs); one in the field of Sports Medicine and presently on the FIFA medical network, one in the field of Health Media Consultancy. Others are working with Lagos State Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Health while some work with various Non-Governmental Agencies. One can only look out for these highly skilled and driven products of the revolution in health, Lagos State University College of Medicine.