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Dr Njideka Udochi – The Pride of Hippocrates

Hippocrates was a Greek physician who existed more than a millennium before modern civilization. He was born in Kos, Greece. Hippocrates built a reputation as the greatest physician of his time and earned himself the title, “Father of Medicine”. He was one of the first people who believed in rationalism as an approach to illnesses instead of superstitions.

Despite being around during such a time one would describe as “crude” in contemporary days, he was able to describe the symptoms of epilepsy and pneumonia accurately. He practiced medicine across Greece and eventually set up a medical school in his place of birth. Soon afterwards, he developed the Hippocratic Oath which all doctors take today.

Among many other things, the earliest version of the oath compels modern-day physicians to do no harm, provide medical services and advice that will only benefit their patients and, very importantly, help the sick in whatsoever houses they enter.

“In whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick…” Line 1, Paragraph 4, Hippocratic Oath.

However one chooses to interpret this charge, it is difficult to miss its obvious instruction to provide the best medical care to people regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, etc. That part of the oath does not specify which house should be treated or which group of people are second-class. Instead, it is all-encompassing and encourages fair and equal treatment of all.

While this instruction might seem like it goes without saying, the sad truth is that many medical professionals across the world do not uphold its guidelines. Far too often, there are cases of physicians treating their patients as though they cannot get rid of them soon enough. In a 2020 Harvard article published by a medical doctor, the physician begins her piece by narrating the experience of one of her patients who had received less than stellar care from the hospital she previously visited. The patient complained that she had not been objectively diagnosed by any of the healthcare personnel there. Instead, she was treated like a drug abuser despite the fact that her medical history showed no evidence of such behavior. The patient in question was convinced she got that sort of treatment because she was black and so was forced to get medical attention elsewhere.

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Sad as this story sounds, it provides an insight into the misfortune that many ailing individuals across the world face today in the hands of biased medical professionals. So, when unbiased, capable and empathetic doctors show up to do their job, their effort should be acknowledged and rewarded with deserved accolades. Dr. Njideka Udochi has a seat in the assembly of these noteworthy doctors.

Dr. Njideka had her medical training more than three decades ago with scores of achievements trailing her at every turn. While none of these achievements is deserving of being waved aside as inconsequential, one of her numerous achievements does stand out with a distinct aura.

In 2003, this astounding woman founded the Millennium Family Practice, Columbia, Maryland. It was created as a facility to provide primary healthcare to geriatric patients, children and adults, with the facility using the Patient-Centered Medical Home model of care. Having worked with over 200,000 patients in the United States during her stint, Dr Njideka was further able to provide quality healthcare to thousands of first-generation immigrants to the United States through her medical practice.

And here lies one of the qualities that make her a Hippocrates’ pride; while many doctors look for the most profitable patients or the most “appealing” based on socioeconomic factors, such as race, among others, Dr. Njideka upholds the fundamentals of Hippocrates’ values by treating all her patients fairly. So committed is she to this ideal that she is held in high esteem by colleagues and the patients she has worked with. Thus, a common remark you hear or read from patients who have benefitted from her care before is, “She treats us like family.” What endorsement can be greater than that?

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In her commitment to humanity, she encourages patients not only to follow prescriptions but to also explore healing from within. In her office hang several handcrafted pieces created by her patients who have, on her advice, taken to art as a means of overcoming whatever ails them.

However, she is not, as some call it, a one-trick pony. Her fair treatment of all isn’t the only thing that would make Hippocrates shed tears of elation. She also makes a habit of transferring knowledge as required by Hippocrates.

“…to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it…” [Paragraph 2, Hippocratic Oath]

This line, seemingly vague, was put in much better words by Louis Lasagna who was Tufts University’s Academic Dean in the School of Medicine in 1964.

“I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.” Paragraph 2, Hippocratic Oath (Rewritten by Louis Lasagna).

In her efforts geared towards impartation of knowledge, Dr. Njideka Udochi has spent several years, 1999 to date, teaching younger professionals what they need to know to start or improve themselves as medical practitioners. Between 1999 and 2003, she taught in the George Washington University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the University of Maryland. In 2013, she started teaching students of Family Nurse Practitioners and has continued in that path till date. In 2016, she began providing medical students with clinical oversight and still does so now. The list goes on, but it all points in one direction – Dr. Njideka Udochi plays her part in educating doctors and medical professionals across generations.

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In addition to all these feats, Dr. Njideka Udochi also has various works of research in her name, starting as early as 1994. This has been the case despite her numerous medical works in the United States of America.

Given all these attributes, achievements, and all-round excellence, it would be difficult for anyone who understands the challenges of modern medicine as well as the intricacies of the profession not to be proud of her. Hippocrates, despite being a figure in distant memory, would certainly be proud, alongside several Nigerians across the world.

One can only hope that just as she makes equal and high-quality treatment of immigrants and foreigners a priority, other doctors across the world would emulate her and treat people fairly regardless of their background, race, or economic value.

Oyebode Oluwasegun is a researcher and a writer. He is currently studying Mass Communication at the University of Lagos.

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