Women Empowerment: Modupe Elebute-Odunsi, empowering women in healthcare to break barriers
Modupe Elebute-Odunsi is the Founder/Chair of Women In Healthcare Network (WIHCN). She is also the Founder/CEO, Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre & Specialist Hospital.
She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and a member of the British Society of Haematology and the American Society of Haematology.
She recently established WIHCN because she was motivated by the plethora of diverse female talent in the healthcare space that was not being harnessed, developed and utilised to advance the system and improve health outcomes in Nigeria.
Based on the strength of diversity, her desire is that WIHCN will be a melting pot of healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and specialities.
At the recent launch of WIHCN, graced by the presence and support of critical stakeholders in the health sector, it was an inspiring and engaging event.
What motivated you to establish Women In Healthcare Network (WIHCN), a dedicated platform for women healthcare professionals in Nigeria?
I was motivated by the plethora of diverse female talent in the healthcare space that was not being harnessed, developed and utilised to advance the system and improve health outcomes in Nigeria.
Also, while most of the junior workforce are women, the leadership does not reflect the same; I saw this as an opportunity to support and showcase emerging and established female healthcare leaders, to create an opportunity to network and to inform them of available opportunities in different organisations.
How do you envision this NGO benefiting women in the healthcare field, both professionally and personally?
Imagine a sisterhood of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and all healthcare professionals supporting and lifting each other. WIHCN will be that space. We envision professional growth through workshops, mentorship programmes, and networking events. It’s about finding your tribe, sharing experiences, and building lasting connections. Together, we can navigate challenges, celebrate successes, and feel empowered to reach our full potential.
What specific challenges do women in healthcare face in Nigeria, and how does this platform address those challenges?
Women in healthcare often face unique challenges like unconscious bias, limited access to leadership roles, and work-life balance struggles. WIHCN tackles this head-on by providing mentorship, advocating for equal opportunities, and offering resources and support to help women thrive in their careers. It’s about creating a level playing field and empowering women to break barriers.
How does the NGO intend to facilitate networking and collaboration among women healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds?
Diversity is our strength. WIHCN will be a melting pot of healthcare professionals from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and specialities. We’ll host events, online forums, and mentorship programmes to foster connections and collaboration. Imagine nurses sharing best practices with doctors and pharmacists learning from lab technicians- the possibilities are endless.
How does the NGO intend to promote gender equality and diversity in the healthcare sector?
We believe a diverse and inclusive healthcare sector benefits everyone. WIHCN will be a platform to amplify women’s voices, advocate for equal representation in leadership roles, and challenge discriminatory practices. Through workshops, policy discussions, and partnerships, we’ll work towards a healthcare system where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of gender.
What measures are in place to ensure inclusivity within the platform, considering the diverse backgrounds and specialties of the members?
Diverse representation in leadership, providing resources for various specialities, and fostering an environment where all voices are heard. In addition, organising events catering to different healthcare sectors ensures a more inclusive platform.
You must understand that WIHCN tackles issues common to most rather than speciality teaching; most professionals already have CPD (continuous professional development) plans, without which it will be difficult to advance. What we do is look at those areas which constitute a block to advancing their careers and leadership roles. For example- leadership programmes look at their personalities, how they work, how they should build a team, how to create visibility, how to speak up, and so on. Developing their own unique leadership style has to be purposeful and intentional.
What opportunities does the platform provide for mentorship and professional development?
For mentorship via programmes, connecting experienced professionals with those seeking guidance, we will encourage them to choose their mentors and teach them how to approach those mentors. It requires some work on their part. However, we will guide them.
There will be webinars and skill-building workshops to enhance professional development. We will provide information on global trends in the industry which they can harness to improve their own careers.
Can you share any plans or future goals of the NGO to expand its impact and reach within the healthcare community?
Initially, our focus is on our membership, so we advise every eligible woman to join as soon as possible. We believe that the women we support will impact their own communities.
Eventually, we will consider outreach programmes, as well as partnerships with healthcare organisations, both local and international.
What role does the NGO intend to play in addressing healthcare disparities and improving access to quality healthcare for women in Nigeria.
We know that if we build a dynamic workforce, we will impact the quality of healthcare for women. We ill lead these discussions and recommend solutions. There are benefits to addressing this disparities, not just for women but for the communities and organisations.
By promoting and raising awareness on women’s health issues, facilitating discussions on healthcare disparities, and connecting professionals with relevant expertise.
Share with us the key and high points of the launch. What was discussed and takeaway points
There were so many high points of the launch, but I will share three:
Firstly, the presence and support of critical stakeholders in the health sector, including the coordinating minister for health, Prof Muhammad Ali Pate. He shared his thoughts and pledged future support. The vice president, Kashim Shettima, represented by Uju Anwukah, was also very effusive in his support of the initiative, and we plan to utilise the support he promised for the advancement of the women in our network and, ultimately, the healthcare system in Nigeria. There were many goodwill messages within the room and from those who could not attend.
Secondly, the panels we held throughout the day were critical. We focused on financing healthcare businesses; Verod Capital and Providus Bank supported this. We know that women-owned businesses get less support than those owned by men, so we intend to ease the process for our members with viable offers. We also had panels on leadership and mentorship. We intend to publish these videos for registered members to playback on our website.
Thirdly, the founding members were a key highlight for me as I intentionally selected them, and they shone throughout the day. They worked hard to make the day a launch, and none of this would have happened without them.
What strategies or initiatives does the NGO have in place to empower and uplift women healthcare professionals in leadership positions?
Leadership is one of the areas we intend to focus on. We know that women make great leaders and that diverse boards are more profitable than homogenous ones. We understand the cultural nuances associated with female leadership, and Nigeria has come a long way, with record numbers of female CEOs in the private sector in the last year.
We will run leadership programmes for aspiring leaders and help place them in organisations we know are seeking leadership.
What message or advice do you have for women healthcare professionals in Nigeria who aspire to achieve their fullest potentials in their careers?
Believe in yourself, get out of your way, continually develop your skills, apply for that position, start that business and join WIHCN.
Celebrating World Cancer Day, what do you have to say on cancer statistics in Nigeria, your contribution to fight it, the reality on ground, what we all need to know and necessary interventions at all levels?
Cancer has been highly topical in the last week. We had World Cancer Day on Sunday, February 4th, and King Charles made global news on February 5th, announcing he has cancer and has started treatment.
The reality of our great country, Nigeria, is stark. We suffer from a lack of statistics, and even though we have over 100,000 new cancer cases annually and more than 70,000 deaths, the reality is much worse.
Presentations are late because of a lack of education, a weak primary healthcare system, and poor referral pathways.
We are doing our best to provide care for cancer patients at Marcelle Ruth, but early diagnosis will lead to a better prognosis and longer healthier life spans.
There is so much to do, we are harnessing the power of women in WIHCN and we ask for your full support in building the healthcare system that will serve us and our generations to come. The system will improve when we all do our part.