In those mid ’90s, one had to do a year (Level 200—if from the old O’ and A’ level system) or two years (Levels 100 and 200—from the new Junior and Senior Secondary School system) to see who qualifies, per superior GPA, to be called for the University of Ghana Medical School interview.
If my memory serves me right, of the nearly 900 of us, only a third made the interview list; and of that, only another third were admitted to medical (and dental) school. Folks were so bent on making the final 100 who will don the coveted white coat and carry boxes of bones on and off the med school bus that the mantra was “medico or suicide!” It was a serious threat in those heady undergraduate days.
I personally don’t recall anyone who didn’t make the cut actually physically killing themselves but many died emotionally, mentally and even socially. That nonsense killed many brilliant minds. I know of some that had to take a year off to heal; some even left the country for a bit. I still meet people who seem to be a pale shadow of themselves prior to this deathly mantra.
CAREER = PROFESSION + FIELD
I hope that career and counselling services have improved for the current generation but I can tell you for a fact that most of us were too young, back in the 1990s, to even definitely know what we wanted, career-wise. O of course many of us thought we knew, just like we thought we knew who we wanted to marry. Probably 0.0001% of us ended up marrying who we ‘so sure’ about.
In fact, many of us mixed up the passion for the general field (healthcare) with a passion for a particular profession (medical doctor). I was fortunate to learn the CAREER = PROFESSION + FIELD formula from the What Colour is Your Parachute? publication and many in that biological sciences pool could’ve found use for it too. Take my friend Retha (true story but not her real name), for example. She was a couple of years behind me. She didn’t make the dreaded med school list. And you wouldn’t believe the kind of hell her parents subjected her to, as a result. Thankfully she weathered the storm and did great at her plan B: Psychology. She loved it and excelled at Clinical Psychology in particular so much that she continued with graduate studies and eventually landed a PhD in it, in the United States of America.
Think about it: she still ended up in the field of healthcare which she was passionate about but realised she didn’t need to have the profession of a medical doctor to pursue that passion. The competent psychologist she became satisfied the same passion and fulfilled her calling. In any case, she’s still called “Dr.” today in her practice and who the heck cares if she earned the “Dr.” title from med school or from grad school, especially if she’s doing one heck of a good job in the clinic.
THE NURSING DOCTOR
These thoughts above were provoked by attending a recent Doctors in Business banquet at the Holiday in Accra, Ghana. As a guest keynote speaker, I had the privilege of sharing the high table with a course mate from Level 100 at the University of Ghana, Legon. We were both introduced as “Doctor” but I could swear she wasn’t in med school with me. By the end of the night it turned out that both the MC and myself were right. She was not med school with our batch, and she isn’t a medical doctor (I was right); but she is a doctor alright, a doctor in nursing (the MC was right).
“So I did biological sciences with you guys at Level 100 because I came to Legon as a science student,” Dr. Lillian Akorfa Ohene (PhD, MPhil, PN, BSc) intimated to me, but fortunately she wasn’t of the “medico or suicide!” tribe. “I branched off to nursing after level 100 because nursing was my first choice.” I’ve been so impressed that she knew exactly what she wanted even back then (forget the prestige of med school) and went straight for it. It reminds me of a brilliant 4.0 (perfect GPA) friend of mine who could’ve easily made it to med school but also chose to do Nutrition and Food Science, in the steps of her food scientist dad. She’s doing well in the industry, a leader of leaders.
Beyond knowing what she wanted and decisively moving towards it despite the definite distraction of medicine, Lillian’s story is also serendipitous as “the road rose to meet her.” She continues the conversation thus: “…but it happened that at that time, the nursing program started at level 200.”
IMPRESSIVE CURRICULUM VITAE
Today, Dr Lillian Akorfa Ohene is a Senior Lecturer and the Head of Department for Public Health Nursing at the University of Ghana’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. She is a certified paediatric nurse, who holds a PhD in Nursing from De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, a Master of Philosophy and Bachelor of Science in Nursing, both from the University of Ghana.
Lillian has over twenty (20) years of practice and teaching experience in higher academic institutions. Her research interest focuses on holistic care of sick children and the well-being of women and their families. As a qualitative researcher, she has explored extensively, the concept of family-centred care among sick children in the Ghanaian context. Some of her findings have been published widely in both local and international peer-reviewed journals. She also serves as a reviewer for several international journals.
On the international stage, Dr Ohene is a member, and a faculty counsellor of Chi Omicron Chapter of the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) at Indianapolis, USA, a member of West Africa Postgraduate College of Nurses and Midwives (WAPCNM) and a foundation fellow of Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives (GCNM).
Dr. Ohene is also a Queen Elizabeth Scholar (QES) and serves as a mentor to her students, nurses and midwives locally and internationally. She has supervised over a hundred research projects, from undergraduate to PhDs. She is passionate about students’ academic success. The reason for our crossing paths last weekend is that she currently serves as a patron for three different student associations at the University of Ghana, of which Doctors in Business (DIB) is one. She serves on the board as well. Lillian is a family woman, married with three young adult children.
LILLIAN LESSONS LEARNT
Don’t die when life doesn’t go your way (death isn’t only physical); live to make so much of the further opportunity that rises to meet you that it’s a dis to that previous appointment (‘disappointment’). Through self-awareness, from introspection as well as feedback (take coaching and counselling seriously), know who you are and what you want and go for it. That’s where your future lies; don’t get distracted by the bling (even if its a shiny jewel like medicine). Yes, pursue your passion but be careful not to confuse the field and the profession. And remember that when you make a move, even when you don’t know what the next move after that step is, serendipity happens. Just make the move; it’s actually not moving at all that just might be suicidal.
66TH ANNUAL SPEECH & PRIZE-GIVING DAY, RIDGE CHURCH SCHOOL
SPEECH BY DR. YAW PERBI, Global CEO of The HuD Group
26th August, 2023
Chairperson, Guest of Honour, School Board and Management, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff, Parents and Learners, Invited Guests, (all protocols observed), good afternoon. It is an honour to return to Ridge Church School to address you today after leaving here 31 years ago. And it is a double honour as this is the second time I’ve been invited to do so over the last two decades.
The theme chosen for this year is BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES and we shall consider it in three simple ways:
- WHAT IS?
- WHO SHOULD?
- WHY MUST?
1. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHAT IS?
You must’ve heard from my introduction that my wife and I are blessed with seven biological children. Well, on Monday morning, our delightful six-year-old daughter, our fifth child called Nana Ahomka, came to tell me, “Daddy, I should be a leader at AWANA,” a children’s Bible training program. When I asked who a leader is she said, “Someone who sets an example for everyone else to follow.” I replied, “You got that right girl,” and that gave me the essence of my message today.
Today, the word “leader” is overused and abused. But for a moment, forget about all the 360 plus official definitions (yes) and consider this: a leader is someone who sets an example for others to follow. A good leader sets a good example; a bad leader does the opposite. Seeing it that way, a lot of so-called ‘leaders’ are really not good ones, even if they are in powerful political positions, are sensational speakers or even have top professions and enviable riches. Recently, we have seen our parliamentarians insulting and throwing physical blows in parliament. That is bad leadership. And it needs to be called out for what it is.
So WHAT IS being a good example in all circumstances? Good leadership or Godly leadership.
2. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHO SHOULD?
Everyone of us, especially you, young ones—YOU ARE NOT TOO YOUNG TO BE AN EXAMPLE.
The Little boy Samuel was only 12 years old and could hear God’s voice at a time when “the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions.”  He heard God’s voice and told the ‘Papas’ of the land what to do. Ghana could use some Samuels right now—YOU!
That is what Paul the mentor meant when he said to his teenage mentee Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  In fact, sometimes it’s the adults that actually encourage us to do the wrong thing: I shall never forget my BECE experience in 1992 when a female invigilator who noticed I had completed my work, suggested to me to write the answers on an eraser so she could give it to another person who was struggling! Imagine that. An invigilator! I said, “No Madam. That is not right.” She was shocked.
Sometimes people don’t like us for not following their bad example or for calling out their bad example. But in a good society, good examples are reward. For example when I went to Achimota School, my good example was observed by the staff and I was selected to represent Achimota in exchange programme in America. It is also good examples who are selected to be prefects here, right?
Even at the university, I had to resist cheating in exams and started an organization called The HuD Group (The Human Development Group)  to help young people to become good leaders. When I got a national award for this, handed to me by then then Vice President of Ghana, Hon. Aliu Mahama, as the Newmont Ghana Highest Achievement Award winner at the Millennium Excellence Youth Awards in 2006, our Minister of Health then, Major (Rtd.) Courage Quashigah, wrote me a congratulatory letter, part of which read:
“We in the health sector are very proud of you and urge you to continue to be an Outstanding Achiever… It is my hope that you will bring your charisma and devotion to bear on every youth you encounter and they in turn will emulate your leadership example. On behalf of the entire health sector and on my own behalf, please accept my congratulations.” 
So WHO SHOULD be a good example in all circumstances? Everyone, especially you young ones!
3. BE A GOOD EXAMPLE IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES: WHY MUST?
In 1792 King Louis XVI (16th) was taken from his throne by some rebels and imprisoned. His young son, the prince, was taken by those who dethroned the king. They thought that inasmuch as the king’s son was heir to the throne, if they could destroy him morally, he would never realize the great and grand destiny that life had bestowed upon him. They took him to a community far away, and there they exposed the lad to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer. They exposed him to foods the richness of which would quickly make him a slave to appetite. They used vile language around him constantly. They exposed him to lewd and lusting women. They exposed him to dishonor and distrust. He was surrounded 24 hours a day by everything that could drag the soul of a man as low as one could slip.
For over six months he had this treatment but not once did the young lad buckle under pressure. Finally, after intensive temptation, they questioned him. Why had he not submitted himself to these things why had he not partaken? These things would provide pleasure, satisfy his lusts, and were desirable; they were all his. The boy said, “I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king.” 
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all born to be kings and queens, princes and princesses, in the kingdom of God. WHY MUST you be a good example in all circumstances? You were born to be royalty.
In conclusion, be a good example in all circumstances. “The time is always right to do what’s right,” as Martin Luther King told some (Oberlin) students. Be an example, be a leader. As young as you are, even if everyone is doing the wrong thing and adults are pushing you to, be a prince/princess because:
1. that’s who you are—you were born to be a leader, to be king/queen
2. that’s what God’s word says and God expects
3. it’s for your own good (there’s no law against being a good example or punishment for it)
4. society needs it today and will remember you in history
5. Almighty God will reward you. Say, “Heaven backs me when I do the right thing!”
Be a good example—whether you are 6 or 60! Be the king and queen you were born to be. Be a good example in all circumstances, BE A GODLY LEADER!
 1 Samuel 3:1, NIV
 1 Timothy 4:12, NIV
 See www.thehudgroupglobal.org
 Portion of letter by Hon. Minister of Health in 2006, emphasis mine
 Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (and other sources)