BEAUTIFUL! Doctor, Helicopter Pilot & Entrepreneur Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

(Photo credit: Lioness Of Africa)

When you hear the words, “doctor, entrepreneur and helicopter pilot” all in the same sentence, it sounds like the start of joke. It’s rare to have all three of those people in the same room, let alone all three of those professions being in one person. Then many of us don’t think it could be a woman. And even less of us think that could be a Black woman. That’s where the remarkable Dr. Ola Orekunrin steps in.

She is a medical doctor, helicopter pilot and the healthcare entrepreneur. But get this: she’s only 29. She’s dedicated to bringing trauma care to her country and all over the world. Ola graduated as a medical doctor from the University Of York in the UK and is a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine.

Originally born in London and grew up in a foster home with her sister in the small seaside town of Lowestoft in the south-east of England, Dr. Orekunrin has always had a passion for medicine. She studied at the University of York in the UK, graduating at the incredibly young age of 21 as a qualified doctor. After being awarded the MEXT Japanese Government Scholarship, she conducted clinic research in the field of regenerative medicine at the Jikei University Hospital.

But it was the tragedy that hit closest to home that really made her mind up about medicine.

Her sister became very, very ill on holiday while staying with relatives in Nigeria. The local hospital was unable to manage her sickle cell anemia condition, and as a result, Ola and her family started to search for an air ambulance so that she could be safely transported to a suitable medical facility in the country. There were no air ambulances to be found. The only one to be found was in South Africa, 5 hours away, but by the time the logistics had been arranged, Ola’s sister had died of her condition. The real tragedy is that she didn’t die because her condition was unmanageable; she died because of lack of access. It was the lack of access to the right medicines that were readily available in the cupboard of a highly efficient Accident and Emergency hospital ward that killed her. The death of her sister and the circumstances that caused it, broke Ola’s heart, so she left her job and took the decision to move to Nigeria where she could try to make a difference to the lives of other patients and improving healthcare in the country as a whole.

Ultimately, her motivation for starting her business, Flying Doctors Nigeria (FDN), was to find an effective way of taking people who were critically ill, getting them to see the right doctor at the right facility within the right time frame for that particular illness. Today FDN is the first air ambulance service in West Africa to provide urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance and evacuation services for critically injured people.