Paving the future of humankind is so crucial in the march of civilization and science. Everything of course starts from the newborn child. An epoch-making inaugural lecture titled, “Newborn Survival, Tomorrow’s Future: Reaching the Unreached to Breathe at Birth within the Golden Minute” by Professor Veronica Chinyere Ezeaka – MBBS(Nig), MPH(Unilag), FWACP(Paed), FRCPCH(UK), FCAI, MNIM – is a godsend for Nigeria. The foundational treatise is slated for 4pm, Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at J.F. Ade-Ajayi Auditorium (University of Lagos Main Auditorium).
The trendsetting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS welcomes all to the breakthrough inaugural lecture that adds cubits to Unilag’s esteemed standing as a leading citadel of learning in Africa.
The much sought-after Professor Veronica Chinyere Ezeaka as an outstanding Professor of Pediatrics (Neonatology Unit) summarizes her academic and professional odyssey, gives key preventive messages, and advocates for synergy for a better tomorrow for neonatal survival.
Born on May 26, 1965 at Nsukka in Enugu State to the family of Chief (Sir) Joseph Anakwe Umeh (of blessed memory) and Lady Patricia Uchechukwu Umeh, both of Achina in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Professor Chinyere was indeed a child prodigy.
She had her elementary education at Zik’s Avenue Primary School, Uwani, Enugu from 1971 to1976. It’s indeed remarkable that her parents widened her academic horizon with French books and volumes of English encyclopedia and Piano music lessons early in life.
In her secondary school education at Girls’ High School, Awkunanaw, Enugu, she broke academic records by winning 12 best-student subject-awards at once in both the sciences and arts at the junior-high level. She then capped it all up by graduating with a Distinction in the West African School Certificate (WASC) examination in 1981.
Professor Ezeaka gained admission to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nigeria, (Nsukka and Enugu campuses) in the same year of high school graduation. She obtained the MBBS in 1987.
She of course continued apace with her winning of academic laurels including the award of a Federal Government Academic Merit scholarship based on her year one result that lasted all through medical school. She also won academic book prizes for pharmacology and internal medicine. A distinction viva for pharmacology was hers as well as for obstetrics and gynaecology.
Her one-year internship at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, 1987-1988, was guaranteed without interviews due to her academic excellence in the final MBBS examination as is the norm in the University.
She would later serve the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme at Michelin Medical Centre, Port Harcourt, Rivers State between 1988 and 1989.
In June 1992, Professor Ezeaka commenced the Paediatric residency at the Department of Paediatrics, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). She had earlier travelled abroad, having considered starting the USA postgraduate program.
In the course of the residency training in LUTH from 1992 to 1998, she distinguished herself professionally and academically. She passed all the qualifying Paediatric Primaries, Membership and Fellowship examinations – all at the first attempts. She was awarded the Fellowship of the West African College of Physicians in April 1999. She wrote her dissertation on the subspecialty of Neonatology.
On completing her residency training in Paediatrics, she got admitted into the Master of Public Health Programme of the University of Lagos in 1998. She won the coveted award for Best Student in Statistics, as well as Best Student in the graduating class of 1998/1999 with a Distinction, a feat for which she was offered a PhD in Epidemiology – but she decided to tow the line of the clinical paediatrics course.
A personable lady of impeccable humility, Prof Chinyere Ezeaka started her academic career as a Lecturer 1 in the Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Lagos in April 2001. She rose through the ranks with commitment and diligence. She got promoted to the Senior Lecturer level in October 2004, even before her confirmation of appointment in December 2005.
In 2010, she was appointed an Associate Professor.
Then in 2012, her crowning glory came as she became a Professor of Paediatrics.
Professor Chinyere Ezeaka equally served as Honorary Consultant Paediatrician in the Department of Paediatrics, Lagos University Teaching Hospital since January 2003. She is the current Head, Neonatology-Perinatology Unit.
It is striking that in her academic subspecialty, Paediatrics/Neonatology, she further received postgraduate clinical trainings in neonatology at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, King George Hospital, Illford, Essex, United Kingdom in 2003; Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Elmhurst Hospital, Queens New York in 2004; Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Hennepin County Medical Centre and Amplatz Children’s Hospital, University of Minnesota, Minnesota in 2013. She was a Visiting Professor, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Cohen Children’s Hospital, Northwell Health, New York, USA in 2017.
She has in her kitty the Membership of the Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered), and Fellowship of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, United Kingdom.
It bears no reiteration that the erudite don is a recipient of many awards, distinctions and recognitions nationally and internationally.
In her career trajectory, Prof Chinyere Ezeaka has been actively involved in the teaching of students at all levels. Her tutelage of postgraduate doctors, clinical service and research centre mainly on newborn health, to wit, newborn survival, prematurity/low birth weight, neonatal jaundice, perinatal asphyxia, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and simulation-based medical education.
She currently has more than 70 peer-reviewed scholarly publications, and also chapters in 12 books. She has supervised the research and dissertations of 21 post-graduate (Fellowship) doctors. Crucially, her research works have aimed to be locally relevant with added value to knowledge-cum-practice, and have entrenched inter-disciplinary collaborations with strong international partnerships. Her international collaborative research grants/projects include: Genetics of Prematurity (2015-2018); Bilistix project (2015-2017); CURhE (2016-2019); NeoNuNet project (2018-2019); site Principal Investigator (PI) Nigeria eHelping Babies Breathe/mHelping Babies Survive (eHBB/mHBS) Virtual Reality Simulation training technology; and Clinical PI Nigeria for the Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360o) 2019-2022 Global Health Programme with teams from the USA, UK, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania.
Along the line of duty, the Inaugural Lecturer has served the College of Medicine and the University meritoriously in various administrative and academic capacities – as the Department of Paediatrics Basic Clinical Skills (BCS) coordinator (2005-2014); OSCE examination coordinator (2008-2018); Member, Felix O. Dosekun and also Member, Horatio Oritshejolomi Thomas /Founders’ Day Ceremonies Memorial Lecture Committees, (2009-2015) to raise funds for the College; Member and Academic Secretary, Faculty of Clinical Sciences Annual Conference Committee (2006-2010) for which she got an award of commendation; Acting Head of Department (intermittently between 2010-2018); Member, Appointments and Promotion Committee for Senior Administrative and Technical staff CMUL (2017-2019); Chairman, Committee to shortlist qualified candidates for vacant non-teaching staff positions (Nov-Dec 2016); and a member of the University Senate and Academic Board of the College of Medicine (CMUL).
Professor Ezeaka is a technical newborn health consultant to the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, UNICEF, Save the Children International, JHPIEGO and USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Programme (MCSP). She collaborated with other dons as the lead author of the Nigerian Newborn Situation Analysis and Action Plan: in the context of the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) strategy document (1stand 2nd Editions) – which remains the first national comprehensive document on the state of newborn health in Nigeria. She also did KMC, ENCC, Chlorhexidine, IMNCH, Child Health policy, NiENAP, Comprehensive newborn care manual, and many other crucial newborn health policy documents currently used nationally.
Professor Ezeaka is actively involved in capacity building nationally, and she is a National Master Trainer for the Neonatal Resuscitation Training (NRT); Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) Programme, Essential Newborn Care Course (ENCC), and Kangaroo Mothercare (KMC) programmes (2002–date); and has also trained regionally and internationally (2010-2018). She was the Project Director, Nigeria, for the multi-country Saving 100,000 Babies Program (2015-2018) in collaboration with the Global Development Alliance/American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Prof Chinyere Ezeaka is the immediate past National President of the Nigerian Society of Neonatal Medicine (NISONM), which she undertook from 2015 to 2018. She is the Chairperson, Newborn Health Subcommittee of the FMOH from 2016 till date. She is also International Board Member, International Neonatology Association Congress (INAC); Steering Committee Member for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) African Academy of Sciences (AAS); and was a panelist for Newborn Health at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York (#UNGA2017) with the AAP.
She is a member of many professional bodies such as Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), MDCAN (LUTH Chapter), NMA, MWAN, and Member/Examiner/Assessor West African College of Physicians (WACP), Faculty of Paediatrics.
Professor Chinyere Ezeaka is happily married with children to Chief Boniface Ezeaka, (Ikenga Achina).
There is no argument whatsoever that Professor Veronica Chinyere Ezeaka’s inaugural lecture, “Newborn Survival, Tomorrow’s Future: Reaching the Unreached to Breathe at Birth within the Golden Minute”, is an idea whose time has come.