Dr. Osodin Timothy Eromose (BDS, MEPP, MS.C, FWACS, FAOCMF) had an undergraduate training at the University of Ibadan and obtained a Bachelor degree in Dental Surgery, 1998. Later he went for residency training at the National Hospital, Abuja and subsequently passed the final examination [part 2] to obtain the prestigious Fellowship of the West African College of Surgeons in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In between the residency training, he went for a training at the Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre, Madrid, Spain to obtain the Fellowship Association of Osteosynthesis (AO) in Cranio-maxillofacial Surgery. In 2015, he left for the University of Florida, College of Medicine, Jacksonville, USA for training in oral and Maxillofacial Surgery with special interest in facial reconstruction.
He has bagged two Masters degrees; Environmental Planning and Protection and Human Anatomy both at the University of Abuja, Abuja. He is currently a Senior Consultant, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Abuja. A volunteer Cleft Surgeon with Smile Train International and Good Smile Africa Advocacy Initiative where he is currently the Chief Executive Officer.
He is a member of many Organizations including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria ( MDCAN), the European Association for Cranio-Maxillo-Facial Surgery ( EACMFS) and International Christian Medical and Dental Association ( ICMDA).
Married to Dolapo who is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building (FNIOB), the marriage is blessed with four children (Osamidiamen, Obed, Eseosa and King) and they live in Abuja, Nigeria.
Through his non governmental organisation, Good Smile Africa Advocacy Initiative, Dr. Osodin Timothy Eromose has given hope to cleft lip/palate child/children who, otherwise, would have ended up as a burden to their parents and society at old age.
In this interview with Omamuzo Efidhere and Kagbala Ezekiel, he explains that congenital malformation, cleft condition is not peculiar to Africans or Nigerians alone. it is more common among the whites and Asian.
Tell us about Good Smile Africa Advocacy Initiative?
Good Smile Africa Advocacy Initiative is a Non Governmental organization (NGO) poised to making families who have had the ”misfortune” of giving birth to a cleft lip/palate child/children to smile again. having a child with a cleft in the family can be very challenging and worrisome . It is like sentencing somebody to a hopeless situation in life and this does not allow for smiling. No mother will be happy having a baby with a cleft lip or pilate because it leads to stigmatization resulting in such children not being able to go to school. They can’t socialize, they are faced with social discriminations. The parents are being laughed at for faults that is not theirs.
Cleft lips/palate are congenital malformations which can be due to genetic abnormally inherited from parents (we have seen patients who the parents and grandparents had cleft). Such malformations are interplay between environment and Gene. The environmental causes can be smoking, taking alcohol during pregnancy, or late pregnancy at above 40 years. However most people have the erroneous believe that they are due to evil spirits or the parents have committed a heinous offence and because of this wrong belief , the cleft children and their parents are stigmatized. Some societies actually kill the children because they believe that they are bad omen to them. The cleft conditions are very menable to surgery with resultant immediate transformation. Good Smile Africa Advocacy is giving hope to these children and their families who as it where, are hopeless in our environment.
When did this foundation start?
We started 5 years ago and we have had surgeries in over 10 states of the Federation. We have done about 500 free surgeries so far. We brings joy to the parents, the patients and the entire community. We see people’s faces transformed within a short time after the surgeries. Families who have not been happy since the birth of their cleft children, suddenly become excited.
At what age can surgery be performed on a patient?
First of all it is so important to know that this congenital malformation starts as early as the tenth week of pregnancy and a child born that way will remain deformed until the condition is corrected surgically, otherwise it persist as long as the child lives. For treatment, we treat a child for the lip when he/she is three months old and above. There is no age limit to treatment as long as the patient can withstand surgery. Then for the palate patients, they are treated before they are eighteen/twenty-four months old. This timing of repairs is such that the speech will not be affected i.e the cleft palate should be repaired before the child starts making speech. However, we have seen patients in their twentys, fortys, fifty years and above coming for cleft palate surgeries. By then, the speech would have been altered such that it becomes difficult to correct even when repair is done. In such cases, speech therapy will be needed after surgery to correct the defective speech.
So what will be your advice to parents who have children with malformation?
They should come to the hospital as soon as they discover any malformations in their children’s face or inside the mouth. Some people believe that it is not hospital matter. We have seen some parents who refused to bring their children to the hospital because they believe it is due to one deity or gods, generational curses and as such, such children should not be treated. I want to emphatically say that such belief is not true. Then the society too should learn not to stigmatize or discriminate against these ones. They need our encouragement and every necessary support towards them to seek experts advise on the condition of their babies. It is also interesting to note that the cleft condition is not peculiar to Africans or Nigerians alone. it is more common among the whites and Asian. The statistics is such that out of every 700-1000 birth, a cleft lip or palate person is born. If these children are not treated, eventually they will become a burden to the society whether you like it or not because they did not go to school, learn hand work, socialize and at the end of the day when they are old, they will become a liability to the society.
The Nurses and mid-wife council should also educate their mid-wives so that when these children are born, they can open and look at their mouth if they notice any anatomical abnormally, the parents can be informed and thus put on red alert to enable them seek expert help early enough. This is so important because some parents have brought their wards to be operated upon at age 10 and above claiming they did not know that anything was wrong with the child especially as it concerns cleft palate. If at point of delivery, the midwives check the child’s mouth, notice anything and inform the mother, she can then seek advice appropriately when the time comes for the parents to do so.
In government/private owned hospital, is there any section/department that handles this malformation?
There is really none that I know of, but we have a dental department in most of the government owned hospitals, the dentist can at least identify the birth defect even though they are not able to treat the patients, they can refer the patient to an appropriate Specialist for corrective surgery.
How do you fund the foundation and free surgeries?
We fund from our pockets, then we also have organizations like Smile Train Inc who also give us assistance. The Delta State Government gave us the hospital facilities to use and this is quite commendable . We encourage corporate organizations, individuals, public office holders, to come and sponsor us while we give our skills to the service of our fellow country men/women.
When Do You Hold This Programme?
We don’t really have a set time or planned calendar; it is as the urge comes. Today we are in Delta State, we were in Edo State, Niger and Kaduna states months back.
How Does Someone Follow Your Programmes?
We have a website: www.GoodsmileAfrica.org. We also do radio and television adverts when we are coming to a place so that people can be aware of the programme months before. Then they can also call our office number: 07052924071, 08062169266 to get directions. We are primarily based in Suleja, near Abuja. Our hospital centre is called Berith Specialist Hospital, Suleja, we offer free surgeries continuously. So anytime you come, all we need to do is to give you a date for surgery and when you come on that date, the free surgery will be done. It is only when we want to go to other states that our office is temporary shut.
We decided to be moving from State to State because even when the surgery is free, some people cannot afford the transport fare from Port Harcourt, Lagos, Enugu to Abuja. So, we move from state to state just to get closer to the people to have the surgeries done. But as many that can come to our base in Abuja, it is free treatment at any time.
As a Surgeon, what do you derive from doing this?
I was trained with the resources of Nigeria’s people. If I were to pay school fees, for my university and my post graduate training, I would not have been able to pay. So it is the resources of the country that was used to train me to where I am now. If I’m now doing this for the people, it is a thing of joy because I am able to give back to the society . And of course, the joy on the faces of the patients and parents after the surgical repair of cleft can be contagious. Some Parents have shared tears when they saw their children immediate transformation after treatment. Some other parents will call me and say they just want to say thank you for removing their shame. Such words stimulate joy which money cannot buy.
Advice to Well-Meaning Nigerians in giving back to society?
If you know that you have been trained, at one point or the other, you have benefited from the society, you should try and give back. There are so many specialties, whose patients cannot afford their services. Government alone cannot do it all, that is the truth, we should all come together and help those who need help in our field. There are so many NGO’s all over the world. The world need people like us, Specialist in different fields should also intervene at one time or the other to help to provide essential health service to the people.
But government is collecting so much money. In advanced countries, government invest more in health, road, schools and things that will alleviate suffering. We don’t have this here in Africa/Nigeria, what do you have to say about this?
Health is not different from education and other social amenities needed by the people. We advise that government should be more responsible to the citizens. It is not just only in health, but all aspects of human comfort . A good government should be alive to their responsibilities so that things can be better and we can all be happy together…