Celebrating Nigeria’s medical icons, Prof Chukwu, Dr. Ogbuagu


The spotlight on two top Nigerian medical icons, over their phenomenal contributions to global health development is still blazing.

Interestingly, the tumultuous encomiums for former minister of health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu and Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, have come at an inauspicious time.

For several weeks the nation has been boiling over #EndSARS protests, killings of armless youths and massive destruction of properties.

The mismanagement of the crises by the authorities, who have shoved the angry youths off the streets, has continued to spark widespread concerns, especially at international levels.

Clearly these disturbing incidents have no doubt, escalated the nation’s notoriety for generating bad news.

However, despite the rage over these brutalities by police and state actors the sterling performance of the two doctors at the global health stage, has no doubt, brought some relief to the distressed citizens.

The splendid news of the appointment of former minister of health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu by the United Nations (UN) was the first to hit the airwaves.

Then came Prof Onyema Ogbuagu, whose viral video on the clinical trials of vaccines for COVID-19, triggered widespread interest across the world.

Within four hours of his famed interview on ABC news, the YouTube video, garnered over 3,600 views, and much more on other online media platforms.

Ogbuagu, an infectious disease specialist and a virologist is associate professor and the director of the HIV Clinical Trials program at the United States (US)Yale School of Medicine.

His words, ‘during my career, I have mostly focused on HIV medicine in the field of treatment and prevention. So when COVID-19 hit, thanks to this previous work, I had the machinery ready to conduct clinical trials.’

‘From April, I led clinical trials on Remdesivir, a therapeutic drug that was granted emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of COVID-19, and since August 26 I have been running trials of a vaccine for COVID-19 prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital.’

Chukwu, who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan, has received commendations from United Nations (UN) and other organizations, for the effective management of the Ebola outbreak.

With the latest appointment, he is now a member of the One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance by the UN Interagency Coordination Group (IACG).

The IACG comprises three UN agencies namely, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organization (WHO).

It is heartening that Ogbuagu had his early medical training in Nigeria, specifically in University of Calabar and an internship in Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki.

He is the principal investigator of Pfizer and BioNTech phase 3 vaccine trial at Yale, where he completed a fellowship in infectious diseases.

In 2012, he joined the faculty of the Yale School of Medicine in 2012, and he is currently an Associate Professor of Medicine, with vast experience in HIV and COVID treatment and prevention trials domestically and internationally.

In a recent interview with Newsweek.com he said ‘the COVID-19 vaccines being tested globally are typically injectables, which are being evaluated to help individuals build up an immune response, one that should hopefully protect them against COVID-19.’

‘I and many other scientists across the U.S. are working on the Pfizer and BioNtech vaccine, which is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. SARS CoV-2 is the official name of virus that causes the COVID-19 disease and the SARS CoV-2 viral antigen is the elegant spike protein.’

‘This is what many of the vaccines target. Those spikes attach to target cells in our bodies, and that’s how the virus initiates infection. If you can block that attachment process of the virus to cells, that’s when you can hopefully avoid infection.’

He has received numerous commendations, with the US embassy hailing him for helping ‘the drug company Pfizer develop the first effective COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.’

‘Nigerians contribute to the world in so many ways. Our hats off to Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu at Yale who helped develop a COVID-19 vaccine,’ it added in a tweet last Monday.

‘He is one of the twin sons of Prof. Chibuzo Ogbuagu, a former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University  (ABSU) and the Secretary to the State Government.’

His parents had the twins in New Haven, Connecticut, during their  doctoral program at Yale University.

The celebration of  the fantastic work of these two super doctors, who are of Igbo extraction, is in order.

The sterling work and enormous research of Prof Chukwu and Dr. Ogbuagu, are internationally acknowledged, hence the current deluge of encomiums for the duo, are meritorious.

Considering the systemic erosion of meritocracy from the nation’s public sphere, culminating in the decrepit educational and health terrain, these two medical giants have performed excellently.

These brilliant doctors have made Nigeria and its people exceptionally proud.

.Ojukwu is a Fellow of Hubert H Humphrey Fellowship and  journalist. She is a campaigner and advocate for improved health services for all citizens, as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGS). Please kindly send feedback to [email protected]

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