Ola Orekunrin, a medical doctor and a helicopter pilot, is the founder of Nigeria’s first full air ambulance.
Dr. Ola Orekunrin’s story starts far from Nigeria. In an interview with jodelle.blogspot.com, she said: I was born and grew up in the UK and studied medicine and surgery at the University of York after which I worked in Acute Medicine across the UK. I then went on to be awarded the Japanese MEXT scholarship which allowed me to further my studies in Tokyo, Japan.”
She was the youngest doctor in UK at the time she graduated, she flies helicopters, she saves lives, she speaks Japanese… Though when asked about herself, she keeps it real, “I’m a medical doctor, a trainee helicopter pilot and an entrepreneur. I’m passionate about healthcare in Africa and works with various foundations, charities and governments to improve standards of healthcare nation-wide. “
Her organization, Flying Doctor’s Nigeria is West Africa’s first indigenous air ambulance service. It saves hundreds of lives across the region every year and despite the high costs of aviation business, Flying Doctors Nigeria manages to keep their prices down.
Flying Doctors Nigeria is a 100% Nigerian air ambulance service provider offering national and international evacuation services.
They have both fixed and rotary wing aircrafts that are strategically located in four (4) major Nigerian airports i.e. Lagos,Abuja, Warri and Port-Harcourt as well as qualified doctors, trained and certified in aviation medicine.
The company has licensed landing facilities at all major Nigerian hospitals, mostly in Lagos and has the accreditation of the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT), as well as the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
In addition, Flying Doctors Nigeria also offers a variety of solutions for remote site locations like they are currently doing for some of their clients in the oil and gas sector with such needs. They also provide health and safety audits services, clinic procurement, clinic staffing, telemedicine (eMed), first aid training as well as medical evacuation.
As often in entrepreneurship, the motivation behind Dr. Ola’s decision to create Flying Doctors Nigeria comes from a personal experience. Sadly, it was a tragedy for her and her family.
“My younger sister was very sick and needed air ambulance service. We searched but there was no such service provider in Nigeria and West Africa. The one we found is 6 hours away from Nigeria. We paid but by the time the air ambulance arrived, my sister was dead. That was a wake-up call for me.”
To realize her dreams, the young woman has to make some big sacrifices. As she confessed in an interview with Punch Nigeria, “I quit my job, said goodbye to my political aspirations for president of the British Medical Association and Minister for the conservative party, I sold my car and my house, and bought my one way ticket to Lagos.”
When asked about that decision to leave everything behind, she says “I didn’t feel the discomfort of that decision too much because I was motivated by the fact that I wanted to start a business which not everybody is willing or born to do. Though I felt I wanted those things but commitment to my country and adding a great meaning to life pushed me ahead.”
From outside, one may think the young achiever has never come face-to-face with failure in her life. However, Dr. Ola Orekunrin admitted that she has. She said: “I was rejected more times than I can remember.”
On how she handled those rebuffs, she explains “I was frustrated at the beginning because all those were hard and also the lack of cash. I was going to England working and returning to spend my earnings on and off until I met a man who asked me what I do and I told him. I didn’t hear from him for a while until one night at 3a.m he called that his son was sick and needed air ambulance. I did the job and discovered that he was married to an influential woman in Nigeria. They began introducing me to people. “
About the secret of Flying Doctors Nigeria’s success, she says, “I will just say I was surrounded by people who were willing to work despite not much on ground.”
Despite the challenges, Dr. Ola Orekunrin is determined to improve the healthcare system in her country. Looking ahead, she plans to expand her organization to more countries and people in Africa.