Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh
– A paragon of professionalism and patriotism.
From a distant forest, evil breaks
With death and dread upon its wake
Young and old shuddered in vivid fear
As savants pondered the villain’s flare
A nation’s fate hung on a Nightingale
Who kept the gate that hell must sail
To flee or fight, she had the might
To tame the plague, she paid the price
Like noble Esther of Scripture tale
Who saved her folks from Haman’s hate
Ameyo’s feat was a shining light
That led us through our darkest night
(By Solomon Ojigbo)
Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh was the lead physician and endocrinologist at the First Consultant Medical Centre, Lagos, who prevented a national catastrophe by her refusal to discharge the late American-Liberian Patrick Sawyer, who was the index case of the Ebola Viral Disease in Nigeria.
Patrick Sawyer had fallen sick on arrival in Nigeria and was referred to her hospital. Ameyo Adadevoh had never managed an Ebola case before but was able to properly diagnose, contain, and resist pressures from Liberian government officials to release Patrick Sawyer in July 2014.
As a result of her keen perception, courage, and steadfastness, all 20 Ebola cases in Nigeria were traced to a single path of transmission originating from the index patient, Patrick Sawyer. Consequently, Nigeria was able to contain the virus and the World Health Organisation declared the country Ebola-free on 20 October 2014.
According to her only son, Bankole Cardoso, Adadevoh had stated few months earlier that “Nigerian wasn’t prepared for Ebola” when the disease was ravaging some West African countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). This was evident as there were no protocols, processes, or equipment in place within the country’s health system to deal with an Ebola outbreak. Nigeria had no isolation facility at the time and the infectious diseases hospital in Lagos was not functional.
Dr Adadevoh did what she could with the limited resources she had, collaborating with other health personnel to create an isolation area at the First Consultant hospital. On 4 August 2014, it was confirmed that Ameyo Adadevoh had tested positive for Ebola virus disease and was being treated. Adadevoh and three of her colleagues amongst the eight healthcare workers who contracted the virus died, thus paying the ultimate sacrifice for their heroic service.
Many have described Adadevoh’s heroic actions as inimitable in a country where patriotism and selfless service are not very common. According to a Nigerian journalist, Simon Kolawole, “There were various options in front of her when she discovered Sawyer had Ebola: One, quietly say ‘e no concern me’ and discharge him quickly to avoid contaminating the hospital; two, refer him to Lagos University Teaching hospital, not minding the bigger consequences for the rest of Nigeria; three, act responsibly in line with the ethics of the medical profession and ‘detain’ him because of the peculiarity of the disease.”
Remarkably, she chose the last option, which was the least convenient for her but the most favourable for her country – a reason she continues to serve as a quintessential model of selflessness, professionalism and patriotism.
Adadevoh was born in Lagos in October 1956. Her father was Babatunde Adadevoh, a professor of chemical pathology and the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos between 1978 and 1980. Her paternal great-grandfather was the Nigerian nationalist Herbert Samuel Macaulay who established Nigeria’s first political party and his portrait is on Nigeria’s one naira coin.
Herbert Macaulay was the grandson of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Anglican bishop. Adadevoh was also the grandniece of Nigeria’s first president Nnamdi Azikiwe, a respected modern nationalist, and one of the most revered politicians in Nigerian history.
Education and career
Adadevoh began her education at Mainland Preparatory Primary School, Yaba, Lagos in 1961. Her parents temporarily relocated to Boston, Massachusetts in the United States of America In 1962, where she spent two years in school. Upon the family’s return to Nigeria in 1964, she continued her education at Corona School, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria until 1968 and then began secondary school at Queens School, Ibadan. She finished in 1974 with a distinction of honours in her West African Examinations Council (WAEC) exams.
Following her secondary school education, Adadevoh was admitted to study Medicine and Surgery at the University of Lagos after her one year of preliminary programme. In 1980, at the age of 24, Adadevoh qualified as a medical doctor with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) degree from the University of Lagos.
Upon graduation, she finished a one year mandatory housemanship at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and subsequently completed her National Youth Service Corps assignment in 1982 at the Eti-Osa Health Centre in Lagos, Nigeria.
Her professional career began with a residency at LUTH from 1983 to 1988, after which she earned the West African College of Physicians and Surgeons credential. Following her residency, Adadevoh worked as a consultant at LUTH, until 1991 when she earned a prestigious British Council Scholarship to continue her education abroad.
From 1991 to 1993, Ameyo completed her fellowship in Endocrinology at Hammersmith Hospital of the Imperial College in London, in the UK. She then joined First Consultants Medical Centre in Obalende, Lagos, Nigeria where she worked for 21 years and became the Lead Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist.
Adadevoh was a member of the Nigerian Medical Association, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, British-Nigerian Association, Endocrine and Metabolism Society of Nigeria, Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, and National Postgraduate Medical College. She served as a Non-Executive Director of Learn Africa Plc., and a writer for the first-ever “Ask the Doc” column in Today’s Woman magazine, among other accomplishments.
Ameyor Stella Adadevoh’s heroic efforts is an epitome of patriotism and love for humanity. Her actions demonstrates the difference a diligent and vigilant healthcare worker can make in saving lives. Her heroism, selflessness and sacrifice was dramatised in “93 Days” a film that was premiered in Lagos and at the 2016 Toronto International film festival.