Yusuf Hassan Wada, a 500 Level Pharmacy student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto is a community development advocate. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, the Katsina State native speaks about his passion for the betterment of society, which has led him into writing, creating awareness, advocacy and research, with a major interest in public health.
Wada, who was the first winner of the Pharmanews PANSITE of the year award, an award to reward innovation and active participation of students in public health activities, also speaks on the state of pharmacy education in Nigeria, especially the northern part. Excerpts:
Why Pharmacy, out of several other health-related courses you could have studied at the university?
When I was in secondary school, I didn’t have a passion for any medical course because I had the notion that most medical practitioners didn’t usually have time to rest. However, as soon as I got into the School of Matriculation Studies I met a lot of people who encouraged me to go for Pharmacy.
Actually, as at when I was at the School of Matriculation Studies, I didn’t know much about Pharmacy, but I’ve always had a passion to serve humanity. I look forward to solving many problems facing my society, one of which I discovered was drug abuse. I was also on the lookout for the profession which would enhance my campaign against drug abuse in my community. Then I realised Pharmacy would be of great help to my vision, and I went for it.
Aside from the above reasons, are there other reasons for your advocacy activities?
I am passionate about making a difference. I am interested in humanity and I am interested in the betterment of my society. The specific story is, I was having a conversation with my friends, Isah Inuwa and Aliyu Ammani, and I shared the idea with them. They later told me about a foundation they had for collaborations. I bought the idea and we planned for the programme and successfully implemented the first round with 20 schools. We propagated the saying that “prevention is always better than cure” as it is always less expensive, and requires less of other resources.
So, I basically started with preventive programmes, improving educational counselling, doing biological and social research, communicating my findings and recommendations in writing, conducting sensitisation programmes to raise awareness on drug abuse through quiz, debates, conferences, media courtesy visits, as well as giving lectures and prevention campaigns on substance abuse.
I also wrote articles about the current trend of abuse in our society and also provided recommendations that would help tackle health and lifestyle issues in Nigeria that are common to Africa. Many of these articles were published in the national dailies,
I strongly believe that with advocacy and appropriate efforts, we should be able to get some things right in our society.
It can be tough combining studies with active involvement in other activities, how have you been coping?
I can easily say it is one of the best experiences I’ve had, both in the positive and the negative sense of it. I feel lucky and continuously thankful to God for the position I am in currently because nothing is possible without Him.
My life is dedicated to serving humanity, and I can’t find a better place to serve than where the need is greatest. This year, I have combined a lot of things. I have served various associations, including Katsina State Health Students Pen Press as principal editor; as well as PANS as PRO and chairman, media, publications and public enlightenment. I led the hosting of one of the best PANS annual conventions (44th edition). I’ve also been juggling my final year project with advocacy, volunteering, writing, research, presentations, attending conferences, travelling and rest.
Although the struggle to have a balanced social and academic life has been tough, my dream of becoming a pharmacist has always been the ultimate goal. So I make sure that my academic life is not negatively affected
Could you tell us some of your achievements as well as challenges as an advocate and ambassador of drug abuse?
I believe that success comes from Allah. I think my main achievement is feeling fulfilled, not because I’m rich or powerful or influential, but just because with my passion and energy, I have been able to contribute my little quota in my society.
It got to a point that my activities began to act as a source of inspiration to several people, especially the young, encouraging more people to consider advocacy and writing. I have won several awards with writing and advocacy.
I cannot explain the feeling, but it is always as if I’m in my zone! To sum up, I would attribute all of it to God, dedication and social circle.
Challenges are inevitable because the advocacy world is difficult for young ones who have not made a name to get heard. Another challenge is striking a balance between academic work and administrative duties as it has not been easy travelling around, having lengthy meetings and still working to get good grades.
What qualities do you think made you to be nominated for and win the first-ever Pharmanews PANSITE of the year in 2019, considering that there were thousands of entries nationwide?
I think Pharmanews is looking for global changers who stretch the frontiers of seeing/thinking outside the conventional, to not only cater to the all-round development of their environment but also to positively affect their communities – acting as worthy ambassadors.
Unlike many young people in my community, I always believe that my age is not and will not be a limiting factor to make a difference. As a student I have shown sterling leadership within my school and the community. I sought out problems within my spheres of operation and provided solutions.
Aside from academic exploits in the university, were you involved in other school activities?
You know, if you are a writer you would become popular, whether in the public or in school. That gave me an edge, such that even at PANS, I was dragged into students’ politics as the PANS PRO. When I came to UDUS, I was also dragged into the students’ parliament that paved way for me to be Speaker of the PANS Parliament. I’m also actively engaged in games and other extra-curricular activities on campus.
If you had the honour of changing some things about pharmacy education in UDUS, what would they be?
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UDUS, is one of the fastest growing schools of pharmacy in the world. Through the relentless efforts of the faculty management, many competent pharmacists have been produced and we are hoping that the recent approval of the PharmD. programme will take effect soon.
One of the things I could have done if I had the honour is to change the students’ mindset of being mainly concerned about grades and getting certificates. Students should be able to learn life skills and prepare themselves for the tasks outside the classroom. This is the starting point for me.
And let me just add this. I think we need to pay attention to our curriculum at all levels and tailor it to train people to actually solve our local problems.