Professor EEU Akang


“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecc


The Vice-Chancellor University of Ibadan, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administrative), the Registrar, the Acting University Librarian, the Bursar, the Provost College of Medicine, Deans of Faculties, the Postgraduate School and of Students, Directors of Institutes, Heads of Departments, Members of staff, Students, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I am most grateful to the outgoing Dean of my Faculty in the person of Professor FAA Adeniyi and to the outgoing Provost of the College of Medicine, Professor IF Adewole for having given me the singular honour of delivering this inaugural lecture on behalf of the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences. To God be the Honour and Glory for allowing all of us present here to witness this day. Pathology is the clinical diagnostic science that underpins patient care. The main subdivisions of Pathology are histopathology, chemical pathology, haematology and medical microbiology. The clinical practice of histopathology subsumes cytopathology, forensic pathology, oral pathology, neuropathology, paediatric pathology and other subspecialties (Royal College of Pathologists, 2006).

For the record, this is the third inaugural lecture emanating from the Department of Pathology of the University of Ibadan. Professor AA Abioye delivered the first inaugural lecture from the Department of Pathology. The title of his lecture was “Death and Dying – Perspectives of Disease.” Professor PU Aghadiuno delivered the second inaugural lecture. The title of that lecture was “The Lady and the Looking Glass – Breast Cancer in Nigerian Women.” As you may have observed, there has been an alphabetical progression in the order in which inaugural lectures from the Department of Pathology are given!

Numerous illustrious pathologists have worked in the University of Ibadan, many of them of legendary stature. The first Head of Department was Professor WD Silvera, a Jamaican, who arrived in Nigeria in 1952 (Ajao, 2005). He was succeeded in 1955 by Professor BGT Elmes. The next Head of Department was Professor GM Edington, the co-author of the classical reference on Pathology in the Tropics. He was followed by Professor AO Williams, arguably one of the most prolific pathologists in sub-Saharan Africa. Then followed Professor BO Osunkoya, an immunologist who made significant contributions to the literature on Burkitt’s lymphoma. Next was Professor AA Abioye, who made landmark contributions to tropical pathology, especially regarding colorectal carcinoma and amoebiasis. The next Head of the Pathology Department was Professor TA Junaid, who has contributed to gynaecological, urological and tropical pathology. He was succeeded by Professor PU Aghadiuno, who largely concentrated on the study of breast cancer. More recently, the next Head of Department was Professor JO Thomas-Ogunniyi, who has contributed to the study of renal diseases, malignant lymphoma and cytodiagnosis in Ibadan, among other achievements. Her successor was Professor JO Ogunbiyi, my immediate predecessor, who has also made his mark in the field of pulmonary cancer, liver cancer and prostate cancer.

By the design of fate, the lot has fallen upon me to give this inaugural lecture, in the midst of such a distinguished list of forerunners. For the record, this is the first inaugural lecture from the Department of Pathology to be delivered by an alumnus of the University of Ibadan. The topic for today’s lecture is “Contributions of Ibadan to the Development of Pathology in the Tropics.”

In keeping with tradition of previous inaugural lectures, I will present an encapsulation of my contributions to the discipline, before presenting those of my predecessors and future successors in the Department to the field of Pathology.

The first question anyone in the audience may ask is “Why did I choose Pathology as a discipline?” The answer to this question stems from my early childhood desire to become a medical doctor, in fulfilment of the injunction of my late mother, who died on the 29th of June 1970, following surgery for an intracranial tumour. Naturally, when admitted into the University of Ibadan in 1977, I intended to specialise in Neurosurgery. As fate would have it, the odyssey through medical school, housemanship and a year of National Youth Service redirected my focus. My undergraduate interest in Pathology was kindled by my teachers, Professors Abioye, Junaid, Aghadiuno, Thomas and Odesanmi. Another strong influence was that of Dr. SO Lawal, now Chief Consultant Physician with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, who was the Senior Registrar to Professor OO Famuyiwa in the Endocrinology Unit during my first clinical medicine posting. Other pivotal influences were those of Dr. OO Ogunkunle and Professor Solomon Kadiri, who tutored a group that I belonged to in the tenets of paediatric and adult cardiology, respectively.

During my housemanship and National Youth Service, I began preparing for the primary exam in Internal Medicine and applied to the then Head of Department, Professor BO Onadeko for a residency position in Medicine. At this time, I was interested in somehow combining clinical medicine and pathology. An important decisive event occurred one evening, while I was watching the NTA network news during my housemanship in Benin City. I witnessed the interview of Professor JO Thomas Ogunniyi, who had just qualified as the first Nigerian female pathologist. Needless to say, I promptly changed my application at the University College Hospital from Medicine to Pathology and the rest, so to say, is history! Soon after joining the department, I was taken under the wings of Professor PU Aghadiuno. I must mention for the benefit of those in the audience who might be too young to remember, that the mid-eighties and early nineties marked a massive exodus of Nigerian intellectuals to the Diaspora. Against the tide of events, Professor Aghadiuno and several other patriotic Nigerians chose to remain behind in the face of pressure from the adverse economy and an inclement sociopolitical environment. The noble sacrifice of these stalwart individuals, as well as the tremendous moral and material support of others in the Diaspora, I must quickly add, ensured the sustenance of undergraduate and postgraduate training and research in the country.

Professor Aghadiuno was a perfectionist and therefore a very good role model for the budding pathologists he shepherded. It was while understudying him that I came to realise the importance of systematic and meticulous data gathering and recording and repeated editing of scientific publications. Professor Aghadiuno and I worked for several years on a series of articles on breast cancer, only one of which got published with me as a co-author (Aghadiuno et al, 1994), but a couple of others which did not see the light of day. This regimen inculcated into me the tradition of continued writing and rewriting, which stood me in good stead in later years, when I began to initiate other collaborative studies.