By Sola Ogundipe
If ever there was the ideal physician, it was the late Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Professor Oladiapo Olujimi Akinkugbe, the foremost Nigerian Professor of Medicine at the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan.
Akinkugbe who practised medicine for a record six decades, wasn’t just a good physician, he was a great one.
Grounded in moral principles, courage was his watchword. He was as competent and he was committed, showing compassion for the sick and identifying with their suffering.
Akinkugbe was humane and honest. Empathy was one of his major attributes, he understood the emotions and disposition of those who were indisposed.
He was good at informing and educating the sick to have knowledge of their ailments and also to act and make decisions based on that knowledge.
His brilliant academic career in Medicine began in 1968 when he became Professor of Medicine, followed and Dean Medicine in 1970 – 74 and Head of Medicine soon after in 1972.
Akinkugbe was renowned in his area of specialisation. His impact on the local and international scene in Medicine is enviable.
He took special interest in hypertension and kidney disorders and contributed tremendously in both areas.
After retirement, Akinkugbe established his own clinic, the Ibadan Hypertension Clinic, which he managed for 20 years.
At the age of 35, he became the first Professor of Medicine to be appointed by any African University.
Born in Ondo town, Ondo State, on 17th July, 1933 to Chief Odofin David Akinkugbe, a chemist, and Chief (Mrs) Grace Akinkugbe, the late professor grew up in a stout Christian home.
He attended Ondo Boys High School in 1944, from where he took the entrance examination into Government College, Ibadan and later gained admission into the University College Ibadan, UCH, in 1951, to begin his study of Medicine.
His educational career took him through the University of London (the Royal London Hospital), where in 1958, he obtained his MBBS of London and proceded to obtain a diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the University of Liverpool in 1960.
He returned to Nigeria in 1961 to take up appointment with Government Specialist Hospital, Adeoyo, Ibadan, and was back again to England for his Dphil. programme in Oxford. He returned to Nigeria in 1965 to take up appointment at the Department of Medicine University of Ibadan in 1965.
To his credit, Akinkugbe made several impressive presentations and published many authoritative works, even as he received numerous awards.
He was a member and Fellow of more than 20 international organisations, societies and institutions.
Prior to his passage at the ripe age of 86, Akinkugbe studied and taught at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including the University of London, Balliol College, University of Oxford England and Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
Among his exploits, Akinkugbe was a Rockefeller visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins, Yale and Washington, Seattle Medical School.
He was Secretary to the World Health Organisation, WHO, Technical Discussions on Universities and Health for All, in Geneva (1983 – 84); member WHO Advisory Committee on Health for Research and visiting Professor of Medicine University of Cape Town.
He was a former Chairman of the Nigeria Heart Foundation, NHF, and before hanging the stethoscope in 2018, he pioneered the establishment of a clinic in hypertension and renal disorders at the UCH, Ibadan. Both clinics were firsts in Africa.
Akinkugbe was Foundation Chairman of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB; Principal and Foundation Vice Chancellor, University of Ilorin; Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
Among others, he was Chairman Planning Committee, Ondo State University and the University of Abuja, as well as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Port Harcourt.
He brought a high degree of knowledge, skill, dedication, integrity and transparency into his profession.
Among his notable awards are the Order of the Niger 1979, Scientific Advisory Panel CIBA Foundation, Council of the International Society of Hypertension, WHO Expert Committees on Cardiovascular Diseases.