Pharm. Dick Nwoke is a nonagenarian pharmacist and community leader, with many years of experience in pharmaceutical marketing, teaching and community service. In this interview with Pharmanews, Nwoke talks about his education, career and community service. From His wealth of experience, he also offers valuable lessons to the younger generation on how to make the best use of their calling as healthcare practitioners. Excerpts:
It is our pleasure to welcome you to our Senior Citizen column. Kindly tell us about yourself, your early childhood, education and the events that have helped to shape your adult personality.
Thank you very much for this opportunity. My name is Dick Ihegaranya Nwoke. I was born in November 1933, into the royal family of Paramount Chief Onyekwere and Ugoeze Nworirnma Nwokehuru, of Amachara, Umuopara, Umuahia.
I had my elementary education at three different Methodist primary schools. These were Amachara Infant School, from 1944 to 1945; Umuopara Central School, Umuabali, from 1946 to 1950; and Umukabia Central School, where I obtained my First School Leaving Certificate in 1951.
I gained admission into Methodist College, Uzuakoli, in 1952, and successfully completed my secondary education in 1956. My five year stay at the college was eventful, gainful and memorable, in terms of academic grooming, leadership experience and quality discipline.
I held several leadership positions while at Uzuakoli. I was assistant house prefect of Aggrey House in 1955, and later became the senior prefect of the college as a Form 5 student in 1956, even though there were seniors in HSC class that same year. As a senior prefect, I worked under the highly disciplined Mr W.H Spray, a retired British soldier, who was the principal at that time. I am glad to say that studying at the college, which we fondly called “UZUMECO”, for short, was one of the early favours of God, for which I remain eternally grateful.
I gained admission into the University of Ife in 1964 to study Pharmacy and graduated in 1972, having spent three years out of school, as result of the civil war. While at Ife, I was a member of the Students Union parliament and vice president of the union for the 1964/1965 academic session.
How did you come about Pharmacy as a course of study, especially in those days when there were few or no role models? Did you have any role models in your younger days who guided you to make the choice? If you were not a pharmacist, what else would you have loved to become?
In 1962, having obtained my A Level papers, I got a job with Pfizer Pharmacy Company at Aba. I served under Pharmacist Emmanuel N. Achara, who had studied Pharmacy in Nottingham, UK. Working under Pharmacist Achara spiked my interest in Pharmacy. I must also add that one of my seniors in my hometown, Pharm. Dick O. Onuigbo, who ran a popular pharmacy, called “Urban Chemists, Aba”, had a strong stimulating influence, which was equally catalytic in my choice of Pharmacy as a profession.
Tell us about your work experience, and which employment you found most interesting.
My work experience started before I became a graduate pharmacist. I had a stint of teaching at Ibadan Grammar School, under Rev. A. A. Alayande, as principal, in 1958. I also taught at Abeokuta Grammar School in 1959, under Rev. O. Oni, while preparing for my G.C.E A Levels.
After graduation in 1972, I took up appointment as a medical rep at a Swiss pharmaceutical company, called Ciba-Geigy, in 1973. I was there till 1980. During this period, I attended several training courses, both within and outside Nigeria. Also, during that time, I won the CIBA Prize for the best rep in West Africa and earned a three-week holiday to Switzerland. I rose to become a manager in CIBA before leaving the company in 1980.
After this, I took up a new appointment with Dumex Pharmaceuticals, as a marketing manager. I was there for five years before resigning to set up my own company, Dinson Pharmaceuticals Limited, based in Festac Town, Lagos. I had a wonderful experience working for CIBA GEIGY of Switzerland and Dumex of Denmark because they gave me the opportunity to travel extensively around Nigeria, Africa, Europe, Germany and USA.
I have also been active in community service. I served as the secretary general of Umuahia Development Union, from 1985 to 1996. It was at this period that I scripted a welcome address for the first executive governor of Abia State, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. In that address, I quoted that Abia is the only state in Nigeria to appear in the Bible according to Luke 1:5. Today, that is the basis of the state’s motto, “God’s Own State”.
I am also a life member of the Bible Society of Nigeria; a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club International; and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management.
After several years of practice, what is it about Pharmacy that gives you the biggest sense of fulfilment?
For me, becoming a pharmacist is a life-time dream come true. My classroom knowledge of “the pharmacological basis of therapeutic action” has always enabled me to handle many domestic health challenges in my family without recourse to medical consultations in clinics.
Besides, being a pharmacist has availed me ample and privileged opportunity to travel around Nigeria and beyond – Ghana, Kenya, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and so on. I am grateful to God that I am a pharmacist
How do you relax? Tell us about some of the pastime activities and lifestyle modifications you have adopted to stay fit and active.
I am a football fan and I used to participate actively in football, until old age slowed me. I watch football. At the stage where I am now, most of the people I grew up with are no longer around, except a few. So it’s not easy again going out or doing physical things like before.
I am a fan of good football but not a stickler to a particular team, as my children, grandchildren and other young people do these days.
I have also modified my dietary habits to help me cope with the rigours of old age. For example, I have reduced meat intake and have taken some other measures too.
Tell us about your family. Did any of your children or grandchildren take after you to study Pharmacy or other health-related professions?
While working at Ciba-Geigy, I was hoping and preparing them to study courses like Pharmacy or Medicine, without forcing my choice on them. Today, they are all doing well in their chosen professions.
Out of my six children, two are accountants. My boys are engineers. Luckily for me, out of six children, it is my last daughter that is a medical doctor, working at a teaching hospital. Now that I am in Lagos, she has been the one taking care of my medical requirements.
Given your wealth of experience, what advice would you like to give to the younger generation of pharmacists on how to make the best use of their calling as healthcare professionals to impact humanity positively?
I am proud to be a pharmacist and I am grateful to God for making me one. Any young person whom God has helped to actualise his dream of becoming a pharmacist, a medical doctor or a healthcare practitioner of any sort should see it as an opportunity to render service to humanity and impact the society positively.
Service is very important and that is what our profession is all about. Becoming pharmacists helps us to take care of ourselves, our families, our communities and our society, in general. This is a duty that must be done with all diligence.
The younger ones are advised to be diligent, honest and focused in their career. When all of these are in place, a fulfilling reward will follow naturally.