It is a well known fact that adequate EMS is associated with improved outcomes in road traffic injuries (RTI), work-related accidents and for patients who need critical health attention. However, for many years, Nigeria has struggled with poor healthcare infrastructure and inadequate emergency medical services, (EMS). This has led to countless unavoidable deaths, especially for people in high-risk areas.
It was this abysmal reality that spurred a British-Nigerian doctor, Olamide Brown, to establish the West-Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service to bring trauma care to thousands people in Western Africa with her company – Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company, founded in 2011. Today, her company has the largest network of ground and air ambulances (both fixed and rotary wing aircraft) in West Africa.
Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company operates and invests in healthcare/wellness projects in Africa across the value chain from drug manufacturing, medical logistics, and retail pharmacies, to biotechnology and Telemedicine. Currently, the company’s investment portfolio is valued to be over $200million and growing rapidly. The award-winning company has been featured on various local TV and radio stations, as well as the BBC and CNN.
At the height of the corona virus pandemic, Brown and her FDHIC team launched a COVID-19 mobile testing booth, which reduces the need for as much PPE and minimises the risk of healthcare worker infections by providing a barrier between the potentially infected patients.
Background and education
Dr Olamide Orekunrin-Brown was born in 1986 at a seaside town called Lowestoft in the east of rural England. She hails from Ilawe-Ekiti in Ekiti State of Nigeria but grew up under the care of foster parents in the UK.
Brown acknowledges the immeasurable contribution of her late foster mother, Doreen Clarice Chalkley, describing her as a great woman who lived an exemplary life and left a wonderful legacy for her loving family and friends.
At the age of 15, Brown completed her secondary education and passed her A-Levels with flying colours. She gained admission for her medical degree at the University of York Medical School where she trained and graduated as one of the youngest medical doctors at age 21 in 2007. She supported herself all through school by working part-time.
In 2008, she worked in Acute Medicine NHS in the West Midlands, United Kingdom and then went on to be awarded the Japanese MEXT scholarship in 2009 which allowed her to further her studies in Tokyo, Japan. The fellowship focused on lab-based research with induced pluripotent stem cells. During her study in Japan, she worked within 23 wards in Jekei University Hospital and completed her fellowship in December, 2010.
She is currently completing her study for a master’s degree in finance and economic policy at the University of London and also has a certificate in Economic Policymaking from IE business school, Spain and a certificate in accounting for decision-making from the University of Michigan in the United States.
Venture into emergency medical service
From her days in medical school, Brown had always been interested in creating new means of healthcare delivery, devising the fastest ways of getting patients to the best healthcare facilities for their ailments.
Her personal experience also motivated her to venture into emergency medical service when her younger sister tragically died whilst on holiday with relatives in Nigeria. The local hospital was unable to manage her sickle cell anaemia condition, and as a result, Brown and her family started to search for an air ambulance so that her sister could be safely transported to a suitable medical facility in the country.
Unfortunately, there were no air ambulances to be found in Nigeria. The search also took them to Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cameroon, and across West Africa. The only available one was in South Africa, and by the time the logistics had been arranged, her sister had passed on.
Determined to improve on the level of healthcare infrastructure in the country, Brown set up Flying Doctors Nigeria. The company has so far airlifted hundreds of patients, using a fleet of planes and helicopters to rapidly move injured workers and critically ill people from remote areas to hospitals. Ranging from patients with road traffic trauma, to bomb blast injuries, to gunshot wounds, Brown and her team are helping to save lives by moving these patients quickly and safely, while providing a high level of medical care en route.
Brown also runs an early stage venture capital firm, Greentree Investment Company, along with two other directors. The company provides growth capital to some of Africa’s most exciting tech start-ups. Greentree has invested in start-ups in various sectors including Fintech, media, SaaS, agric-technology, manufacturing, ecommerce, health-tech and Edu-tech making it one of West Africa’s leading venture capital firms. The total value of the Greentree portfolio is over $80m.
Brown is also a talented author; her publications have been featured on various media platforms. She is an editor of the International Journal of Emergency Services. She has also written articles in the British Medical Journal, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the Niger Delta Medical Journal, the New York Times and the Huffington Post.
Awards and recognitions
Brown is a recipient of many awards and recognitions, among which are Mouldbreaker’s Award, THIS Day Award 2012, The Future Award as Entrepreneur of the Year, New Generation Leader for Africa, Ladybrille Personality of the Month, Silverbird Entrepreneurship Award (2018), the Most Influential Person of African Descent (MIPAD) recognition, Nigerian Aviation Personality of the Year Award and Vanguard WOW Awards.
She is also a TED Global Fellow (2012), a Dangote Fellow, an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow (2013). She was among Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 for 2015, and has been honoured by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.