Olufunke Sodipo: Prolific Developer of Bioactive Compounds of Pharmacological Value

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Professor Olufunke Adebola Sodipo

If the investigation is about phytochemistry or the pharmacological and biological study of ethanol or methanol extracts of any plant in Nigeria, the name of Professor Olufunke Adebola Sodipo, of the University of Maiduguri, will certainly show up. A serial investigator of hundreds of phytochemicals of pharmacological and economical value, she has conducted and published over 125 research works on screening, separation, purification, isolation and identification of bioactive compounds for the benefit of mankind.

An ardent tutor, she has significantly contributed to the training of over 4,000 healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, providing valuable insights into the practical applications of pharmaceutical knowledge in bridging the gap between laboratory discovery and clinical practices.

Passion for Pharmacy
Born on 25 August, 1958, to the family of late Elder Jacob Adekunle and Mrs Folashade Ajoke Sholola of Abeokuta, Ewekoro LGA, Ogun State, Prof. Sodipo had her elementary and secondary education at Reagan Memorial Baptist Primary School, Lagos, and Our Lady of Apostles’ Secondary School, Lagos, respectively. She then proceeded for Higher School Certificate (HSC) education at Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, where she fell in love with Chemistry, courtesy of her Chemistry teacher’s encouragement.

Beyond her love for Chemistry, her curiosity to know the cause and medications for hypertension, which was ailing her mother then, propelled her into studying Pharmacy. “I was admitted into the prestigious University of Ife [now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)], Ile-Ife, where I bagged Bachelor of Pharmacy in 1980. I was motivated to study Pharmacy among other courses because of the passion to know more about hypertension my mother was suffering from and to know about the drugs to alleviate this chronic disease,” she recalled.

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She later obtained M.Sc. from the same university in 1983, followed by a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry-Ethnopharmacology Research from University of Maiduguri in 2010.

“I was privileged to be taught by many foremost pharmacists, including Professor Festus Adio Ogunbona, Prof. Ebenezer Olarenwaju Ogunlana, Prof. Ajibola Olaniyi and the late Prof. Victor Oluwafemi Marquis. I started my pharmaceutical career as an intern pharmacist/graduate assistant at Faculty of Pharmacy, OAU, from 1980 to1984. Afterwards, I worked as hospital and community pharmacist for over two years and 15 years respectively, ensuring safe and effective use of medicines,” she recalled.

Positive leadership at UNIMAID

Sodipo joined the University of Maiduguri as an assistant lecturer in 2010. Thereafter, she diligently worked her to the top, till she was elevated to the position of professor of pharmacology in 2017. She has contributed immensely to academia at large by publishing over 125 research papers, attended over 200 conferences, graduated five PhD, 14 masters’ and several undergraduate pharmacy students. She has taught and is still teaching several courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Aside from her teaching and supervisory roles, Sodipo has served in several other positions at the University of Maiduguri, including head of department, Pharmacology College of Medical Sciences; supervisor/resource person, West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (2012 to date); chairman, Committee of Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs) to collaborate with the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) and ALPs to mark 16 days of activism declared by the UN/UNICEF, beginning 23 November to 10 December, 2020; chairman, International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC), 2020; resource person and facilitator at the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) for recertification of pharmacists, organised by the Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN), modules 10, 11 & 12 (PCN/M10/1-3, PCN/M11/1-4, PCN/M12/1-3) and delivered by the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Maiduguri; vice-chairman (zonal coordinator) Northeast Zone, Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs); vice-chairman I, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Borno State Branch, among others.

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While her 24 years of active research at UNIMAID and four years at OAU have been quite challenging, they have equally been very fruitful. She has been in the forefront of series of screening, separation, purification, isolation and identification of several bioactive compounds of pharmacological and economic value. She has also engaged in extensive discussions and advocacy related to drug policy, safety regulations, and ethical considerations, influencing decision-making at institutional and governmental levels.

Milestone achievements
In recognition of her meritorious contributions and relentless services to humanity, Sodipo has been decorated with different laurels, including Award of Exemplary Leadership, by members of staff of the Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, College of Medical Sciences, University of Maiduguri; Certificate of Honour, by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Borno State Chapter, for academic excellence and achievement; Best Lecturer Award in the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Maiduguri, by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS); Certificate of Honour by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigerian Students (PANS), Maiduguri Chapter; Certificate of Appreciation by Association of Lady Pharmacists (ALPs), Borno State Branch; TETFUND Institutional Board Research (IBR) sponsored project; TETFUND 2021 National Research Fund, in 2021; PARI Programme 2021; ECOWAS Research Innovation and Support Programme Fund; African Institute of Public Health Professionals (FAIPH); as well as the University of Maiduguri Research Grant for her PhD programme.

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Prof. Sodipo also won the fellowship of many reputable professional associations. These include the Chemical Society of Nigeria, (FCSN); the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (FPSN); the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria (FICCON); and the Institute of Professional Entrepreneurs and Strategic Administrators (FIPESA).

Professional women admonition

The professor of pharmacology, who is an ardent advocate of excellence by professional women, had a remarkable personal experience with her three daughters graduating in Medicine and Surgery, Law and Mass Communication, respectively, during her PhD convocation in 2010.

Admitting the painstaking efforts in overcoming the challenges of combining academic work with family life, she posited that husbands can be of great assistance to their career wives, affirming that her husband, Sir Prof. ’Wole Sodipo, has been very supportive and understanding. She further counselled young female pharmacists and other professional women to pursue continuous learning, stay updated pharmaceutically, on both academic and industry trends and actively engage in professional networks.

“They should embrace challenges with faith in God, seek mentorship diligently from experienced pharmacists and prioritise work-life balance for a fulfilling career,” she advised.

With an orientation that leadership qualities are not gender-specific, and individuals should be voted for based on their qualifications and ability, Sodipo shares the view that having a female PSN president can bring about diverse perspectives and contribute to a more inclusive decision-making process that reflects the diversity within the pharmacy profession.

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