Iwui Story: About Dr D Apao

My career journey has been an unconventional path. Unlike many of my friends who wishes to set up a clinic and treat patients, in my third year of medical school, I realized my indisposition to be confined to the four walls of a clinic. For the next two years, as i did my final year and internship, I researched about other career opportunities. That’s when I discovered public health and my interest in it. My outgoing nature and my desire to help the society fits perfectly to that of a public health expert. I graduated Master of Public Health from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and there has been no looking back since then.

Growing up, I was a very naughty typical village boy. Jumping into the flooding river, crawling through the thick grass with an AK 47 toy made of maize stems, falling down while jumping from one tree to another, roaming and running around the forest with my dear slingshot etc. are some of the activities I remember of my boyhood. With 5 children, my dad’s salary was hardly enough to pay our school fees. Meat on the table was a rarity. A small piece of bone from a dried cow leg hanging above the hearth was usually added to the curry for taste.

I remember two analogical stories my dad repeatedly told me as a boy. These are stories of life’s great lessons to me. One is a story of a muzzle-loader rifle and the other of Bamboo shoots.

A muzzle-loader rifle once shot will require a lot of time to reload. My dad would say, “Ours is a muzzle-loader rifle unlike many of your friends with different guns which allows them to shoot repeatedly. If you do not aim properly and kill the prey with one shot, it will be long gone by the time you reload.” By this he meant that, the resources our family had was just enough for me to take one shot at life. If I am not able to succeed in the first attempt, other opportunities will be hard to come by.

The story of bamboo shoots was a striking one too. Bamboo shoots would sprout up in its season with all of them thickly covered layer over layer. Some will grow fat and tall, while there are others that would never grow. People walking by observes and wonders why some of the bamboo shoots did not grow well. As time pass by, there comes a season when all the thick layers of the bamboo shoot shed. Lo and behold! the bamboo shoots which are not growing well has worms in them. “In the same way”, he would say, “people around you will not be able to see why you are not growing or doing well in life. But there will certainly come a time when all the secrets will come to light. That’s when people will see the true you. Therefore, be very careful in what you do.”

The first story reminds me of where I come from and to never forget my roots. The second one pushes me to always grow and not stagnate, and to be mindful of my decisions and actions.

Despite all the hardships and struggles of my family, their continual love and support, and God’s grace has enabled me to come this far. All the experiences I have had over the years has moulded me into the person I am today. The experiences of my humble beginnings gave me the heart to understand the struggles of our people and motivates me to work for the betterment of our society, especially in the space of public health.

While I do not consider my story to be worthy enough to inspire people, I believe we can learn and be encouraged from each other’s stories.

Many of us are from families like mine whose parents toil and sweat for our education. Let us not take life’s opportunities for granted. Let us continue to remember our roots, work hard and continue to grow in all we do.

Dr D Apao is a public health expert. He currently works as a public health consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers Pvt. Ltd. (PwC). His team provides consultancy services to both national and international governments, state governments, donor agencies like USAID, DFID, ADB etc. and organizations like WHO, UNICEF etc.

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