Diaspora Nigerian physicians should come home to make country medical tourism hub in Africa — Okoro

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unnamedDr. Stanley A. Okoro is a doubled Board certified plastic surgeon based in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America, USA, and a medical doctor of international repute.

A native of Orlu, Imo State, he was adjudged the best cosmetic plastic surgeon in the State of Georgia in 2014, beating American doctors and those from other countries in the process.

In this interview with THOMAS IMONIKHE and BISIRIYU OLAOYE, the award-winning Physician shares his practice experience, challenges of the profession and how his fatherland can transform into medical tourism hub in Africa, among other issues. Excerpts:

May we know you?
My name is Dr. Stanley Okoro, I am a double Board certified plastic surgeon in Atlanta Georgia in the United States of America. . I am certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. I am also a member of the American College of Surgeons and American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
I am a native home grown citizen of Nigeria, I was born and raised in Orlu, Imo state Nigeria, I went to school in Nigeria. Then I went to the USA, when I was aged 16 to pursue further education. While in the USA, I studied my medicine specializing in plastic surgery. While doing that, I served in the U.S. A. Navy up to a Commander. I served for about 12 years. When I finished my service in the Navy, I decided to head back home trying to help my people after so many education and experience, I had all the skills, I felt the need to share my skills and my knowledge with my home people.

You know they say charity begins at home. I basically organized the Imo Medical Mission into a formal entity. I ran it as the Executive Director for close to 10 years. We did medical mission twice a year to Imo State which was sponsored by the Imo State government, which provided logistics, transportation, feeding and security for our team. In every medical mission, we had an average of 20 to 30 doctors of different specialties, from general surgery to plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, cardiac surgery, urology, everything you want, we have. We essentially took over Owerri hospital and treated everybody for free that came to the hospital for treatment and we did this with the local doctors so that they had adequate follow up for those patients. While doing this for so many years, people started asking me for plastic surgery which is the passion that I had in the US and that is what I do. My current practice is 99 per cent cosmetic surgery. So, after that interest I said I might as well open my own office here in Nigeria and in 2011, we incorporated Abuja Plastics and we started full- time plastic surgery service in Nigeria in 2012.

The main reason for that is that a lot of Nigerians were travelling overseas for plastic surgery and I was seeing a lot of them, that most of those attending to them didn’t give adequate care for Nigerians, they just cared for their money, there was no adequate follow-up and at times they didn’t get the right treatment most of the time and some of the patients were having complications and I have to take care of those things. So, my goal was to offer the same service that is available elsewhere in the world right here home in Nigeria to prevent them from going overseas. In 2012, we started doing that and in every two months, I started coming to Nigeria.
Why the name Abuja Plastics?
My family lives in Abuja and I wanted to stay in Abuja because I didn’t even have family in Lagos. So, I said well, I need to get close to my family; it will serve two purposes, do surgery, see my family. Most of my patients and phone calls came from Lagos. So, now it is Abuja Plastics at Lagos. We still have a lot of patients from Abuja, they fly in here to see me; we have patients from everywhere, Kano, Port Harcourt so they come.
What do you think would have made or prompted one to go for plastic or reconstructive surgery?
Nigerians are seeking this service because they want to look better and feel better. Some people think that it is not something necessary but  I want to say that studies have shown that when people look good, they feel good and some people argue that cosmetic surgery is a vanity thing and our question is you spend so much money in your hair, on your make-up, on your clothing, all those things are cosmetics but you only have one clothe that you wear which is your body. You can’t change that. So, when you enhance the body, your clothes fit better especially for women, same for your make-up. Now, more men do plastic surgery because of the desire to look good, look young; youth is healthy and desirable, nobody wants to look old; nobody wants to be old. I always have a quote that I always say:  ‘Getting old is inevitable, looking old is optional’. So, that has been my philosophy.

Thank God, since 2012, nobody has died under our care, we have minimal complications and most Nigerians are now coming to us because they realize that they don’t have to travel anymore, you don’t have to go overseas, it is actually cheaper for them to do plastic surgery here in Nigeria; they don’t need to travel, pay for hotel fees, air fares, it is actually cheaper and better and they know who the doctor is so that I  can come back and see them instead of doing surgery once and the doctor will never call you back. When I am in Atlanta, I regularly call my patients here in Nigeria for possible follow-up. If you go to Dubai, the doctor will not call you in Nigeria, the India doctor is not going to call you, they will never come to Nigeria to see you but I come to Nigeria to see you. So, this trend continues. We are attracting plastic surgeons of Nigeria origin to come back to Nigeria. We started with brain drain, now we are bringing them back; so, that was my main goal of coming back, of bringing plastic surgery back to Nigeria. By the grace of God, since 2012, we are the number one plastic surgery in Nigeria. We have accomplished one of our first goals so that people can know that these services are available in Nigeria. That is it.

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