RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
rare logo
No. 2


Dr Toluwalase Awoyemi

Women and Reproductive Health
Oxford University
Charity, Health and Medicine

Chiedozie Nwafor

Toluwalase grew up in a rural town in Oshun State near Lagos, Nigeria. He grew up in a traditional Nigerian family setting, living with 20 to 25 members of his extended family at any given time, in one compound. Although his parents prioritised education, Toluwalase found he struggled with finding his footing. Subsistence farming was a part in his life growing up, and Agricultural Science and Biology became Toluwalase’s favourite subjects in school. From secondary school onwards, a combination of inspirational individual teachers and a change in his own attitude, saw Toluwalase’s performance in school improve significantly.

Toluwalase completed his secondary school final exam with one of the top three grades in his school. As a result, he gained admission into the University of Ibadan medical school, the best medical school in West Africa. Toluwalase excelled at medical school, coming third out of 150 in his first professional exam, then first out of 150 in his second, third and fourth. In total, Toluwalase finished his medical school with 20 academic awards: only three other people in the university’s history accumulated so many.

During his studies, Toluwalase volunteered for CHECK Medical Missions, a charity which then became an NGO during his time there. Toluwalase coordinated the academic arm of the charity, which involved running tutorials and mock exams for students. As a result of that experience and his high performance, Toluwalase began officially teaching as part of the medical school’s department in his 4th year of medical school. He would teach four to five hours a week and take classes of 150 – 180 people. Toluwalase then became Academic Director of the NGO and oversaw the tutoring of between 150 – 200 students over a two-year period.

CHECK Medical Mission also had an outreach arm, and Toluwalase soon became its Planning Director. He organised 22 outreach events to areas without access to doctors to drop off supplies, counsel people and offer basic treatment. When the NGO grew, Toluwalase became Logistics Director and created a conference for 200 young undergraduates in the region, which involved seminars on leadership, employment and medical school.

“In life I have learnt that you don’t lose your light by lighting the candles of others, instead your path becomes brighter.”

After his undergraduate degree, whilst completing the mandatory National Youth Service Corps, Toluwalase instituted and promoted the practice of holistic medicine, exercise and adequate nutrition to all patients seen at the Federal Medical Centre in Ido-Ekiti. There, he helped plan and participated in two medical outreach programmes to two rural communities in Ido-Ekiti where the team diagnosed, treated and educated close to 300 patients.

Recently, Toluwalase co-founded his own NGO, The Ganglion Initiative, an education social enterprise which aims to correct the shortage of careers counsellors and university admission services among public secondary schools in Nigeria compared to their private counterparts. The NGO was launched with a career and university admission workshop at two Advanced level schools in Ibadan for approximately 200 students, increasing to eight schools in the organisation’s second year. The NGO won, along with two others, the title of Start-ups to Watch Out For at the Oxford Africa conference in 2018. The project is largely self-funded, but Toluwalase has been able to raise £1,000 in donations.

In 2017, Toluwalase was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to begin his PhD in Women and Reproductive Health at the University of Oxford. His PhD research aims to understand why some babies are born prematurely and why a significant number of women develop hypertension while pregnant. He was one of the first students to successfully transfer from a probationary research status in his department and is currently responsible for the academic and professional development of four PhD students in his department. Dr Awoyemi is also involved in the access and outreach programme at his college, Christ Church, and works to increase the representation of ethnic minority students at Oxford.

<   >