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8th January 2015

A Nigerian surgeon-dreamer who builds his own medtech

Eruwa is a small town in Nigeria, less than an hour’s drive from the state’s capital. It is mostly like any other town in the area with regular blackouts, limited access to drinking water and burdening health stats.

Not far from the general hospital there is a clinic, the Awojobi Clinic Eruwa run by Dr. Oluyombo Awojobi. But it wouldn’t be fair to call him “just” a doctor.

” I have been described as the clinic’s “architect, builder, surgeon, doctor, maintenance man, proprietor and chief dreamer” he said in an interview with the WHO.

Awojobi also has a great hobby: he loves fabricating machines. And if you’re a rural surgeon in Nigeria running your own clinic, this can make your job a whole lot easier.

Most Western medical equipment is expensive, runs on electricity, requires hours of training on how to use it and if needed to be fixed probably has to be shipped away for weeks. With unpredictable blackouts and no trained personnel, many of the devices quietly wither away on the shelves.

“I’m using materials readily available in my backyard”

So Awojobi decided to design and build his own.

From resources readily available, at a fraction of original costs he builds medical devices.

Like a blood centrifuge built from an old bike wheel, or a suction pump from an inner tier tube. The operating table is raised and lowered with a hydraulic system from a car, to seal vials of blood he uses candle wax, his ambulance is an adapted tricycle. And when he really cannot bypass electricity he uses corn cobs to fuel the sterilizer.

“I’m using materials readily available in my backyard,” he told PRI.

The simpler the better

“In solving a problem, the moment my proposed solution becomes more complex, I realize I have “missed the road” and I go “back to basics” he explained.

And when they need a fix?

“Because I make it, I will know how to mend it,” he explains. “I don’t have to depend upon anybody else.”

With low maintenance comes lower healthcare costs, and in the Eruwa Clinic delivering a baby costs less than $30.

28 years after opening his clinic, Awojobi has become a true celebrity. Patients fly down from the nation’s capital for a surgery; he gives lectures from Thailand through India to the UK on his inventions and philosophy.

None of the devices he designs bear a patent, as he explains “My presentations and publications of them are more than enough patent for me.”

So far, 8 Nigerian hospitals adopted one or more of his inventions, but he’s not satisfied. He wants to see more, a lot more clinics joining in on the revolution.

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