Dr Laz Ude Eze is a public health physician, health policy advocate and youth development consultant. He studied Medicine & Surgery at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and graduated with the Medical Student Prize. He had his graduate studies in public health and global health at the University of Kentucky where he graduated with distinctions and received awards for “exceeding expectation of his degree program”. He has more than 9 years’ cumulative experience in health advocacy; with clinical and programmatic experiences in prevention and management of communicable and non-communicable diseases. His job experience cuts across public and private health and research institutions in Nigeria, United States and Togo. He has worked on USAID/PEPFAR, EU/UNICEF, Global Fund and DFID-funded projects for reputable institutions like FHI360, PATHS2, ARFH and Ipas. He recently led the Global Fund support in strengthening data management processes in more than 2,000 health facilities across seven states in Nigeria. He now works as the senior technical manager for Direct Consulting and Logistics – a public health consulting firm.
Laz, as fondly called by friends is the Convener of the African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development (AfrYPoD) – an organization that seeks to build synergy among African youths for sustainable development. He has demonstrated strong passion for public health, leadership and development and has received global recognitions in this regard. He received special acknowledgement by the United Nations (UN) for his contributions to the making of the 2013 World Youth Reports on Migration. Some of the other awards or recognitions he received in recent past include – Global Health Learning Opportunities (GHLO) Ambassador by the Association of American Medical Colleges (2013) and Brand Ambassador of Social Good Nigeria (2014). More so, he was listed among Nigeria’s top Ten Most Powerful Young Persons in Public Policy (Y!Naija, 2015), named the Winner of the Young Leader category of the Global Malaria Heroes Award and named the 2015 Man of the Year (Medicine Category) by Generational Live Broadcast (@GenLiveCast).
An alumnus of LEAP Africa Integrity Institute, Young People We Care (YPWC) and a Clinton Global Initiative University (2013) Commitment-Maker, Dr Laz initiated and co-hosts @TalkHealth9ja – a weekly radio show that reaches more than 2 million people with public health information. He leads a team of 72 young professionals advocating on Women Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issues in Nigeria using hashtag #Choice4Life on social media. He also serves as mentor/adviser to many youth-led and youth-focused initiatives in Africa.
Quite a profile right?! Read his interview below:
How would you like to be introduced?
Simply – I’m Laz, a public health physician, health policy advocate and development consultant.
Kindly take us through your journey as a Public Health expert
It’s a long story but I will try to make it short as much as I can. I developed interest in public health during my Community Medicine rotation while I was in my 4th year in University of Ibadan medical school. I’m someone that thinks of health beyond what I see in the hospital. I was fascinated to know that our environment and behaviours largely determines our state of health. Clinicians work to cure diseases of sick persons, public health practitioners work to prevent the entire population from getting sick. I felt being the latter will help me make more impact and reach more persons.
My interests motivated my active participation in community service, health advocacy activities, campus journalism and politics. I led multiple student organizations including the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations (FAMSA). In the course of my leadership roles, I had the privilege of meeting many public health leaders including researchers, university administrators, commissioners, ministers, etc. I met the likes of Prof. Eyitayo Lambo (former Health Minister), Prof. Oladapo Ladipo (ARFH President). Sir Bright Ekweremadu (MD, SFH) and so many others.
I had my postgraduate studies at University of Kentucky in the United States. I was elected the President of Public Health Students’ Association and it earned me automatic membership of the Board of Kentucky Public Health Association. I participated in multiple public health scientific meetings and they’ve all helped my career growth. On my return to Nigeria, I’ve worked on multiple public health interventions and still doing so.
I consider m self very fortunate to have been mentored by many persons from my student days till date. One person who has been most influential in my career decisions is Dr Nkata Chuku of Health Systems Consult Limited. I can’t thank my mentors enough.
What does Sustainability mean to you?
To me, sustainability in terms of development means maintenance of activities, funds, efforts that will make the world a better place for everyone.
How much of a sustainability issue is any nation’s state of health and wellbeing?
Sustainability is most desired in the health sector. To ensure good health for everyone, all activities aimed at preventing or curing diseases must be sustainable. Unfortunately, the political will to sustain lofty health programmes especially at the State and LGA levels in Nigeria has been infinitesimally small.
We notice you have been a big on the implementation and awareness of the VAPPAct, kindly tell our readers what it is about, why it is important to get involved and how they can.
VAPP Act means Violence against Persons Prohibition Act. It seeks to protect all Nigerians from violence and provides support for victims. Nigerians should know about the Act and take advantage of it. It’s only applicable in Abuja for now; all 36 states need to domesticate it. I encourage every young person to become a strong voice for the domestication of VAPP Act in their respective states. People may follow online activities related to the law through hashtags #VAPPAct and #Choice4Life.
What would you say are the critical next steps for women’s reproductive rights in Nigeria?
Every family should begin to teach their children to respect women and help uphold their rights. This will help to build a generation where the practice will become a norm.
What are your thoughts on Nigerian youths’ attitudes towards sustainability issues?
I think our youths are doing very fine, but we can do better.
What would be the easiest way to link climate change to Malaria?
Climate change encourages the breeding of more mosquitoes which then causes more malaria cases.
Briefly tell us about your other initiatives
AfrYPoD (African Youth Initiative on Population, Health and Development) is a youth platform that promotes synergy for sustainable development. We are encouraging more collaborations and partnerships among young people working towards a better Africa. More than 10 youth-led organizations have shown interest to become a part of this initiative. Membership cuts across all regions of the continent.
HAPPYNigeria is a health advocacy platform for young people while #Choice4Life is a group of 72 young professionals promoting women sexual reproductive health and rights in Nigeria. There are many passionate young people that are making impact through these platforms.
Do you sometimes wish you were general medical practitioner?
I’m actually one. I still provide clinical services to family members and friends.
What Global goals are you passionate about the most?
I’m quite passionate about all, more passionate about Goals 1,2,5, 8,13 and most passionate about Goals 3,4 and 6.
Kindly tell SustyVibes about your other interests (asides saving the world, something fun/random you enjoy doing)
I play badminton and football, I participate in long distance races and support Enyimba and Manchester United. I love traveling, making new friends and hanging out with old ones. I also have an interest in public service because I think I will make more impact if I occupy such positions.
What would you tell people who have lost hope in the Nigeria’s Public Health Sector?
They should become advocates for the change they desire in the health sector. Everyone should demand accountability from health care providers and their regulators.
How can people reach you to know about your work?