Following his appointment as the Surgeon-in-Chief of the National Children’s Hospital, United States of America (USA), the Ondo State Government has commenced plans to recognise and honour Dr Oluyinka Olutoye. Sources close to the seat of government at Alagbaka disclosed to The Podium over the weekend that Dr Olutoye, who is the son of Major General Olufemi Olutoye (rtd), the Alani of Idoani, is a “refreshing breath of air at a time Nigerians daily gain notoriety over their unwholesome practices in the USA”.
The Acting Governor of Ondo State, Hon Agboola Ajayi, described the appointment of Dr Olutoye as a round peg in a round hole. According to him, the good people of the state are proud of the exploits of indigenes who are doing well in their chosen careers both at home and abroad.
Hon Ajayi said in a statement signed by the Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Babatope Okeowo, that youths should emulate Dr Olutoye who has distinguished himself in the field of medicine. Ajayi advised them to see the attainment of Dr Olutoye as a challenge to them to strive to achieve excellence in their fields of endeavour. The Acting Governor said the youths have good examples to follow instead of engaging in internet fraud, drug peddling and other crimes that can spoil the good name the nation is trying to build for herself.
By virtue of his appointment as the Surgeon-in-Chief, Dr Olutoye will lead one of the largest children’s hospital surgery departments in the world. He will he be leading 11 surgical departments, with additional responsibility for the education of the next generation of leaders in children’s surgery. He will also be appointed professor and the E. Thomas Boles chair of paediatric surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Olutoye will serve as the primary surgical liaison between Nationwide Children’s and the OSU College of Medicine.
Dr. Olutoye is Co-Director of the Texas Children’s Foetal Centre and foetal surgery team member, as well as a general paediatric surgeon. He completed his residency in general surgery at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Virginia Commonwealth University, and his fellowship in paediatric surgery at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pa. Dr. Louted is a member of the International Foetal Medicine and Surgery Society and is a Fellow of the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Paediatrics and American College of Surgeons; he is also a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons.
Dr. Olutoye has specialized clinical expertise in foetal and neonatal surgery, with specific interest in congenital diaphragmatic hernia and complex wounds. Dr. Olutoye’s research interests include understanding the role of the foetal inflammatory response in scar less foetal wound healing, development of animal models of congenital anomalies, in utero correction of severe congenital malformations, and the study of endothelial-leukocyte and endothelial-tumour cell interactions with a goal to better understand the mechanisms of tumour metastasis. Dr. Olutoye is certified by the American Board of Surgery in Surgery and Paediatric Surgery.
Dr Olutoye was celebrated worldwide in 2016 as he was part of the team that carried out surgery on a baby in-utero in a Texas hospital in 2016. According to medical reports, the unborn baby had sacrococcygeal teratoma, a rare tumour that appeared at the base of the baby’s tailbone. These types of tumours, it is estimated, occur in about one of 40,000 pregnancies, and if left unchecked, could continue taking the baby’s blood supply and eventually cause heart failure. The baby’s mother, Margaret Boemer, first sensed that all was not well when her ultra-sound technician stayed unusually quiet during a routine 16-week prenatal check-up. Subsequent tests later showed that Boemer’s unborn child was suffering from the rare tumour.
One of the hospitals she visited in Houston strongly recommended” that she should terminate the pregnancy. The report further had it that the hospitals reasoned that performing open foetal surgery, that is removing the baby before term in order to operate on the foetus — was too risky. But Margaret Boomer’s story changed when she got to the Texas Children’s Hospital, where the doctors examined the tumour and gave her some words of hope. Interestingly, two doctors at the hospital, Oluyinka Olutoye and Darrell Cass, had about seven years ago, successfully performed a similar surgery.
Seven years after, Oluyinka Olutoye and Darrell Cass, alongside a team of about 20 others, performed yet another ‘miracle’ when they carried out a successful surgery on the unborn baby to remove the tumour and returned it to the mother’s womb; a feat that has generated global recognition of the baby as the baby born twice. To carry out the operation on the baby named Lynlee Hope at 23 weeks, Olutoye and his team removed her from her mother’s womb, operated on her and then returned her to the womb where the injuries from her operation healed and she continued to grow until she was born again at 36 weeks. According to reports, while Olutoye and his team were in the middle of the procedure, the baby’s heart stopped and needed to be restarted. She also required a blood transfusion at a stage.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Dr. Olutoye said he was humbled by all the attention the feat had generated. “I am truly humbled by all the attention that this has received. It is a privilege to work at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, to lead a team of talented physicians, nurses and others to provide care for Margaret Boemer and her baby Lynlee. It is a blessing to be able to care for families like the Boemers in their time of need. We should not forget that these brave parents are the ones who did not give up on their child but sought to do all they could to improve her outcome. They deserve the focus and attention. For me to be caught up in all this excitement is only by the grace of God”, he added.
Olutoye, who obtained his medical degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, in 1988 before his doctoral degree in Anatomy from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, in 1996, had relocated from Nigeria to the US to seek further educational opportunities. He said: “At the completion of my medical education in Nigeria, I realised that I read about a lot of different aspects of medicine that I didn’t have the opportunity to be exposed to locally. I therefore sought further educational opportunities in the United States.”
He is a son of Major-General Olufemi Olutoye (rtd) and Prof. Omotayo Olutoye. He described his childhood as wonderful. He said: “I had a wonderful childhood. I was born in Lagos and grew up with two loving parents, (Major-General (rtd) Olufemi Olutoye, OFR and Prof. Omotayo Olutoye); three sisters (Dr. Bunmi Okanlami, Funke Olugboji, ‘Toye Gansallo) and two brothers (Air Commodore (rtd) Dr. Femi Olutoye, Dr. Segun Olutoye); grandparents, numerous cousins, uncles and aunties.
“It was, and still is, a wonderful loving environment. We were all taught the importance of hard work and a solid education, and most importantly, the fear of The Lord. I hail from Ido-Ani in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State, and my father is the Alani of Ido-Ani, Oluwatomiloye the 1st.” As a son of a soldier father and an academic mother, Olutoye said he was introduced early in life to a life that placed emphasis on the need to strive for excellence. He maintained that the character his parents helped him to inculcate as a child has endured till now.
He said: “The quest for excellence was introduced at an early age. I attended elementary school at Lagos University Staff School and subsequently King’s College Lagos. The character and friendships established in those formative years have endured to date. “I proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife for my medical education at the Faculty of Health Sciences. There I met my beautiful bride (Prof. ‘Toyin Olutoye, nee Balogun) who is an anaesthesiologist. We are blessed with two children. I had further training at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, prior to seeking additional training in the USA.
“In the USA, I started my post-graduate medical education in paediatrics at Howard University and District of Columbia General Hospital. I then had my general surgery training at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospitals, Richmond Virginia, during which I took time off for research and obtained a Ph.D. in Anatomy from Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Following my training as a general surgeon, I sought additional training in paediatric, foetal and thoracic surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I then took up a faculty position at Baylor College of Medicine and, with my colleague, Dr. Darrell Cass, established the Texas Children’s Foetal Centre at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston Texas.” Growing up in such a family, the surgeon said he never wanted to be anything else but a medical doctor. “I always wanted to be a medical doctor,” he said in response to what his childhood dream was.
Despite the deluge of negative stories about Nigerians back home, Olutoye and many other Nigerians in the Diaspora have continued to do great exploits in their host countries. According to Olutoye, such feats are possible when they have access to resources and infrastructure. “Nigerians are a talented people. If they decide to apply themselves, they can achieve much. When they then have access to resources and infrastructure, they can attain even greater heights,” he said.
In the face of growing desperation by young Nigerians who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean just to get to Europe and America, Olutoye urged Nigerian youths to always note that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the divide. “Do the best you can with what you have where you are. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Look before you leap,” he said.
Given the global attention the feat may have attracted to Olutoye and his colleagues at the Texas hospital, one may want to believe that the people behind the feat would now walk around town with shoulders raised. For Olutoye, however, such glory should be given to God. “I am the same person I was before. It is not about me. I give God all the glory.”
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