Interview with Adebisi Yusuff Adebayo – An Inspiring Fellow

Yusuff at a Pharmacy

Many students are known for their ability to multi-task. One of them is Adebisi Yusuff, a global health advocate who is also passionate about transforming the health landscape in Africa. He is also the Executive Director at Pharmacostory, a community of young leaders dedicated to health promotion. InterviewStories got across to Yusuff who was delighted to tell his story with us. His interview with us is stated below.

Who is Adebisi Yusuff Adebayo?

I am a final year pharmacy student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. I belong to a family of five from Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. My special interest is in global public health and developmental issues affecting the global south and beyond. I am passionate about transforming the health landscape in Africa. I am a global health advocate, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene United Kingdom ambassador, Harm Reduction Scholar for Knowledge-Action-Change United Kingdom, WHO antibiotics guardian, drug policy and harm reduction advocate, astute health promoter and health researcher with a number of publications in international peer-reviewed journals. Asides being a student, I assume the professional role of Associate Director for Research at Global Health Focus and Coordinator at AB Global Health Initiative.

I am also the Co-founder and Executive Director at Pharmacostory, a community of young leaders dedicated to health promotion. I am also the Director of Healthy Nations Initiative, a community empowerment think-tank aimed at improving access to health information. Through my work with Global Health Focus, I am raising a community of critical thinkers and leaders in global health who will contribute to building a healthier and more equitable world through research, advocacy and development. I believe evolution is key to being successful in life. Essentially, I am constantly evolving as I learn about the world around me. I take a lot of pride in being myself and believe in collaboration rather than competition.

Tell us some of your achievements

  • Winner, 2018 Innovate for Antimicrobial Resistance (Innovate4AMR) Global Competition 
  • Delegate, 2017 World Healthcare Students Symposium, Kigali, Rwanda
  • Nominee, Pharmanews Pharmacy Student of the Year Award in 2019 
  • Recipient, PharmaLead Award of Excellence (2019)
  • Delegate, 22nd International AIDS Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2018)
  • Delegate and Representative of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the first International Lassa Fever Conference Abuja, Nigeria (2019)
  • Panellist, 2019 edition of the Global Forum on Nicotine, Warsaw, Poland 
  • 2019 recipient of Knowledge-Action-Change Harm Reduction Grant among others  

Why pharmacy?

I researched the course and I loved it. This was fueled by my love for chemistry and biology. In high school, I never knew there was such an area of study. Indeed, pharmacists’ roles in the lives and well-being of people, and the communities they live in go far beyond what most people believe. In fact, my thoughts of the profession, when I originally made the noble decision to be a pharmacist, have been surpassed.

Initially, I was motivated to pursue pharmacy because I wanted to be a drug expert that people could rely on for drug information and pharmaceutical care. Along the line, I realized that I could take different paths that all facilitate one goal, getting people the care they need and changing the landscape of healthcare with my knowledge as a pharmacist. Pretty exciting!

How are you able to achieve so much while in school?

Laughs. I hope impostor syndrome won’t catch me. I set achievable goals from time to time, I do not waiver from those goals and I surround myself with positive minds that are willing and also aiming to achieve related goals. Everything we accomplish in life takes steps. To help us achieve our desires, we need to set goals, not unrealistic goals. This will make them manageable and realistically achievable.

Yusuff with other Nigerians at an RSTMH event
Yusuff with other Nigerians at an RSTMH event

Constantly, I also ensure I subject myself to self-evaluation. I believe I am not in competition with anyone but myself. For instance, I evaluate myself to see how much I am progressing to achieve my yearly goals and how my actions and inactions will affect my long-term goals. For instance, one of the goals I set in 2018 was to build capacity in public health research. Building on the goal, I set another target to increase my research output in 2019.

At the point of taking this interview, I have over 7 research publications in international peer-reviewed journals and 2 book chapters in an international global health casebook series all in 2019. This is even without mention of science blog features and newspapers. It is also important to leverage on opportunities to build capacity and learn continually from our accomplishments and failures. In all, the roles of supportive mentors cannot be overemphasized. I know the value of mentors and I continually seek to learn from their experiences.

What do your mentees see in you that makes them choose you as a mentor?

I believe they are interested and inspired by what I do, and they want to learn from me. What I am passionate about is obvious to many, which makes it possible to understand how we can help one another in building capacity.

How did you get to work with Global Health Focus?

I attended the Global Health Pharmacy Course in 2017, where I had the rare opportunity to meet the Founder of Global Health Focus, Professor Don Eliseo Lucero Prisno III. The course inspired me beyond my dreams, and I felt I could make meaningful impacts despite the fact that I am still a student. Many attendees were so excited to make positive impacts in their communities like I was. After the course, I and a few other graduates of the course had the opportunity to be enrolled in Don’s Mentorship Programme. A few months later, I was appointed as Associate Director for Research at Global Health Focus. The possible reasons could be my enthusiasm for research and passion to continually build capacity and learn.

Yusuff at an event
Yusuff at an event

Tell us more about your role as Associate Director for Research at GHF?

My role as the Associate Director for research at GHF is to oversee research outputs and publications in the organization and also to initiate new research foci. It also involves mentoring graduates of our courses who are interested in Global Health research. I have successfully led and mentored more than 10 research teams and individuals across Africa and other continents on global health research, capacity building and other developmental areas.

How did you become an RSTMH UK ambassador while still being a student in Nigeria?

The Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) has been dedicated to improving tropical medicine and global health over a century ago. I am passionate about Global/Public Health and I continually seek opportunities to build capacity. Of course, I got to know about the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene through my mentor. I applied and I was selected as the RSTMH student ambassador in Nigeria, making me the first to be selected for such a position in the country. It was competitive but I put in my best during the application and the interview with the selection committee.

What makes you stand out?

I continually seek to hone my skills and knowledge and I am always thirsty to learn. I enjoy learning new things and find that its easy for me to build the required skills. I truly enjoy excelling and pushing myself. I also tend to look forward to tasks where I can learn and grow. I find that it is easy for me to relate with a wide variety of people. For that reason, I thrive in a team environment. I believe in collaboration rather than competition. I love being challenged, and as a self-motivated learner, I enjoy going above and beyond when it comes to tackling new tasks and learning new skills. I am purpose-driven and try as much as possible to radiate to others the little that I have.

Adebisi Yusuff with other students
Adebisi Yusuff with other students

How can one conduct successful research as a student?

Undergoing research and publishing with undergraduate course work is not easy. Rather than focusing efforts on rushing into publishing, I believe it is important to learn how to critically appraise scientific evidences and be ready to develop the required skills and knowledge in research. It took me up to a year to learn about research and I am still learning. Collaboration with like minds will also be helpful to get things done.

Adebisi Yusuff a Pharmacy student of University of Ibadan
Adebisi Yusuff a student of University of Ibadan

Importantly, the role of having a mentor cannot be de-emphasized. You can also reach out to superiors in your area of interest to guide you through. I will recommend desk research for undergraduate, anytime. However, if you can do more, so be it, but make sure your academics do no’t suffer for it. The plan should be to carry out a lab or field research as your final year project. At that time, learning and carrying out the research will be more fun and interesting.

Do you make money from these things that you do?

Sometimes. I have the opportunity to consult for organizations, which I am sometimes paid for the services I render. The goal was not to get paid at that time but to learn and build capacity, which I enjoy doing. Through my volunteer work, I have acquired many skills ranging from grant writing skills to proficiency in Microsoft Office, Data Management and research. Fortunately, the skills and knowledge are opening doors for which I am forever grateful. 

Yusuff with a college
Yusuff with a college

Being an ‘A’ student, how do you combine studies with all these?

I can say what helped me to achieve this feat is the ability to multitask and manage my time appropriately. I believe that I need to build capacity while still a student, so, while reading hard to pass exams, I also take it upon myself to engage in activities that will make me a better person. Though it has not been very easy, goalsetting and hard work remain pertinent, especially, with the stress of pharmacy school.

I believe that a tertiary institution is not just a place for academics but also a place where young and vibrant minds are exposed to other aspects of life. Combining academics with other relevant activities could provide students with certain experiences which can give them a comparative advantage over those who stick to only academics when they find themselves in the labour market. Being able to combine academics with some relevant activities while in school could make one a strong “competitor” in the “real world”.

How can one venture into public health without prior experience?

Interest. Be interested firstly, and look for available opportunities to build capacity to make impacts. It is also important to have mentors in the field who will continue to guide and motivate you. Public Health is a broad field; it is important to know the areas you are interested in and continue to build capacity. However, if you are finding it difficult to know your specific area of interests, volunteer and expose yourself to as many areas as possible. You can also pursue a masters degree in the field. 

Yusuff, aglobal health advocate
Yusuff, a global health advocate

What is your advice to other students?

Believe in yourself and have dreams that constantly motivate you to be a better person. See the university environment as an opportunity to build capacity and become a better version of yourself, beyond getting good grades. Find mentors and people who are like-minded that you can really get motivated and inspired by. There’s that saying that you are the average of the five people around you. You can create your own life because as long as you have that as a goal, success is guaranteed. 

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