This interview series is in partnership with The Edge, a career refinery firm which helps students and young professionals define their career goals and connect them with relevant career development opportunities. This interview aims to help undergraduates maximize their stay within the four-walls of the university by leveraging on the stories, advice and lessons from stellar recent graduates and young professionals from different universities within Nigeria. InterviewStories presents Taiwo Olawehinmi, a Pharmacist, corporate compére and an elocution coach.
Can you introduce yourself?
Teewoh: I am Pharmacist Taiwo Olawehinmi, an emerging global health leader, passionate about universal healthcare coverage and policymaking. I am currently exploring intersections between healthcare and business. A public speaker and trainer passionate about helping people communicate effectively especially in the workplace, I am also an elocution coach and a corporate compére with over five years of experience. I am a Model United Nations (MUN) professional, having officiated diverse MUN conferences in West Africa, with over 20 African countries represented.
I am a 2017 CommonPurpose Leader and a 2018 Millennium Fellow. I currently volunteer with the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF), African Region. IPSF represents over 350,000 pharmacy students and recent graduates (of up to four years post-graduation) in more than 92 countries. I am committed to good leadership and active youth participation in nation-building and global development. Friends call me ‘Teewoh’ or ‘TeewohFire’. A friend particularly calls me ‘Taiwo Greatness’ 😄. I am also the first of four children.
InterviewStories: Why did Teewoh study Pharmacy?
Teewoh: Hehehe! 😂 I get this question many times. I chose pharmacy because I wanted to explore the discipline. I didn’t know much about it at the time of course selection, but the little I knew was beguiling enough to make me decide to give it a try. I had been placed in the sciences by my secondary school headteacher due to my academic excellence. I probably would have gone to commercial class due to my interest in business and finance and partly because I was worried about my strength in chemistry and biology. Nonetheless, I decided to be optimistic about it. I gave my best to my academics and I turned out to be one of the best students in my class. When I had to choose a course of study, I knew I didn’t like Medicine & Surgery. I wasn’t interested in it. With little exposure to global trends in education at that time, I didn’t have many options. Pharmacy seemed like the best option. I decided to try Pharmacy out, hoping that along the line, I would grow interest and love for the course. I had even fantasized with the idea of studying an engineering course, due to my love for technical drawing in secondary school. I decided to study pharmacy, and here I am.
InterviewStories: What has Pharmacy been like to you?
Teewoh: My undergraduate study was a period of unveiling. It helped me to understand the indispensable role of pharmacy in the attainment of universal healthcare coverage and more. Although Pharmacy was challenging as a course of study, it was largely exciting. I had a few ups and downs, days when I thought I probably shouldn’t have studied pharmacy, days when studying effectively seemed like a struggle and days when some of my lecturers’ pedagogies actually made learning so interesting. Now that I’m practising pharmacy, it has been an insightful experience as I work with other healthcare professionals to ensure patient-centred care and optimal therapy. Nonetheless, the profession has a long way to go in ensuring that professional practice gets better.
InterviewStories: Why do friends call you ‘Teewoh’ or ‘TeewohFire’?
Teewoh: ‘Teewoh’ is a nickname which stuck with me since secondary school. I guess people found it more stylish as opposed to ‘Taiwo’. I attended a UTME tutorial centre where some of my secondary school classmates also attended. They stuck with calling me ‘Teewoh’ such that many people didn’t know that my real name was ‘Taiwo’. The same thing happened when I got to university. My pre-varsity friends made my university friends and colleagues stick with ‘Teewoh’. Although it is pronounced /tiwəu/, I had to decide on a stylish way of writing it. I chose ‘Teewoh’. So it could have been ‘Tiwo’ or ‘Tiwoh’, but I didn’t like that. Regarding ‘TeewohFire’ 😂😂, it happened when I newly joined WhatsApp and I had to input a username. Without any hassle, I chose ‘Teewoh’, but I didn’t want to leave it at that. I wanted to try out one of the emojis. I scanned through the list for a most befitting one for my username. The ‘fire’ emoji tugged at my heartstrings. It’s probably because I have a fierce personality. I instantly knew that was it. I had found for myself a username (and a pen name). TeewohFire then came to stay. I used TeewohFire as a pen name when I wrote articles for my local student press organisation and my personal writings. My Instagram and Twitter handles also bear the name. So you can call me ‘Taiwo’, ‘Teewoh’ or ‘TeewohFire’, although I like the nicknames more. 😄
Can you tell us about your childhood, rights or privileges that a first child enjoys with the responsibilities associated with it?
Teewoh: I had a pretty normal childhood and one with a strong educational foundation. My daddy is a teacher. My mummy is also passionate about quality education. They both gave their best to the education of my siblings and me. I attended a catholic secondary school because my dad had a fantastic learning experience in his catholic secondary school. Till date, I am truly grateful for the foundation I got there. It thoroughly shaped my personality. As a firstborn, there were no special privileges. It has been a call to huge responsibilities! It has been a call to direct, protect and mentor my siblings. It has been a Herculean task as I try to let them in on the opportunities I didn’t have when I was younger. I am grateful that I am the firstborn and I am glad about the good example I am laying.
What characteristics make you an emerging thought leader in business and healthcare? Why business and healthcare?
Teewoh Tough question. I wouldn’t say that there are characteristics per se. I look forward to being a giant in my industry. That’s where thought leadership comes to play. I am currently positioning myself to be able to proffer solutions, game-changing insights and innovations. Healthcare and business are two areas which tug at my heartstrings, hence I look forward to being a true solutions provider in those areas, particularly in funding research projects which will birth transgenerational solutions, and facilitate universal health coverage. I know that thought leadership takes time. I’m not a thought leader yet, but I see myself becoming one.
Why business and healthcare? Those are two areas where I have the capacity and heart to deploy my abilities and intellect, as a pharmacist and a business-inclined individual. Nonetheless, I’m still in the process of becoming, a process of rise and fall. I am therefore committing myself to learning through books, mentorship and the right community. I believe these three are important in gaining clarity for one’s life purpose.
What is your advice to Nigerians to stay healthy during this pandemic days?
Teewoh: We are currently in a pandemic, so it’s a no-brainer. Nigerians need to heed the government’s directives as well as the guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We (especially non-essential workers) must stay at home and maintain social distancing as much as possible. It is essential that we sanitise our hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing about 60% alcohol) and/or properly wash our hands with soap and water, following the guidelines of the World Healthcare Organisation (WHO). It is also important that we eat healthy at this time, (to the extent that we can afford). I know that many families have become financially incapacitated due to the lockdown. Vegetables, fruits, immune boosters etc are great especially at this time. Elderly people who are already treating a condition need to take their medications regularly, especially diabetic and hypertensive patients.
If you develop any mild condition, you could visit a community pharmacy or a hospital. Do not self-medicate on any account. Self-medication largely poses more harm than good. Speak with a pharmacist or a doctor. And be truthful. In the last few days, we have seen patients who jeopardized the health of healthcare professionals and other patients just because they didn’t provide their true travel or medical history. Each person also has a responsibility to obtain correct and adequate information about Coronavirus. This is not the time to accept or spread half-truths on WhatsApp or Twitter. Check the websites of WHO and NCDC for accurate and up-to-date information. I must say that NCDC has been doing a commendable job thus far, but that’s not enough. Every one of us has a role to play. I hope we will rise to the occasion.
InterviewStories: Do you think the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria will change after COVID-19?
Teewoh: Hmmm! I can’t say for sure if it will change, but I hope that it does. I hope that the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry will gain the focus it requires from the government to promote indigenous drug production and self-reliance which will, in turn, boost our economy. I also hope, after the pandemic, that pharmacists will be more proactive and creative to deliver better healthcare services to the populace.
What does an elocution coach like you do?
Teewoh: Thank you very much. I get several requests from people who would like me to train them in public speaking. As an elocution coach, I train people to speak with finesse. The fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias in humans. And while some people may not exactly be scared of speaking in public, they may not be able to speak articulately. This impacts negatively on their speech and ability to drive results. As an elocution coach, I teach the English sounds based on the International Phonetic Association (IPA), stress patterns and grammar. I help my students to identify a sustainable personal learning routine which makes them confident speakers. Through renewable subscription-based learning, I will coach you over a few months, to a year. This model worked for me and has worked for quite a number of people.
InterviewStories: What should we be expecting from you in the next five years?
Teewoh: I sincerely can’t say. However, this I know: In the next five years and beyond, I will be a better me, delivering generational impacts to my world, as a thought leader, via my multiple expressions.
How did you start your journey as corporate compere? Tell us the best and worst moment since you started.
Teewoh: I started emceeing about five years ago, in my second year of undergraduate study. My mentor, who was my senior at the time, gave me a platform to co-emcee with him. The rest, they say, is history. I have carved a niche for myself as a compére for corporate events. Thus far, I have emceed conferences, seminars and one-on-one conversations with thought leaders. I am also a panel moderator. I don’t think I have had a worst moment as a compére, although I have made a few mistakes along the way. They only served as learning opportunities. I truly have had great moments. One of the great moments I had was at a one-on-one conversation with an author which I moderated. When one of the participants saw that I was the MC, she was so excited, she said: “Taiwo is the best person for the job”. I truly felt humbled to have my work appreciated.
Another memorable experience I had was at an event I attended as a participant. There, I met two ladies who had been participants at two different events I emceed. They recognised me and reached out to me. They said, “I remember you, Teewoh, from so-and-so event which you emceed”. I truly felt elated. That singular encounter was, for me, a recognition of the value I bring to events. It provides the impetus for me to do better work.
How can you be contacted?
Teewoh: Social media is one way through which I can be contacted.
Facebook/LinkedIn: Taiwo Olawehinmi
InterviewStories: Thank you for telling us your story.
Teewoh: Thank you so much for your time. I truly appreciate it.
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