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«We can....If we want..... but together!!!» - Dr. Esene Ignatius (MD, MSc, Ph.D., MPH)

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

A talk with Dr. Ignatius Esene


On the 28th of December 2021, Open Dreams Scholars in Yaounde were privileged to have an in-person discussion with Dr. Ignatius Esene, a world leader in neurosurgery and medicine, on his journey to neurosurgery, the challenges he faced, and how he overcame them. The session was programmed for 2 p.m, and at exactly 1:48 pm, Dr. Esene made his entrance to the Open Dreams center in Yaounde, implementing the very first success strategy which is punctuality.

The Doctor’s Journey and the Brain

Dr. Esene opened the floor with a brief introduction of himself followed by a rundown of his educational journey–from primary school in Mbengwi in the North West Region, CCAST-Bambili, CUSS Yaounde, Cairo Egypt, then to Belgium, and later, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. One could hardly not notice how much wisdom he had gotten from all his experiences as he cited an inspirational quote after about every 5 sentences.

With so much confidence and eloquence, he continued by explaining the work he has carried out over the years regarding research in countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, DRC, and Cameroon. He equally spoke about the journal he published-Panafrican Media Journal (PAMJ), inviting his audience to follow suit and then his journey to the chair position of the Young African Neurosurgeons Forum in 2018, a position he holds to date.

While inspiring us with his content and charisma, he delved into the importance of research (in education), documentation, and networking. He continued by highlighting the needs of young African neurosurgeons and enumerated some reasons why Africa lacks young neurosurgeons. Some were insufficient skills in research training, absence of mentorship opportunities, and fellowships. He urged those present to become more engaged in research while providing the crowd with statistics on how little Africa is contributing to research worldwide (0.3%) while Northern America and Europe are contributing 75%.

He made mention of the neurosurgical needs in developing countries he came across, specifically in Cameroon. Taking his country of birth as an example, he ascertained that a significant number of untreated neurosurgical cases are due to limited access to safe, affordable, and timely care. He went further by giving strategies that could be used by these underdeveloped nations to remedy this condition in the following areas: workforce, infrastructure, service delivery, financial risk protection, and information management.

After gaining a lot of knowledge and insight about the doctor and the strange but interesting world of neuroscience, the scholars could not help themselves but ask some pertinent questions. With so much excitement yet composure, he readily and comprehensively replied to the questions of the scholars to their point of satiety. The Q and A session was deeply educational and informative.

Dr. Esene at the National TV Station, CRTV Yaounde - Cameroon

Words of Wisdom and Inspiring Achievements

The Doctor’s presentation was full of wisdom and life lessons. He shared with his audience the importance of finding their purpose in life while constantly urging them to take note of what they love, what the world needs, what they get paid for, and what their strengths are. The steps he gave as a guide to know one's life purpose.

Dr. Esene said when he arrived in Cameroon from the US, he was posted to the North Region. With his resilience and the endless endeavour to impact the community, he worked to create the first Neurosurgical Center in the Septentrional Cameroon , and one of the few in Africa recognized by the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS Gazette, March 2021); an achievement from great teamwork

He encouraged his audience to pursue their dreams and that the world belongs to the dreamers–Open Dreams. Two powerful quotes he shared that stuck in the audiences’ minds were:

-“The future of Africa is in the hands of Young African Scientists”;

“Leave behind something you will be remembered for.”

The session increasingly became interactive as questions popped from all corners of the hall towards the end of the doctor's insightful presentation. Most of the scholars sought to understand the secret behind his successful journey. Two key factors, he said, were the secrets: focus and purpose.

He said he did have lots of challenges on the way which made things very difficult, but not impossible. With English as the language he is most at ease with, he faced French language problems when he started studying medicine at CUSS (the present Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences) in Yaoundé, but he never gave up because he knew where he was heading to.

Onwards, the scholars interested in the medical field raised issues concerning psychiatry, neurology, and neurosurgery, and inquired about possible steps to take after high school. Others kept asking questions about “finding a passion.” These were topics Dr. Esene tackled with so much ease, delight and pleasure.

Moving ahead, the MC of the day Callis Vishiti, took the floor shortly after the Q/A session urging the audience to give a standing ovation for the wonderful presentation.

If one did not get a thing from Dr. Esene's presentation, the take-home message, summarized at the bottom of his last slide could not go unnoticed. It went thus: «On Peut....Si On veut....Mais ensemble!!!», translated as «We can....If we want..... but together!!!». The impact and mind shift created by the presentation transpired and could clearly be felt as the crowd repeated the take-home message in unison.

In the end, as an Open Dreams tradition, group pictures were taken and some scholars saw the Doctor off to his vehicle with further inquiries.

#We can...if we want...but together!!!

Reported by:

- Anushka Kumayeb

- Poutum Ashley

- Sombang Patience

Reviewed by:

- Teh Triumph Kia

-Callis Vishiti

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