Young Scholar of the Month (April 2024)

Welcome to April!!

Hello hivers, gather ’round! We are thrilled to spotlight our Scholar of the Month, the incredible Obinna Ezeani. Get ready to be inspired.

Obinna is a biochemist by discipline, a digital health enthusiast, and a multi-award-winning scholar and social impact innovator with over half a decade of experience across various industries, including healthcare, education, and marketing. He has worked with the Nigerian Food and Drug Regulatory Agency (FDA), referred to as NAFDAC, a tier #1 public health organization in Nigeria. Obinna has served as the Assistant Director of Policy at the Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH), a U.S.-based non-profit public health organization. His work at BCPH supported public health researchers and policymakers within the U.S. and beyond with up-to-date public health policies. He is is an active social changemaker, youth volunteer, and community leader. He has served over 3 years as the Program Director at Forward Falls Initiative – a Nigerian-based non-profit organization that reduces barriers to access to quality education for students from underserved populations by providing them with educational materials, training, and even scholarships for their university studies.

Currently, Obinna is an M.Sc. candidate in Health Informatics at the prestigious Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, where his research focuses on a usability assessment of a digital solution that supports discharge planning for older adults living with complex care needs in Canada.

Innovation in Action

Obinna’s research interests center around digital health interventions, including their design, evaluation, and implementation into clinical workflows to facilitate adoption. His current research focuses on conducting a usability assessment of a digital tool for older adults with co-morbidities that would support their transition from hospital to home – a vulnerable and complex phase this population faces in their care journey. Obinna’s work applies an implementation science lens toward the evaluation of digital health solutions to reduce attrition rates, facilitate the adoption of the technology, and improve the overall health outcomes of patients.

His research is invaluable to our community as it provides insights into implementing digital health solutions that support patients during their transition from hospital to home. By focusing on usability and adoption, his work ensures that these tools are accessible and user-friendly for older adults with co-morbidities, ultimately enhancing their care experience and reducing the risk of complications post-discharge. For older adults with co-morbidities, transitioning from hospital to home can be overwhelming, but knowing that there are digital tools specifically designed to support them during this vulnerable phase gives them reassurance of improved outcomes and a higher quality of life.

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Obinna however, is a founder of Healthlytic. Healthlytic is a pioneering cloud-based electronic health records system that addresses the pressing issue of delayed medical diagnosis during emergencies in Nigerian hospitals. This ensures informed clinical decisions, leading to more accurate diagnoses and ultimately saving lives. Healthlytic not only revolutionizes healthcare delivery in Nigerian hospitals but also has a broader impact on digital health advocacy across Africa and beyond. Through capacity-building strategies, Healthlytic empowers the next generation of healthcare professionals to embrace digital solutions and advocate for their implementation in underserved communities.

Healthlytic is a pioneering cloud-based electronic health records system that addresses the pressing issue of delayed medical diagnosis during emergencies in Nigerian hospitals. This ensures informed clinical decisions, leading to more accurate diagnoses and ultimately saving lives. Healthlytic not only revolutionizes healthcare delivery in Nigerian hospitals but also has a broader impact on digital health advocacy across Africa and beyond. Through capacity-building strategies, Healthlytic empowers the next generation of healthcare professionals to embrace digital solutions and advocate for their implementation in underserved communities.

Awards and Recognitions:

University of Toronto Fellowship (UTF)                                                                            (2023)

Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto.

  • Graduate funding package.

BCPH 40 under 40 Public Health Innovators to Watch Awardee                                    (2023)

Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH), California, U.S.

Jim Leech Mastercard Fellow                                                                                           (2023)

Jim Leech Mastercard Foundation Fellowship (implemented by the Dunin-Deshpande Queen Innovation Center at Queen’s University, Canada).

  • Secured seed funding of $500 through a business pitch competition during the fellowship program to advance to the final phase.

UPG Biashara Entrepreneur 2023 Cohort                                                                        (2023)

United People Global.

  • Participated in a learning journey for selected entrepreneurs and qualified for the action journey which includes access to grant opportunities ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

Orange Corner Incubatee                                                                                       (2022)

Orange Corners Nigeria Incubation Program – an initiative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 

  • Secured seed funding of €5,000 through a business pitch during the Orange Corners Innovation Fund (OCIF) competition at the Orange Corners Nigeria Incubation Programme.

Best Organizing Committee Member                                                                                 (2022).

United Youth International Model United Nations 

Recognition Award as a Delegate of the Republic of Fiji Islands                                     (2021).

International Model United Nations conference – UNESCO Council.

Recognition Award as a Delegate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria                            (2021).

Asia Youth International Model United Nations conference – World Health Organization (WHO) council.

Recognition as a Speaker                                                                                         (2020).

3rd International Conference on e-Health Innovation and Alternative Healthcare (e-Health 2020)

Best Research Paper Presenter on Food Fraud                                                                 (2019).

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12th Immersion Programme in Regulatory and Registration (R&R) Directorate, NAFDAC 

Best Research Paper Presenter on Herbal Remedies vs. Orthodox Medicines              (2020).

14th Immersion Programme in R&R Directorate, NAFDAC 

Navigating the Early Scholar Journey: Overcoming Hurdles and Embracing Growth

As an early career scholar of African descent, some common challenges include limited access to funding opportunities and resources for projects, which can hinder the exploration of innovative ideas and conducting extensive studies. Additionally, there are limited opportunities for sustainable networking and collaboration within the academic community, which is crucial for professional growth and mentorship. Mentorship, as we know, shortens the learning curve and is a shortcut to success, thus, access to mentorship from established African scholars can be very instrumental for early career scholars like me. Moreover, navigating the publishing landscape and gaining recognition in international academic circles can be challenging due to various barriers, such as a limited share in the scientific enterprise, a lack of funding, and socio-political factors. Despite these challenges, I am committed to overcoming them through perseverance, resourcefulness, and leveraging available support networks for early career scholars, such as the Academic Hive, to contribute meaningfully to scholarly discourse and address pressing issues facing our communities.

Culture Shocks in the Diaspora: Unveiling the Learning Curve

As an African in the diaspora, I experienced several culture shocks that required adjustment and adaptation. One significant shock was the cultural differences in communication styles and social norms. In many African cultures, communication tends to be more indirect and nuanced, whereas in Western cultures, it can be more direct and explicit. For instance, having to address elderly people by their first name and without titles. Initially, this difference made interactions challenging, but I’m overcoming this by actively observing and learning the communication norms of my new environment and gradually adjusting my communication style to strike a balance between my cultural background and the expectations of the new culture.

Another culture shock was related to food and dietary habits. Traditional African cuisine differs significantly from Western diets, both in ingredients and preparation methods. Adapting to new foods and finding familiar ingredients can be a challenge, but I overcame this by exploring local markets, seeking out African grocery stores, and making efforts to try out new Western meals (but I always have my tiny pepper bottle next to me when trying out new meals, because why not?). This helped me maintain a connection to my cultural heritage while also embracing the culinary diversity of my new environment.

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Furthermore, navigating the weather conditions was the most challenging. Being that I came to Canada at the final lap of the 2023 summer, I had thought that what I had experienced then, as the temperature was the coldest the country could get, O! How wrong I was. I had to learn how to layer up before stepping out, especially during the winter.  Having to wear over 7 clothes just for a single outing is something that still amuses me to this day. Well,  the truth is, nothing anyone can tell you can fully prepare you for the Canadian winter; it’s one of those things that is better experienced than told. So, yeah, I came, I saw, and I am still conquering!

Overall, overcoming culture shocks as an African in the diaspora required patience, flexibility, and a willingness to learn and adapt. By embracing cultural differences while staying connected to my roots, I am able to integrate into my new environment and thrive personally and professionally.

Words of Wisdom for Fellow International Students: Navigating Uncharted Waters

As international students and young researchers aspiring to build a startup someday, there are several key strategies to consider. First, identify a problem or unmet need in your field of expertise or community. Your research background may provide valuable insights into areas where innovation is needed. Next, build a network of mentors, industry professionals, and fellow researchers who can provide guidance, support, and potential collaborators or investors for your startup journey. Acquire entrepreneurial skills through entrepreneurship programs, workshops, and courses offered by your university or local organizations. Validate your startup idea by conducting market research and gathering feedback from potential users or customers. Seek funding opportunities available to international students, young researchers, social entrepreneurs, and changemakers, such as grants, fellowships, pitch competitions, and startup accelerators. Stay resilient in the face of setbacks and failures, and learn from your experiences to continuously improve and adapt your startup. Embrace your international background as a strength, leveraging your unique perspectives, cultural insights, and global networks to give your startup a competitive edge. Finally, stay committed to your vision and mission while remaining flexible and open to pivoting based on market feedback and evolving opportunities.

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Would you like to be featured or do you know a potential scholar who would like to be featured as AH scholar of the month? To nominate, click here.

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