“Knowledge is the greatest power” says UI Doctor of Science, Professor Mayowa Ojo Owolabi

Interview with Professor. Mayowa Ojo Owolabi

Tell us about yourself and your academic adventures so far

My name is Mayowa Ojo Owolabi. Mayowa means ‘bring joy’. When I was in the primary school, many people who bore the name, Mayowa, usually had a prefix and I told my dad that I wanted to add a prefix and he said, no, that Mayowa is an inspired name and it is a commandment to bring joy. My father was a teacher. In our house in the village we have a library with books, encyclopedia and different magazines like Reader’s Digest. I took interest in all of those at a very young age, including books on science and prominent scientists. I took an interest in knowledge. I also had a lot of discussions with my father on various issues when I was growing up. At a very young age, I started thinking about existence, the purpose of life, the natural laws, and the divine laws, and I got inspired by so many books. I read about so many scientists. Of course, from that very age, I had taken an interest in knowledge. When you say science, science is actually ‘scientia’ which means knowledge.
Searching for knowledge was the thing that drove me from a very early age. My siblings used to call me a ‘book worm’ because that was the only thing that engaged my interest. Going through primary school was full of excitement for me. For instance, I had the overall best result in my State that year, that was Ondo State comprising the now Ondo and Ekiti States. While in the secondary school, by the 2nd term in year one, I had completed everything for that class, so they had to give me double promotion. I joined the next class in their 3rd term, and I still came first in the exam. I completed secondary school of six years in four years. I gained admission to UI through JAMB immediately after my secondary school in 1990.
In terms of choice of career, while I was trying to decide what I was going to study, I had known that I was going to be a scientist. But my challenge at that time was which of the sciences would it be, is it computer science or medical science. At some point, I really got fascinated with Computer Science and I said, “Look, with computer science, you can almost do wonders and I was going to be a Computer Scientist. But then, my siblings spoke with me, and I thought, yes, the most complex machine, perhaps more than the computer, is the brain. I was trying to choose the most engaging, the most intriguing, the most challenging, the most exciting, the most interesting science that could be explored for groundbreaking discoveries, that could transform human life, human existence and evolution, as at that time in the late 80s, I felt that if computer can complete calculations that are faster than the human brain, then it is something that could be engaging. I began to think that you could even programme the computer to do anything, could programme the computer to perform human tasks as many as possible. So I was caught between Computer Science and Medicine. I eventually concluded that the human brain is perhaps the most complex entity on the planet earth and if I decide to study medical science, it’s like the intercession of all sciences. It’s a convergence point of all knowledge, the Arts, Sciences, humanities all of them converge in the human being. It is the human being that created computer science, aircraft, and all other wonders of technology. Then I said human beings could even be more intriguing and of course, eventually, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with neurology because what makes man different from other animals is the brain, that is the seat of the mind, that is where man is able to interface with the planet. So it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the complexity of the human brain which has more than 100 billion [10 raised to power 11 (1011)] neurons, each of these neurons are as complex as a computer and are connected to about one thousand other neurons and it is the configuration of all these connections that code our personalities, our memories, our history, our experiences and also the way we interact, the way we interpret things and our executive functions. So, I said there could not be any other complex machine like the human brain, so I fell in love with Neurology.
In Neurology itself, the most challenging part is Neuro-rehabilitation. Meaning, you have a patient whose brain is damaged. We have advanced as human beings; we have done a lot of things as human beings. We can do heart transplant, we can replace joints, we can replace kidneys, we can do liver transplant, lung transplant, but brain transplant has never happened, and I don’t think it can ever happen. That is because if you transplant Mr. A’s brain to Mr. B, who is the person that is talking to you, is it Mr. A or Mr. B? So, that is why brain transplant is not going to happen because of personality change because the brain is going to take ownership of that body and the individual. So, brain transplant is not going to happen. So, if part of the brain is damaged, the brain is so complex that regeneration is not going to happen and if it happens not so much and then it is the reconstitution of the configuration which is called connectome that can restore function, meaning the kind of connection of those neurons has to be established.

Tell us briefly about your parents and their impact on you

Let me start with my father. My father is someone who I will just describe in 3 virtues that I learnt from him. The first one is that he gave his heart 100% to God. He is a lover of knowledge as well. He is of the highest level of integrity and honesty to a fault. I still remember a few things about him. For instance, when he was handling a building project for one of my uncles, he kept the record to the last kobo. Rather than the record to be out of place, he would rather add his money to balance the account; he is that kind of person. He was also the pioneer president of Aisegba Progressive Union, and why did people agree to contribute money? It was because of his integrity. They knew that whatever is contributed, not half of a kobo is going to be missing. My father lived a Spartan life. For instance, when he retired, he sold off his car; he said he didn’t want anything that would give him trouble. When the mobile phone was newly introduced, my senior brothers arranged to buy one for him, but he said he didn’t want anything that would disturb his peace. He lived a Spartan life. He was spiritual and not materialistic.
My mother was a housewife. One of the things I picked from her was that she was also a lover of God. She was always reading her Bible, and each time before we slept, there were Bible verses that we read together, and then she was ready to do anything for me. She really loved me and supported everything I was doing as a child growing up. In my studies, she made sure she supported me and gave me protected time for my studies.

Aside your quest for knowledge, what other things propelled you to register for a D.Sc?

Definitely, one of the reasons for registering for a D.Sc was because of the love for knowledge. The truth is that knowledge is light, and God is light, and the first thing He created was light. If you read the book of Proverbs, the first 10 chapters were talking about wisdom, and knowledge and if you read Jeremiah 9: 23 and 24, you will see that the only thing anyone could boast of is knowledge. Don’t boast about riches or anything, but boast of the fact that you know God. So knowledge is number one, and you can see how knowledge has transformed human existence and history. As I said earlier, I read the encyclopedia, I read the biographies of many great scientists, those who discovered electricity, Thomas Edison, I read the lives of polymaths like Leonard Da Vinci, you know, those who did almost the unthinkable, the unimaginable. Imagine someone, 200 years ago saying he was going to fly to America, people will think you will need witchcraft, but what you need is an aircraft. You know people doing the unthinkable things. Even now, there are new realms of knowledge in biology called synthetic biology, where you can almost synthesize organs and do so many things. So, knowledge is the greatest power. Of course, knowledge expresses itself through love, and we also say love is power. So, knowledge, love, power, and light are all the same. If the sun is extinguished, this planetary system will go off because all the planets are rotating around the sun. So it is the same. Everything revolves around knowledge. Knowledge is the primary thing. Why are universities created? It is to advance the frontiers of knowledge to extend what we know. What we call discovery is not really finding something that is new like that. Those things were not new. They were there, but we never knew them. The truth of the matter is that even though we think we know so much, what we don’t know is by far greater than what we know, even up until now, we still see partly.
There is another realm of knowledge that has been completely neglected, which is also very intriguing to me, and that is the spirituality of man. It is a completely different sphere which has been neglected and my study of neurology and neuro-rehabilitation and quality of life in stroke patients is an avenue I have used to explore that vista and I am still doing that going on. One of the themes I studied was quality of life and I asked myself, how can I study quality of life and develop an instrument to measure quality of life without understanding what life is, so how do we define human life, how do we then go on from that to talk about the essence of life or in fact talk about the purpose of life. By the time you start talking about those questions, you are leaving core neurology into neuro-philosophy and neuro- spirituality and for you to be able to do this, I felt, you need to be recognized as a scientist otherwise people will think, oh, this is para-normal science or this is pseudo-science. That was one of the reasons I felt it was important to subject the work I have done so far to scrutiny both locally and internationally by the best of scientists who also have D.Sc degrees because I know that is the procedure in the University of Ibadan, they send out to those who are eminent people, leaders in the field who have had D.Sc from other universities in Europe, US and all over to have that recognition as a scientist. So, when I go exploring these uncharted paths, I will not be labeled as doing pseudo-science or para-normal science because I really want to use science with its objectivity and rigour to explore these aspects that are abstract, difficult to define and difficult to measure but that are even more important perhaps than the aspects that we see and can count. Albert Einstein said “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Let us into your research focus that earned you a D.Sc or what you have in focus

Thank you very much. I will just take you through the history and what lies ahead. So, like I mentioned, the most intriguing part is the brain. I went for neurology. It was a no-brainer for me selecting neurology because it was something very challenging. And even within that field, I was looking for something even most challenging which is, how do you make people who are unable to walk, walk again, when the parts of the brain controlling those are completely damaged, and there is no replacement? Like I said, there is no brain transplant. How do you make it work? That is the most challenging part. You know the diagnosis, you know what has happened but how do you replace it, how do you make things work? So, that was very challenging to me, and that was why I picked neuro-rehabilitation as one of my focuses. Even in doing neuro-rehabilitation, one of the things I researched was enhancing the quality of life of people who have suffered from stroke or from neurological disabilities. The truth of the matter is that there is something called disability paradox, which I renamed disability disparity. Disability paradox is that some people may have physically disabling conditions, but they are still able to express themselves, contribute to society, and perform wonderfully, I mean, there are examples within our vicinity. Let me just give this local example. We all are familiar with the musician, who suffered a spinal cord injury. And after that event, of course, there was a little bit of some setback, but immediately after that, it was like his career took an exponential rise despite that physical disability. So, those are the kind of things I wanted to study. How can that happen? So I developed a holistic quality of life questionnaire, the first of its kind. And it’s being used in numerous countries across the globe, translated into so many languages. Holistic in the sense that I decided to include domains that look at soul, spiritual well-being, not just physical and psycho-emotional well – being and I applied it not only in Nigeria but in Germany and I compared because people could say “oh Germans, may be they are atheists”, but I applied it in both places and came up with interesting findings which we have published in international journals. So that’s one of my areas of research, neuro-rehabilitation. And I pioneered neuro-rehabilitation in this part of the world, Sub-Sahara Africa, as a Pioneering Regional Vice-President of the World Federation for Neuro-rehabilitation, for this region, I’m also a member of the Presidium and right now I’m actually playing a leadership role in the community based rehabilitation efforts of the World Federation for Neuro-Rehabilitation .
In addition to that, I am leading the Lancet Commission on Neuro-rehabilitation for the entire globe, which is going to become more or less like the authority for neuro-rehabilitation setting the agenda for neuro-rehabilitation across the globe. So, I am privileged and humbled to be leading that. And of course, I am trying to build the team and, going forward, have a plan on how we are to accomplish that to harness all that we know about neuro-rehabilitation so far. Tapping from all the fields and all the best experts in the world, bringing them together, including those that are involved in Artificial Intelligence, Brain Computer Interfaces, Neuro-technology, the Human Brain Project from Europe which got funded up to the tune of almost a billion dollars. They just finished the ten-year work in September last year, trying to understand the brain better than before, I mean, the physical brain and anatomical, histological, histochemical structures. So bringing all of these people together, and also trying to venture, not only to harness neuro-plasticity but also neuro-spirituality, neuro-linguistics, and spiritual psychology. Bringing all these together, medical humanities, synthesizing all of these, is to understand the human brain better and be able to chart new ways forward to ensure brain recovery and to ensure that people who suffer brain or neurological injuries are able to live a fulfilled life, be able to contribute to society and be able to express themselves in a best possible way. Stephen Hawkins suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), but he was still one of the best Physicists until his death, even when he was not able to speak. So, how do we make this kind of thing happen? There is another thing that interests me; it’s a new terminology I coined, which I called “Supermentia”. I said if we are looking at artificial intelligence, we are making computers, we are improving the way computers work and making them to do wonders, is it not possible also to enhance the way our brains work so that we have people who are prodigious in different fields like Mozart, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawkins who had passion for knowledge and were able to discover the rules and laws that govern the universe and be able to transform that to better and improve man’s evolution and existence. So, it’s an idea I am still selling, but it looks like people are thinking we still have to deal with dementia before eumentia before we start thinking about supermentia. So, those are the things that engage my interest.
Of course, stroke also engages my interest. As neurologists, the patients we see most of the time, half of the patients that we have, are patients who have had stroke. And so, I tried to understand and define for the African region, the leading risk factors for stroke. On the continent, the dominant risk factors account for about 90%, both genetic ( that is hereditary), as well as the environmental risk factors. And one of the things that we found and that were very intriguing and interesting was that we found those who consume green leafy vegetables on a daily basis were protected against stroke. Whether they were males or females, whether they were young or old, and protected against whether it is ischemic type of stroke or hemorrhagic stroke. And in fact, later on, we also found that it protected against having severe stroke, if it’s somebody who has been consuming a lot of green leafy vegetables, their stroke is milder, it’s not as bad; and they are likely to recover and not likely to die from it. So, we then ventured further to find out about this green leafy vegetable. Can it also protect against the risk factors for stroke? And yet we did find that consuming green leafy vegetables, about 12 servings or more of green leafy vegetables per week reduces your chances of being hypertensive. And this is something that is available everywhere; it’s not expensive at least in Africa; unlike in high income countries where green leafy vegetables may be more expensive and difficult to get. But this is something that is ubiquitous. It’s available to farmers, villagers, to everybody and it’s not expensive, and if you consume this, you are likely to reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. So, it was something that we didn’t expect. We were thinking that we would find some protective association with fish, with nuts, with fruits and all of that. We didn’t find it. It was in green leafy vegetables, and it was consistent, and we were able to establish dose-response relationships. So that was one of the great things we found in SIREN study. With the SIREN study, we also did a lot of other things. Like we screened more than 10,000 people for cardiovascular diseases, part of whom became our controls for free. For cardiovascular diseases we educated people, we produced stroke videos. We now even have a stroke riskometer app, which we are trying to test for preventing stroke. We developed an app. It’s actually on my phone, within 2 to 3 minutes it tells you your chances of developing a stroke on a scale of 0 to 100%. So those are some of the things we did with stroke and we are still trying to explore further into the epi-genetics and the genomics of stroke. From the genomics also we found some things, we did Genome-wide Association Study for stroke, the very first in Africa. We found some novel micro RNAs. It’s going to be published very soon (already published in Genome Medicine journal). We also found apolipoprotein L1 to be associated with small vessel disease stroke. We were the very first to discover this and report it globally among the Africans, and it was confirmed later on by another group that worked at University of Alabama, Birmingham on the REGARDS sample and they also found the same association, confirming our findings. So, it’s a very exciting finding.
And, of course then, something that I would never have dreamt of also happened which is, one way or the other I became the leader; the Lead Co Chair of the Lancet Commission of Stroke globally, not Lancet Commission of Stroke in Africa, globally and we just had a publication recently. The Lead Co-Chair because there is another Co-Chair, but I’m the leader. I’m actually the overall Chair of the Commission. And it was an idea that came, you know, I had an award called Young Physician Leader Award. That award I had it in May 2016. So, I was in Geneva and with that award, I had the privilege of attending the World Health Assembly as a young physician leader. And then, coincidentally, while I was in Geneva, somebody else in Geneva was looking for me. He didn’t even know I was in Geneva. He was Walter Johnson, who is a neurosurgeon, who was in the Department of Service Delivery and Safety of the WHO. He observed a gap that even though stroke was (still is) the second leading cause of death globally, even WHO did (still does not) not have a dedicated unit/desk on stroke, and that is a huge gap. So I think maybe he had gone through my works on Pubmed or elsewhere, and he was trying to find a way of linking up with me. So he got in touch with me that day, and I told him to his own surprise that I was actually in Geneva for something else. So we met that day, and we decided that it was important to have a Lancet Commission on stroke. At least that will draw global attention to dealing with stroke.
In 2011, I already had an idea of how stroke can be solved, which I called the “Stroke Quadrangle”. That is, you need surveillance and research to understand stroke, to understand the risk factor for stroke, and to be able to plan all the interventions that you need. That’s one pillar. The second pillar is that you need prevention. You know, primordial prevention, primary prevention, secondary prevention, because you don’t want people to develop stroke in the first instance. And then the third pillar is the acute care pillar. When stroke happens, you want people to recognize it on time, and you want to immediately attend to them so that you reduce loss of function and you improve the chances of recovery. And of course, the fourth pillar is rehabilitation. Those are the four pillars of the stroke quadrangle. And those were the visions and the agenda that drove the Lancet Commission. It was an enormous amount of work that involved 322 commissioners across 84 countries. We have several publications, but the climax was the publication of the Lancet Commission itself, which was launched coincidentally with the 200th year anniversary of The Lancet. And again, another coincidence happened. I was in London, UK, for a completely different assignment, so to speak. It was a Thursday; we had just finished the assignment. In fact, when I was planning that trip, I wanted the trip to be short. I wanted to come back to Nigeria immediately, I finished what I went to the UK for. I think it was a Monday to Thursday thing, and I said, “Why should I wait till Friday?” I wanted to come back on Thursday, but it was not possible to change my flight. I wanted to, I did everything possible, but the organizers of the activity said they had already booked me to return to Nigeria on Friday and not on Thursday. If they were going to change that, it would cost them even more than the cost of what they used to book the flight. And they said no, they were not going to do that. So, it was impossible for them to change the flight, not knowing that I would say God planned me to be there. So, Thursday evening when I finished, because it was very engaging, we worked throughout the day to late evening, I just sent an email to the Lancet Neurology Editor, just finding out because the publication was almost ripe at that time, and she just told me that tomorrow is the 200th year anniversary of the Lancet and she was inviting me. Thursday evening. I said, well, it was not something I planned for.” She did not even know I was in London until I told her that Thursday evening that I was around and all of that. I said tomorrow happens to be the 200 years anniversary and I was actually maybe the only non-Lancet person that was part of that event. They had another evening event which was meant for guests but the main event they had before they invited me, I was probably the only non-Lancet staff that was there, and I was introduced to the Editor-in-Chief of the Lancet. So it was launched at that point. It’s a 50-page document that crystalizes and articulates all that can be done to reduce the burden of stroke. We also projected what the body of stroke would be like by 2050. The economic cost also of stroke, which is about One Trillion Dollars annually now, which we think by 2050, will be over Two Trillion Dollars annually, if nothing was done. We had an economic case of what should be done in terms of interventions and recommendations for all of the different pillars, so, it got launched on October 09, 2023 with a lot of press including CNN. I had an interview from the CNN and all of that. Alongside was the publication of the supplementary material, which is over 200 pages and two editorials That’s actually what took most of our time. Detailed analysis of each recommendation and then looking at the context; political, legal, ethical, anthropological and socio-economic (PLEASE) contexts, and requirements for implementation in every country of the world, you know, so condensed and very detailed. And we are trying now to domesticate it across different world regions. We also launched it at the Africa Stroke Organization Conference, which we held in November last year, actually. That is why the University of Ibadan can be a leader, a global leader right from here. We had three international conferences right here in Ibadan last year. One was on hypertension Accelerating African Control of Hypertension through Innovative Epidemiology & a Vibrant Ecosystem (ACHIEVE) Conference from 27th -28th July 2023 and the current Honourable Minister of Health from Ghana was here in person, live for two days. It was held at the International Conference Centre. Then we also had the Conference on Neuro-rehabilitation, the 5th African Conference on Neuro-rehabilitation also from here, and also the African Stroke Conference Organization, the third one also from here. And it was a hybrid conference and we had leaders from across the globe attending and participating actively, including the leaders of the other conferences, the International Stroke Conference in the US, the European Stroke Organization Conference, and the World Stroke Congress. They all participated all from here so UI can actually lead so many things. That’s just an example. So, this happened last year. That’s the Lancet Commission on Stroke. So those are the kinds of things that I did, and right now, like I said, I am leading the Lancet Commission on Neo-rehabilitation. I am trying to explore the uncharted waters of neuro-spiritualty, which I think is neglected but important, which will probably need new tools to access, to measure and to understand and to tap and harness for human development and evolution.

Prof., what other things will you want us to know?

Okay, well, one other thing that I will just mention is that of course after the award of the D.Sc., I also got nominated, I mean inaugurated as a member of the National Health Research Committee for Nigeria and that was just actually this month, January 4, 2024. It was January 4 after the D.Sc. award. The Committee is created to shape the agenda and attract resources that will champion research in health in Nigeria. To proffer solutions, you know, to the health problems in Nigeria, pragmatic solutions, and of course contributory to science and advancements.
Nigeria should be a leader and not a consumer nation to be able to produce our health products and export to others. And all of these can come through knowledge and research, you know, we should be able to understand the different diseases and when we understand them, we look at them from the genomic lens, with the multi-omics lens, for precision medicine. We should be able to produce innovative solutions, innovative policies, innovative interventions, vaccines and drugs all from here. You know, so how do we get there, and that is the mission of that committee. But again, it is by investing in research, it is by investing in science. The investment in science is not immediate, does not usually produce immediate gains, and sometimes, it is long-term.
Gregor Mendel when he was experimenting and talking about heredity and all of that, nobody knew that a hundred of years after, we are going to be talking about genomics, we are going to be talking about CRISPR technology, we are going to be talking about gene therapy for hereditary conditions. We are going to be talking about medications, which, we may champion if we really do synthetic biology. We can have cure for diseases which do not have cure, we can have cure for cancer, we can have cure for hypertension, such that you don’t need to take medications everyday, you just get an injection and you have a gene that is going to be producing the molecules to reduce blood pressure that you could have been taking medications to reduce. So these are things that you can dream of, and these are things that can be achieved through research, and it is very exciting. Those are the kind of things that can be achieved if the government invests.
Nigerian scientists are making waves across the globe, yes we can tap into that through brain circulation, through brain gain, through collaboration and we can champion development and then we can have an innovation hub or pipeline through which these ideas are transformed into products. Products that can then be used to improve the quality of life and even the economy of not only Nigeria but of Africa as a whole. So, those are the things that are achievable if we only think about it and if we get our acts together.
I also think that of all the things I am meant to do, or whatever I have, came from God, of course, I give all the glory back to God because the ideas that I have did not come from me, they came from the Source of all knowledge and so I give all the glory to Him. And if I have the opportunity of reflecting God’s light, then I should reflect it to as many people as possible. I should light as many candles as possible so they can also shine brighter and light up the space together. One other thing I will mention is, when I was a medical student, I actually started a University Students Club, which later on we called “BrainsMeet Cybernetics”. All along, I already knew collaboration is a powerful tool for science and that was why we called it brains meet and one of the things we sell, one of the mottos of that group is that “Behold the wheel of Knowledge” and that when we have rays of light coming together, you will have a powerful beam of light.

*_Prof., you have an MBBS, a Master’s Degree, you have a Doctor of Medicine and you now have a Doctor of Science, is there anything else or what next?*
Actually in terms of medical related, science related, I have the MBBS, I have the Master of Science that was in Biomedical Education, I have that with Distinction, I have a Doctor of Medicine, in fact, the Doctor of Medicine Degree was awarded to me by three universities in Germany: the Humboldt University, Charite University and Free University and it was based on my work in neuro-rehabilitation, quality of life, then I have the MD Degree and the D.Sc.
For medicine, of course, I think I have ticked all the boxes but like I said am also trying to, I may not likely get a degree in all other fields but the field that I am exploring now requires a convergence of human knowledge, infusion of medical humanities, with core medicine with science and with artificial intelligence and that is neuro-rehabilitation.
In fact, in the next one hour or so, I have a meeting which I have convened, as one of first of such meetings with someone who is a Professor of Religious Studies in Austria, his name is Angel. Funny enough, I met him at a conference in Austria where he gave a talk on spirituality. And one other thing I am going to mention is this, the African culture and perhaps the African nature, or shall I say, African history also has its own secrets which, have been ignored and not explored. Perhaps some of the secrets of spirituality are in some of those things that have been left untouched and so I am trying to bring together like I said, medical humanities, African studies, religious studies, philosophy, and all of that to explore the realm of spirituality in a non-religious or irreligious neutral mind, non-divisive manner that defines this and is able to turn this into a powerful force and transformative force that refines and includes humanity or relationship with existence and the origin of existence, our relationship with nature, to bring all these together in a scientific approach.
There are two things I will say; The truth of the matter is this, the more you know, the more you know that there is more to be known. The second thing is this: the more, the more, of course, you know that there are certain things beyond the confines of things you can put in the form of words. Like I also read the scripture, I have read a lot of scriptures, the Bible, I read others while I was doing my work on quality of life, and coming up with something that is a unifying theory of things that ran through all the religions. There are certain things that words may not be able to express, there are certain mysteries and knowledge that words will not be able to express and there are certain things that may be expressed in natural laws which are a mirror image or reflection of supernatural laws which may be the only way to approach them.
And there are certain people who have discovered some of these mysteries and people who know less but who are dogmatic about what they thought they knew, thought they were on the wrong path like Galileo-Galileo, Socrates and all of that. So I am trying to bring things together so there is knowledge and truth, which are Siamese twins and truth doesn’t change, truth is indestructible, truth lives forever and truth is what provides light. As you rise higher when you are seeking the kingdom of God, like I already said, God is Light, God is Life, you know and you say when you seek the kingdom of God, every other thing is added, you are seeking this light, you are seeking this knowledge, which is what we are created to like and to love.
We are supposed to be phototropic; we are supposed to grow towards knowledge, and towards God, that is what our soul craves because if we gain all and lose our soul, we lose everything. The world is just like a laboratory to help us discover the truth and go back to God. God cannot explore his own absence, he can only do it by tools, we are instruments God has sent to explore the other side which is earth, the lowest part of existence, where the vibration is slowest so to say, but eventually, we are going to be quickened by God through his spirit at the speed of light or Godspeed. As you go higher, you will realize that knowledge is one, that okay, we specialize but as you go higher, you will realize that you cannot do neurology without humanities, artificial intelligence, etc you need all of them to be able to advance further.

What are you doing to impact young scientists around you?

A place where we have opportunity to tap into imaginations, sometimes very wild imaginations, creativity of youth, the place where this happen is the University and that’s why the university is really, and should be the champion for advancing the frontiers of knowledge. At their very young age, it is most beneficial, particularly among the undergraduates, when they are exposed to different areas of knowledge. They have not yet specialized, and they can have ideas that could be extremely transformative, so as an undergraduate, I think in my second year in the university, I was already thinking that science has changed and that the very best way to advance the frontiers of knowledge is through collaboration. I was already thinking about that. Science has changed from the times of Charles Darwin who single handedly did a lot of studies and publications, Gregor Mendel, and Gay Lussac, things have changed, many things are achieved through collaboration and so I said well, if we bring together another thing I know from science, optics from physics is, when you bring a converging lens, you can use it to trap the rays of light, and if you put a piece of paper at the focal point, the paper can catch fire, ordinarily speaking, those rays of light on their own may not cause the paper to catch fire but if you put a converging lens, it catches fire. So the idea was that, if you bring together rays of light, if you converge them together, it will form a stronger, powerful beam that will be able to achieve even more so that was the idea behind the BrainsMeet Cybernetics. Can we bring together people and knowledge from different areas coming together to solve problems (not only in medicine)? That was the idea that I have been using now throughout all the things I have been doing.
For instance, for the SIREN study, we had people who are Community Engagement Experts, Health Educators, Social Anthropologists, Statistical Geneticists, and Statisticians who are involved in the study apart from Neurologists. In the Lancet Commission on Stroke too, we had Health Economists, we had different fields of engagements, and we have people who are Mixed Research Methodologists, Qualitative Research Experts, and Implementation Scientists. So now in the Commission I am leading on neuro-rehabilitation, this is where this is going to be widely expressed because we are going to have people involved in neuro-technologies, brain computer interfaces, we are going to have people involved in neuro-spirituality, spiritual psychology, medical humanities, artificial intelligence, we are going to have all these fields coming together to explore because really the truth of the matter is you have to understand man, understand the brain fully before you can help people who have suffered neurological injury to recover fully and be able to function both physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, spiritually, discover or re-discover themselves and be able to discover their purposes in life and be able to fulfill their purposes to humanity, God and existence.

About Professor Prof. Mayowa Ojo OWOLABI

MBBS, MSc (distinction), Dr.M. (Berlin), MD, DSc, Cert Epid & Glob Health (Dundee), FMCP, FWACP, FAAN, FANA, FAHA, FRCP, FAMedS, FAAS, FAS,

• Director, Center for Genomic and Precision Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan,
• Pioneering Regional Vice President (Sub-Saharan Africa) World Federation for NeuroRehabilitation
• Member, Presidium, World Federation for NeuroRehabilitation

• Regional Director (Sub-Saharan Africa), World Hypertension League
• Foundation Co-Chair, African Stroke Organization
• Lead Co-Chair, WHO-World Stroke Organization -Lancet Neurology Commission on Stroke
• Member, WHO Technical Advisory Group on NCD Research and Innovation
• Member Board of Directors, World Stroke Organization
• Member , Board of Directors, World Hypertension League
• Co-Lead Africa-Europe CoRE in Non-Communicable Diseases & Multimorbidity, African Research Universities Alliance ARUA & The Guild
• Associate Editor, Stroke

• Dean, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, University of Ibadan (2018-2022)
• Honorary Consultant Neurologist, Department of Medicine, University College Hospital, PMB 5116, Ibadan, Nigeria, West Africa.

• Pioneer, WFNR-Blossom Specialist Medical Center, First Center for NeuroRehabilitation in East, West and Central Africa.

P. O. Box 30946, Secretariat Post Office, 200001 Ibadan, NIGERIA
Tel no. (Mobile) +234 (0)802 077 5595
+234 (0)807 849 6775

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