In a two-hour chat with Africa Informer publisher, Ike Onwuka-Smarty, in the conference room of his Nellis Boulevard Medical Center, one of six locations in Nevada, Godwin Maduka, the highly intelligent, cerebral and erudite scholar, visionary medical scientist and astute franchise owner, all rolled in one, bared his soul on difficult early childhood in eastern Nigeria, challenges in his quest for education in Nigeria and America, fate and faith, his gratitude to America and his love for Africa, in this first part of a serialized discuss.
Godwin Maduka is a man who expresses himself at will, with a candid, ebullient innocence that both astonishes and endears him to you, bellying his level of academic prowess and managerial success.
For him, many see the success in material terms only, but he is much more profound than that. His educational achievements, his contributions to the medical profession in America his adopted home and the excellent health care delivery his medical franchise contributes to the world of medicare, are sometimes unwittingly buried in the accolades of a very successful medical practice, that some tend to look at basically from the rather myopic perspective of material wealth.
But one man who appreciates his contribution to medicine in Nevada is Mr. Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commissioner for District A and Chair of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, who gave glowing remarks at the certificate presentation and official opening of the 6th franchise location of the Las Vegas Pain Institute & Medical Center, in Blue Diamond.
Education has always been and continues to be the foundation of his personality and success. He wants his arduous journey to acquire education to be an inspiration to the youth, especially in his place of birth, Nigeria.
His string of academic achievements attest to his voracious appetite for knowledge acquisition and brilliance. This is also a pointer to his ability to function in many diverse roles simultaneously. His upbringing in his home village Umuchkwu prepared, him for the challenges that would later color his path in America the land that has brought him fame and fortune.
Perhaps what unconsciously makes many perceive Dr. Godwin Maduka as a man of wealth, before relating him to his intimidating academic prowess, is that he cuts the image of a successful Wall street financial executive, in his designer suit, designer watch, gold rings
and designer shoes, rather than the image of the quintessential doctor, in casual scrubs or white medical coat with stethoscope hanging around the neck.
But he says “ I have always loved learning. It comes easily to me, even as a child. It is natural to me, I can comprehend,analyze even as young as I was in those days.”
Difficult childhood prepared me for life’s challenges.
Growing up in the eastern part of Nigeria was quite difficult for young Godwin. His early basic education was delayed because of the Nigeria / Biafra civil war that lasted between 1967 and 1970, most of which was fought in the Biafran enclave in eastern Nigeria.
This wasted his first four years of education, making him start at the age of 10 instead of 6 years. But he was not deterred, he loved school and he recalls his first years of primary education when they learnt English, Algebra and other subjects writing on slates ( Black 12 inches by 8 inches flat boards) with white chalks.
“ I loved school so much that I was always studious as a child and it always paid off, because all through my primary and high schools I was tops in my class.”
His father who as an herbalist, treated people with various ailments from herbs plucked from the forest, but the proceeds from his occupation and that of his mother who sold some of the family farm’s produce on market days, were hardly enough for he and his 8 other siblings to get education to a maximum level.
“ In my first year in high at Nawfia Comprehensive School Amobi-Awka, I was tops in all the classes combined. That is like a total of 240 pupils, I scored higher than any other pupil. My father was so proud of me. I also felt so proud of myself and I think that was the first time it crossed my mind that I might have been blessed with the gift of academic brilliance.”
His beloved dad, whom he refers to as “ a gentle giant, who was always full of humor and never raised his voice against anyone”, developed chest pains that became constant, forcing the family to move from the relatively more urban Amobi- Awka, to his home village Umuchukwu, which is further hinterland. This necessitated his continuing his schooling at the nearest high school to his village in Umunze about seven kilometers away.
Every weekend he trekked back to his village to contribute his own quota to the important chores that would ensure his school fees were paid. These included tending the family’s farm along with his siblings as well as climbing palm trees to fetch palm nuts that would be pounded and squeezed to produce palm oil for sales at the market, that they trekked to, carrying the wares on the head.
“It was quite difficult, but it also prepared me to be tough and resilient. If a child is taught early in life to engage, to know that if you don’t engage in certain things for survival, no one will do it for you. It helps you develop skills, you develop perseverance, you develop tolerance, you develop faith, because at a certain point you have to learn how to pray. My parents brought us up to go to church at a very early age, so I have a lot of faith in God”.
Godwin’s father suffered a lot from his chest pains. It was the same chest pains that led to the demise of his grandmother, so watching his father suffer, young Godwin always wondered what caused so much pain and he wished he was a doctor who could diagnose the problem and treat him. This was when the first seeds of his dream of becoming a medical doctor were sown in his young mind.
While in his final year in high school, his father passed on. It was very traumatic for him, because was so close to his dad that he even left school to stay with him in the hospital, along with his elder brother and mother, for a while.
His father’s demise was a harsh blow and it really affected the family emotionally and financially. However, his academic brilliance and his love for education were his solace. He passed his WASC/GCE (West Africa School Certificate), the high school leaving certificate at the time, in flying colors with distinction. He also wrote and passed JAMB examination (Joint Admission and Matriculation Board), the university admission examination in Nigeria. He was given admission to study Medicine at the University of Port Harcourt, in Nigeria’s oil rich Rivers state.
But funds to pay the fees were not readily available
Back then, there was a cousin of Godwin’s, that had the fortune of being sent to the United States for further studies through contributions from the whole village, with the hope that when he settles down he would sponsor the next person to join him. So while trying to figure out how to pay his fees to start medical school at the University of Port Harcourt, fate or providence played its hand in Godwin Maduka’s life.
“ I never dreamt of or planned coming to America all my life at that point. My cousin that the whole village including my father had contributed money to send to the US, sent down a bunch of admission forms from Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he was teaching at the time. to his younger brother who was my closest friend then. While we were joking around I saw the forms and asked him what it was, and he explained to me so I told him to give me one so I could try my luck. He gave me and I dashed home to fill and return to him.
On my way back to his place, I lost the form in the vehicle I used and I asked him for another which he obliged me.
As fate will have it I filled the forms and sent to Rust College and was offered admission. “ Then came the familiar problem of raising money for tuition fees. But it seemed that he was destined for the US, because his younger brother Hyacinth was to come to his rescue. He refers to his brother affectionately;
“ Hyacinth is my immediate younger brother, we were quite close, hunting for rabbits together, going to farm together, playing pranks together and even fighting together. But he made a sacrifice as a younger brother when he was a teenager that was amazing. He told the family that since I was the one who was more brilliant, he would not go to high school so that I could be sent, so he preferred to learn a trade as an auto body work, technician. He then moved to Abuja, then Nigerian capital, which was just being developed in the early 80s.”
For me I knew that the only way out of poverty was to acquire the best form of education in life, because it gives you a solid foundation to start off, the more education you get, the better your chances of success in life. I knew it back then, so when the opportunity to get the best of education in the United States came I was not discouraged by the lack of money, rather I was spurred on by the conviction that it is my gate way out of poverty and I struggled, traveling all over and appealing to people to assist me to get here. Education pays whether here in America or in Nigeria, my candid advice to every youth is to make sure that they get education by all means possible.
It was Hyacinth who was again instrumental to the realization of Godwin Maduka’s quest for education in theGodwin needed N7,000, which was about $15,000, in 1981, to take care of tuition and BTA (Basic travel allowance and other costs). “Hyacinth had just N5,001, in his savings, he withdrew all and gave to me. Then there was this man in my village who hardly helped people, he gave me N2,000, another relative of mine who was then in the Nigerian Air force gave me N600, so also some other people in the village who contributed to my coming to America. For me I knew that the only way out of poverty was to acquire the best form of education in life, because it gives you a solid foundation to start off, the more education you get, the better your chances of success in life. I knew it back then, so when the opportunity to get the best of education in the United States came I was not discouraged by the lack of money, rather I was spurred on by the conviction that it is my gate way out of poverty and I struggled, traveling all over and appealing to people to assist me to get here. Education pays whether here in America or in Nigeria, my candid advice to every youth is to make sure that they get education by all means possible. I never forgot the sacrifice my younger brother made to see me come here, it was most selfless, because that move was to later cripple his young business that he had to close shop and return to the village. I later built homes for everyone who were instrumental to my sojourn, including the man who gave me N2,100. I am training a child of his here in the US.”
AMAZING EDUCATIONAL STRIDES IN THE US
Godwin Maduka’s academic brilliance manifested the moment he landed in Rust College. Due to his voracious appetite for knowledge he had read up volumes of books during his spare time.
“ I love reading” he says. “ If I don’t understand it the first time, I will go over it again and again till it becomes clear to me” His brilliance was to confound his lecturers and the faculty at Rust College when he got there.
“ When I got to Rust College in Mississippi, to study Chemistry, I discovered that I had a vast knowledge of what the courses in the freshman year were and I told them so. They decided to test me and I passed the freshman examinations within one week with 100% scores, to the admiration of everybody.
Again I was tested for the sophomore examinations and again I passed with 100% scores within a week. It was phenomenal. I ended up finishing my 4-year degree program in Chemistry at Rust College within 18 months “
After graduation from Rust college, Godwin Maduka took the PCAT exams within a month and passed. He got into Mercer University School of Pharmacy in Atlanta Geogia, for his Doctorate degree in Pharmacy. In four years he got his Doctor of Pharmacy degree by June 1988.
“ I got 8 admissions into medical schools, but University of Tennessee called and offered me full scholarship, even though I did not apply there, but due to my high scores and the fact that I am a minority. They had a policy at the time which gave opportunity to minorities who were brilliant to study on scholarship. I am indebted to this country America and also indebted to the National Black Caucus who had made the University of Tennessee start up a program back then to make sure brilliant minorities and disadvantaged people were given an opportunity to study on scholarship and graduate them”.
On completing his doctorate in Pharmacy, he sat for the MCAT exams for Medical School. His academic brilliance was to play another major role in his quest for medical school admission. He scored one of the highest points at the MCAT test and he got 8 invitations from various medical schools for admission, but it was the University of Tennessee Medical School that he finally attended for his Doctor of Medicine studies, despite the fact that he did not apply there. The University wrote to offer him full scholarship, based on his outstanding scores at the MCAT exams.
“ I got 8 admissions into medical schools, but University of Tennessee called and offered me full scholarship, even though I did not apply there, but due to my high scores and the fact that I am a minority. They had a policy at the time which gave opportunity to minorities who were brilliant to study on scholarship. I am indebted to this country America and also indebted to the National Black Caucus who had made the University of Tennessee start up a program back then to make sure brilliant minorities and disadvantaged people were given an opportunity to study on scholarship and graduate them. By 1993, I became a doctor of Pharmacy and a doctor of Medicine.I then applied to Harvard for my medical school.”
On his way to Harvard for the medical school interview, a near death situation made him reaffirm his fate in God, that he had a purpose to fulfill in life and nothing could stop it.
“I am a man of faith. I believe in God, because if certain things have happened to you in life, your faith is always reaffirmed. I remember that as a young kid, I had fallen down from palm trees seven times. Falling from a height of 30-40 feet as a child and not getting killed seven times! it affected my growth though because I was later discovered to have stunted spine due to the constant falls from the palm tree and this affected my growth. So even at the near death experience on my way to the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, I had faith that God was not yet finished with me, I knew that I did not come all the way from Africa to be killed in a blizzard without fulfilling my calling.” continues next issue.