Just a few weeks after I resumed at the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Ghana, I took a tour of all the laboratories present in the facility. During this tour, I noticed a commemorative wall plaque in memory of Prof Mirian Ewurama Addy in the medicinal plant research laboratory. I had no clue about who she was though I figured that she must have been a great woman… Well, not until today.
As I cleaned up my work-space this evening, I had several things on my mind. I had memories of the inaugural lectures I had attended at the University of Benin, Nigeria and then there was the memorial lecture hosted by my department in honour of the life of a great woman scientist, Prof Addy, which was taking place and I knew I needed to attend.
Prof Addy was passionate about medicinal plant research, and she dedicated her career to investigating the scientific basis and validating claims made by traditional practitioners who used local herbal formulations to treat a variety of diseases. By so doing, she served as a bridge between town (the unlearned community) and gown (academia). With the aid of funds derived from her research, she acquired equipment that supported graduate teaching and research for many years at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Ghana where she mentored scientists who have excelled in their research careers.
Some years ago, one event which I eagerly looked forward to every Thursday by 4 pm was the inaugural lecture series organised by the University of Benin at the Akin Deko Auditorium. During this event, newly appointed professors of the university were given the opportunity to share their academic journey and the research they carried out that merited their professorship. Apart from making me versatile and helping me think outside the box, this afforded me the opportunity to think about my life and career path. I listened to stories of resilience, of people who held on when giving up was the easiest thing to do, people who made great sacrifices to be accomplished…and who emerged victoriously. The crowning moment for me was when the Vice Chancellor of the university robed the inaugural lecturer. It was simply glorious!
Back to Prof Addy’s memorial lecture, I sat back to listen to her first Masters student (who is now an accomplished lecturer and one-time Head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Ghana) recount with fondness his experiences and how this great woman influenced his research trajectory. As I listened, my mind drifted to a time far, far away…say twenty years from today. I tried to imagine standing behind the podium delivering a lecture on my journey as a research scientist and recollecting my achievements. I also imagined I was watching with all-seeing eyes as my mentees delivered speeches on how much of an influence I had made in their lives and careers. This is exactly what Stephen Covey talked about in “the seven habits of highly successful people”: beginning with the end in mind. I wondered how easy it is for us to get so busy in the flow of our everyday activities that we fail to realise that our daily actions have far-reaching consequences.
As I write this piece, I ask myself what legacy I would leave behind when I complete my PhD programme in Ghana. I wonder how many lives I had impacted on while I served as a Lecturer at the University of Benin. Looking beyond my career, because life is much more than that, I wonder what impact I am making in the lives of the people I meet every day. I firmly believe that a life lived for self is not just an empty one, but a wasted one.
I hope this piece makes us think critically about our daily actions and makes us sit back, evaluate and re-strategise so that we can live more impactfully.
Categories: My PhD Experience