60 seconds with Dr Mininim Oseji

October is Black History Month in the UK, an annual observance that celebrates and reflects on Black history, arts and culture, as well as recognising the achievements and roles of Black people in shaping history. LSHTM is committed to fostering a supportive, enabling and inclusive environment, where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, and where there is equality of opportunity for all regardless of characteristics or background.

Dr Mininim Oseji is the Permanent Secretary for the Delta State Ministry of Health in Asaba, Nigeria. She is also the National President for the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria (MWAN). She recently shared her incredible COVID-19 story with us, describing her work to aid the pandemic response in Nigeria. She has completed four LSHTM courses, most recently the Diploma in Health Systems Management graduating in 2007. To celebrate Black History Month, we asked her some quick fire questions!

What is your role and what does it involve?

Permanent Secretary, Delta State Ministry of Health, Asaba, Nigeria.
My role involves advising the Honourable Commissioner for Health on various aspects of the health sector. I supervise the directors of the seven departments in the Ministry of Health. I assist in providing the oversight function of the parastatals of the health sector. Also, I am the Chief Accounting Officer of the Ministry and sign the financial documents.

National President, Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria.
My role here is Chief Administrative Officer of the association. I supervise the general affairs and as mandated by the National Executive Council, preside at all meetings. I sign all legal documents as authorised by the executive for the transaction of any official business of the association. I make appointments as specified in the constitution and make such other appointments as needed to implement the action of the executive. I also represent the association at meetings with other organisations.

Where are you based?
Asaba, Delta State in Southern Nigeria.

How long have you worked there (and what was your previous job)?
I have worked in my role as Permanent Secretary since December 2016. I was previously Permanent Secretary/Executive Director of Delta State Primary Health Care Development Agency in Asaba – one of the parastatals in the health sector.

What is a typical day for you?

As Permanent Secretary, I arrive at the office and sign the attendance book, exchange pleasantries with the staff in my office, look at my to-do list and check off activities as they are successfully implemented. I carry out routine actions on files and mails minuted to my office, and meet with the Honourable Commissioner to discuss and strategise on matters affecting the health sector. I meet with various directors to provide guidance on projects and programmes, and attend meetings organised by any of the parastatals in the health sector as well as our development partners. I attend many events to which top government functionaries have been invited, review current research activities, correspond with colleagues and staff, inspect the on-going or completed projects in health facilities and sign cheques for the release of funds to individuals or organisations. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I work mostly from home and most meetings are organised virtually.

In my role as National President, most activities are online. It involves circulating relevant messages through our MWAN National WhatsApp and Telegram platforms, following up on action points of meetings as well as assignments given to the executive members of the associations. There are numerous virtual programmes of the National Secretariat and State Branches which I regularly attend, usually presenting some remarks. I also facilitate several Continuing Medical Education programmes, often presenting lectures to build the capacity of our members and other participants. Where relevant, I present position statements on relevant topics and addresses to celebrate selected World Days. When we have physical meetings, like National Executive Council meetings, there are a lot of activities carried out to plan for the meeting. I write proposals for funding and applications for ethical approval for our research projects. I also analyse data collected from projects and research for presentation and publication. I facilitate the production of our publications like newsletters and books of proceedings.

Tell us about a project you are currently working on?

Male involvement in Maternal and Child Health. In this project, we advocate to get males from all walks of life to commit to Maternal and Child Health and become one of our male champions. We have decorated eight males so far including the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Promoting, accelerated, and progress.

What is your favourite thing about working there?

My favourite thing about working as Permanent Secretary is having the power to make a positive difference in the health of the people of Delta State.

My favourite thing about working as National President is the ability to motivate State Branches to adopt and domesticate innovative programmes that are initiated by the National Secretariat.

What is your proudest career achievement?

Contributing to the implementation of the free maternal health care programme in Delta State including Maternal and Perinatal Death Response Surveillance. 

What does Black History Month mean to you?

It reminds me of all the success stories of Africans in Diaspora and the efforts some have made to improve the lives of other Africans in their home countries.

In May 2008, I participated in the 17th Annual Africa/Diaspora Conference at the California State University, Sacramento, USA, where I presented a paper titled ‘Mentoring Female Youths in the Niger Delta’. I became interested in skills transfer from Nigerian and African Health Workers in Diaspora to those in their home countries. Establishment of patient support groups for mental illness and cancer is an important area that I have been seeking skills transfer for. After several short courses and a Masters Course in the UK, I published a book titled ‘Maximizing the Benefits of Foreign Education: A memoir of my experience studying abroad as an International Student from a developing country’ in 2012. I was inspired to write the book by challenges faced when attempting to translate foreign education into development of home societies. In 2015, I gave a short presentation at the Annual Conference of Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christians which took place in Birmingham UK and encouraged participants to key into the Adopt Your Own Village Project to make a difference, particularly in the health sector. Whenever I meet someone with the same vision, I know there is hope for improvement of the lives of Africans.

What three words would you use to describe Black History Month?

Black is Beautiful.

Are there any influential Black role models in your life?

Yes, Condoleezza Rice – Former Secretary of State USA, Dora Akunyili – Former Director-General Nigeria Agency for Food and Drug Control, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – Former Minister of Finance in Nigeria and Eleanor Nwadinobi- the first Nigerian President of the Medical Women’s International Association.

“When I’m not working I am…”

Watching old movies.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Cool, calm and calculated.

What is your favourite book?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

What is your favourite joke?

Quote from Clare Huxtable in Cosby Show: “We have planted roses but we keep getting these weeds.”

What is your favourite place?

London.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

That I am a fan of the Royal Family and attended the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011 in London with my first Daughter, Sharon.

If you are an alumnus and would like to be highlighted in Black History Month, please email alumni@lshtm.ac.uk.

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