DT: How does it feel being the overall best graduating student?
Asmau: I am still not sure how I feel about this. It is overwhelming. I knew I had the best scores in some courses but being the best graduating student is something I’m still finding difficult to process.
DT: So, you never expected to graduate with such outstanding result?
Asmau: Medical students do not really think of their graduation the way other students think of theirs. We write four professional exams throughout med school. Firstly, the MBBS professional exams in Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry. Secondly, MBBS professional exams in Pathology, Pharmacology and Medical Microbiology and then Part 1 of the final MBBS exams in Pediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynecology and then the Part 2 final MBBS in Surgery, Internal Medicine and Community Medicine.
Passing each of these exams is technically graduating from those courses, so the final exam doesn’t feel that much different. I did not really have any expectations. My approach to any exam was, “Lord, please let me pass and become a medical doctor.”
DT: How hard did you have to study to achieve this result?
Asmau: I can’t really say. I just study whenever I can. The closest thing to a study schedule I used was a list of all the topics I needed to cover before an exam.
DT: What proved to be the most challenging part while you were studying medicine?
Asmau: The greatest challenges I faced in school were procrastination, self-doubt, and anxiety. The first step to achieving anything is to believe you can do it and this is something I still have to remind myself almost every day.
DT: What sort of attention did being one of the smartest students in school come with?
Asmau: We were just doing what we had to do, we did not have time to really think of who’s smarter than who. And from day one, our lecturers kept telling us we are all smart, that was why we could get into med school. So, there was really no attention to handle. The most attention you’ll get is maybe on the class WhatsApp group when a test or exam result is out. And most of the time, nobody even feels smart. There are just too many things we still don’t know. We are medical doctors today because we’ve proven to our examiners that we are safe enough to deal with human lives, not because we are experts in any particular branch of medicine.
DT: Did you always aspire to become a medical doctor?
Asmau: I have always wanted to be a medical doctor. In primary school, it was because I believed doctors were superheroes. In junior secondary school, it was because I thought it would make me cool (I believed that is what smart people do). In senior secondary school, because I could hear my sister, Dr. Hamida Belko, complaining about anatomy and all those weird names of muscles that sounded cool to me. I understood what being a medical doctor really is when I was already in med school, and it just made me love it even more.
DT: How has your family contributed to your success?
Asmau: Without my family; parents, husband, siblings, aunties, uncles and in-laws, I couldn’t have done this. They gave me every kind of support I needed. I am immensely grateful for everything they have done for me; their prayers, words of encouragement, everything.
DT: With the scholarship you have been awarded for your postgraduate studies, what do you intend to study and where?
Asmau: I am not sure yet. I am just praying for the best.
DT: What else would you have studied if not medicine?
Asmau: For a few months in secondary school, I wanted to study mathematics. Solving maths problems gave me joy. There was a time I used to solve maths problems whenever I was bored. I don’t even know what happened to that.
DT: What do you do in your free time?
Asmau: I read novels, tweet, sleep, chat with friends and family or watch old movies
DT: What advice do you have for students who find it tough to cope with their studies?
Asmau: Read hard and pray even harder. In the end, make sure you can look back and say, “At least I tried my best” no matter what happens.