Interview

An Interview With Christabel Ekpenyong- The Woman Who Graduated As One Of The Best In Her Department After Being Withdrawn From Medical School

   

Last year December, we published the story of how Christabel Ekpenyong was withdrawn from medical school because she failed her exams, even when she had a resit.

She started all over again and still struggled. A turn around came for her grades between the year 2015 and 2016.

Between 2016 and 2017, despite health challenges, she graduated as one of the top five in her department.

In an interview with Sola Abe of woman.ng, Christabel shares the journey to being a graduate, and also one of the best in her department.

About her

My name is Christabel Ekpenyong, the last child of Professor L.E Ekpenyong. More importantly, I’m a child of God.

How she feels being one of the top 5 in her department despite the challenges she encountered

I’m happy about it, even though the plan was to “carry first” (lol). Grateful to God for his grace upon me.

On being evicted from medical school

Hmm…. I was admitted into Medical school during the 2008/2009 academic session. I started well in 100 level, even though I kept feeling alone, I still managed to have a few good grades. But towards the end of 100level, I just kept feeling out of place and started wondering if Medicine was my calling. In 200level it was a different ball game, as we were introduced to anatomy, physiology, and medical biochemistry. At this point, I felt lost, confused and overwhelmed. It was at this point my beloved mother died (March 13, 2010). I was completely devastated and started skipping classes. In the 2010/2011 academic session, I wrote MBBS and failed woefully. I had to repeat the year. Well, I failed again and had to be withdrawn.

Her parent’s reaction to it

My dad was on sabbatical and I kept giving him the impression that I was doing well. This was easy because I have always been a star student from kindergarten through to secondary school. But like they say, one cannot lie forever. The truth came out when I was at the point of being withdrawn. It was around this period that someone called my dad to ask him if he’s aware of what’s going on. He called my siblings (who were not in Benin City at the time) to quickly reach out to me. In less than a month he was back from his sabbatical leave and I could feel the shock and disappointment each time he looked at me. However, through it all, he supported me, as well as my siblings.

If she ever thought of giving up

Oh yes, several times. But God kept me going. Starting all over again was not a choice but a necessity. Medicine gone, I had to choose the next best alternative. My dad bought me a car to encourage me…. Somewhat of an incentive to motivate me.

On why she chose Clinical Biochemistry

I always had a flair for Clinical Biochemistry. Even when I failed Anatomy and Physiology during my MBBS exam, I managed to pass Clinical Biochemistry. So, I went with my dad to meet the then Dean of Basic medical sciences, UNIBEN (Prof. Ibe). After all said and done, I was transferred to my new department.

On why she had poor grades even after she started again

I started from 200level in my new department (not from 100level since it’s also a medical course). It was bad for me because it was still within the College of Medicine and Basic Medical Sciences. So I was still seeing most of my old course mates in medicine. I put up a brave face most of the time but I was dying inside. I started feeling that maybe I shouldn’t even be in the Sciences after all. I slipped into depression and ended up with poor grades. My GP was a mess at this point, but I managed to move to 300level. At this point I was wondering how I would combine my carryovers with the new course work. I started skipping classes again and even started avoiding the few friends I had. As expected, I failed woefully. I couldn’t even meet up with the required credits to move to final year. So I was placed on probation. That meant I had to repeat 300level.

On probation year and how the turnaround happened

During the probation year, somebody told me, “Christabel you need to wake up and stop wallowing in self pity otherwise you will fail again and it will be a miracle if you even get a third class”. That triggered the horrendous fighter in me. I went to my course adviser and begged him not to tell my dad about my probation that I will work hard and get good grades. I also met with some other lecturers I knew he would be able to get info from and begged them for the same favor. Surprisingly, they agreed. So while my family thought I was in 400level, I was actually repeating 300level. Suddenly, God endowed me with boldness that I never thought I had. I usually walked boldly into my lecturers’ offices to seek their help in areas that were difficult for me. I also formed a discussion group and we had fixed days to discuss what we read. The rule was to never skip classes and to read everyday even if it’s just for an hour or two. I also started meeting ‘destiny helpers’ who pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits. By the end of the first semester in my probation year, I had 4As out of six courses in the first semester. That was the turnaround. Nobody expected it, save for those who knew I was serious. My result shook the department and the news spread like wild fire even beyond my department. At the end of my probation year, I fell so in love with my studies and I had a total of 9As. After this, my course adviser went with me to confess to my father all that happened…. Dad wasn’t so mad because I had proved myself at this point.

An insight into what happened in her final year. The health challenges and how she scaled through to becoming one of the best in her department

After my successful probation year, I was promoted to final year (400level) in flying colors. At this point, too many people were expecting too much from me. I was under so much pressure that I broke down. First, I started having stress-induced asthma, then anxiety, for which I was placed on Diazepam. Then malaria set in, I treated it with levity and didn’t complete my medication. As such, I had a relapse and it was a battle because I reacted to a drug and had a mild seizure. On another occasion, I was administered pain relievers and had another adverse drug reaction (swollen eyes). But in all of these, God was with me. My family and friends showed me love all the way and I still managed to have 7As out of the 11 courses in my final year.

On the life lessons she learnt from her experiences

One thing I have learnt throughout this journey is that God can lift you up from the deepest pit as long as u stay humble and work hard. These days I always tell myself that as long as God is with me, if I can’t do it, then it can’t be done!

It’s never too late for God to change your story. But you have to be willing to work according to His will and not by your power. Pick up yourself and dust off the failure. YOU CAN DO IT

 

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