#UMMCGrad19: Nigeria-born SON graduate has big plans to open pediatric clinic in home country
Published on Monday, May 20, 2019
By: Kate Royals
Olubusola Hall’s dream of becoming a nurse can be traced back to three children: her own daughter and son Fumilayo and Adewale, and a Nigerian boy named Praise.
Hall met Praise on her first trip back to visit family in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, where she lived until she was nine years old.
“The whole story starts with him,” Hall said, recalling when she first met him in 2016. He was seven years old at the time, sitting in a small plastic bucket taking a bath. He was surrounded by trash and filth but beaming a big, bright smile. Hall still tears up remembering that moment.
The next day Praise cut his finger on a rusty can, so Hall took out her first aid kit.
“I said, ‘What’s your name?’ and he said ‘Praise,’ while crying. So I cleaned it up and put some antibiotic ointment on it and put a band aid around his finger. He said, ‘oh, thank you,’ and gave me a big hug,” she remembered.
Out of curiosity, she asked Praise what he normally does when he gets hurt.
“He said ‘I don’t go anywhere, we pray,’” she said. “I said ‘I’m a strong believer in prayer, but sometimes, Praise, we need to go to the doctor.’”
She asked the driver to take her to the nearest pediatric clinic, and soon discovered the closest clinics were in the upscale area of Victoria Island – and unaffordable for children like Praise.
“Other than being born and some immunizations here and there, many children in Nigeria never see the doctor,” she said.
Hall decided then she needed to figure out a way to give back.
“I’m a firm believer that when God blesses you with things, you give back. I don’t care where you are, you give back,” she said.
So she devised a plan. She bought some land near Lagos, returned to Mississippi and enrolled in the nurse practitioner program at UMMC.
“You could call it putting the carriage before the horse, but I told my husband I’m going to open a clinic in Nigeria. I feel like this is where God wants me to take this,” she said.
Hall hopes to get a job at UMMC after finishing school but open the clinic in Nigeria seasonally. Eventually, she said, she has two goals: move home to operate the clinic full-time and adopt Praise, who is currently being raised by his grandmother.
While they may seem like insurmountable goals to some, Hall’s track record of accomplishing what she sets out to do – no matter how challenging – is solid.
The path to nurse practitioner
Since her family moved her and her two brothers to Chicago when she was nine years old, Hall has used every opportunity she’s been given – and created her own in incredibly difficult situations.
Hall, who is set to graduate from the University of Mississippi School of Nursing’s Acute/Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program, is the first in her family to obtain a degree beyond a high school diploma.
Hall grew up without her mother, who went back to Nigeria a few months after the family moved and was unable to return until Hall was 21 years old.
Her father, who drove cabs in Chicago, was not home often. Through three brutal Chicago winters, she and her brothers lived in a home without heat and hot water. Often there was little food.
“There were times when my brother and I would cook sugar to eat, trying to make candy,” she said.
She and her brothers were bullied terribly at school for their strange accents and different clothes.
“We would try to go to thrift stores and buy clothes that looked like (other students’),” Hall remembered, but nothing worked to stop their torment.
Hall used all of it – the bullying, the hunger, the cold and the strangeness of a new country – to make herself stronger.
“I used it as ‘You’ve been through this and you’ve been through that, suck it up and keep going,’” she said.
She moved with her older brother Oluwaseun and his wife to Jackson her sophomore year of high school and graduated from Wingfield two years later, planning to go straight to college.
But after enrolling at Jackson State University, she quickly realized she couldn’t afford tuition, books and other living expenses, despite her job at a pizza restaurant. She was barred from receiving scholarships because of citizenship status.
“I went in the bookstore thinking I would be able to buy all my books, and I had enough to buy one. It was either biology or math,” she said. “I went to one of my professors just crying. Unfortunately I had to drop out.”
She continued working at the pizza shop and hired a lawyer in New Orleans to help with her citizenship. Two years later, she met her husband Dewayne. When they married about a year later, she became a full-time stepmother to his two young children Tamera and Dewayne Jr. Despite her new responsibilities, she didn’t lose sight of her ultimate goal: to get to college.
“When we got married, I told (my husband) ‘I want to go back to school,’ and he said ‘Oh, now’s not really the best time,’” so she waited. After two years being a full-time mom to her stepchildren, she had her daughter Fumilayo, who she soon discovered had sickle cell disease.
Every patient ‘carved in their heart’
That would be the beginning of her interactions with the University of Mississippi Medical Center – and the spark that began her quest to become a nurse. Terrified and completely unfamiliar with sickle cell disease, she began bringing Fumilayo to the Children’s Cancer Clinic. She remembers how comforted she felt by the nurses and doctors who answered all of her questions and assuaged her fears.
“The first day I felt like we formed a bond” with the staff, she remembered. Now that she’s 15 years old, they only visit once a year, but the nurses still remember her.
“When she was little we used to call her Little Mae Mae and even today, that’s what they call her,” she said. “Every kid is carved in their heart. To this day every time I walk my daughter in there I feel special. The care that they give their patients, my daughter included, it just makes me want to be that type of nurse and provider.”
Hall continued taking care of her daughter and working in a managerial position at a bank. At 25, she gave birth to her son, Adewale. She was now a working mom of four children.
Around 3, Adewale had a serious asthma attack. During the attack, he spoke his first full sentence: “Dad, please help me.”
Hall and her husband rushed their son, who they call Wale, to the nearest emergency department. There, they were told the doctors would be intubating her son, but Hall didn’t think that was necessary. He was then transferred to the pediatric emergency department at UMMC, where Dr. Catherine Faulk, associate professor of pediatric emergency medicine, reassured Hall her son would not be intubated and “was going to be OK.”
Hall said after that experience, she knew the pediatric ED was where she wanted to work.
“I went in there and said, ‘OK, this is something I want to be a part of,’” she remembers.
Fast forward six years and Hall is a nurse on the night shift in the pediatric ED. When her children were young, she quit her managerial job at a bank and enrolled at Hinds Community College, completing her associate’s degree and becoming president of Phi Theta Kappa, the largest honor society for two-year college students.
While at Hinds, she also received the prestigious HEADWAE award, a program established by the Mississippi Legislature to honor academically talented students and exception faculty members of colleges and universities. This led to a full scholarship to Mississippi College, where she completed nursing school and continued excelling, becoming president of both the alumni chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and the school’s Student Nurses Association. She also acted as the Breakthrough to Nursing Director for the Mississippi Association for Student Nurses.
Her colleagues and professors describe her as a hardworking, soulful, engaged nurse with a bright smile and personality.
“She takes the extra time to really talk (to families) and understand their personal situations to individualize their care,” Dr. Michelle Goreth, lead nurse practitioner in the School of Medicine’s Division of Pediatric Surgery and instructor in the School of Nursing, said. “I know she stayed late to talk to a mom who was having trouble breastfeeding, and then in the ICU she was talking with a patient and family and realized there was a social barrier to why she was having to come back to the hospital so much.”
Hall brought the issue to the attention of the team, and the knowledge made the health care they delivered far more effective.
“She has an amazing ability to connect with families and make them feel extremely comfortable where they can confide in her,” Goreth said.
Skye Stoker, director of the Office of Patient Experience, hired Hall in her first job at UMMC as a tech in the pediatric ED.
“She is a gift to nursing, is equally strong and humble by nature, and has abounding optimism and intelligence to see visions and plans come forward into real world effort,” Stoker said. “She will continue to do impactful things – on a global scale, no doubt.”