Student profile: Dr. Oluwasanmi Oladapo Adenaiye
Dr. Oluwasanmi Oladapo Adenaiye, known by most at the School of Public Health as “Dr. Sanmi,” is not your typical MPH student.
He arrived in Maryland in 2016 from Nigeria to study under Dr. Donald Milton. He is part of the CATCH the Virus influenza research study team led by Dr. Milton, and he wants to learn more about how the flu is spread.
Dr. Adenaiye was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, to an engineer father and university lecturer mother in the southern part of the African nation. He attended medical school at the University of Ilorin in the more densely populated northern part of the country.
During his medical school rotations, Dr. Adenaiye noticed patients and sometimes staff catching infections or diseases because of improper sanitation and other problems caused by people living in very close quarters.
“I would see a lot of healthcare providers at some point coming down with illness despite practicing proper protections,” he said. Those observations began to spark his interest in public health. “I realized there is so much that can be done in terms of preventing people from developing these types of diseases.”
When Dr. Adenaiye left school in 2013, he headed back to the southern part of the country, getting a job in the coastal city of Lagos. The move coincided with the beginnings of the Ebola outbreak that swept western Africa, mainly in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
As a first-year intern, Dr. Adenaiye was the first point of contact when new patients arrived at the hospital. As the epidemic began to spread, patients who had symptoms considered normal under ordinary circumstances became extraordinary to the staff, who which was on high alert.
“I don’t think I ever saw a patient who had Ebola, but you never knew,” he said.
Doctors would wear full protective gear when seeing new patients—but even being fully protected does not guarantee safety from the virus. And test results from patients suspected of the illness could take several days, if not weeks, he said.
“You could not just see but feel the fear in your colleagues, and you were just so unsure what was going to happen next,” he said. “Getting a cold would be like a horror – you begin to wonder whether or not anyone had the illness.”
Nigeria was not the most hard-hit country during the outbreak, but the experience solidified Dr. Adenaiye’s desire to learn more about public health, because of the impact it can have in preventing epidemics and other outbreaks from starting.
“True practices of public health will prevent someone from getting sick in the first place,” he said. “With true public health practices, we can prevent millions of people from getting sick, as opposed to clinical medicine, where you treat one person at a time.”
Dr. Adenaiye began researching academic programs, and first came across some of Dr. Milton’s research in a newspaper article. He then researched and read other studies and papers written by Dr. Milton. He was particularly interested in Dr. Milton’s research about the way architects can build buildings to minimize exposure to pathogens.
“The environment has an influence on everything,” Dr. Adenaiye said. “Some things you cannot control, but you can control your environment.”
Once he completes his Master’s degree, Dr. Adenaiye said he hopes to go on to earn a PhD before returning home to Nigeria. He wants to get more involved with vaccine development and designing new structures that limit disease transmission in hospitals, schools and other parts of the built environment.
“The battle against communicable disease is not over,” he said. “We need more resources allocated towards prevention, and not just prescriptions of antibiotics for infection.”