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Entrepreneurial Lessons from Giants: Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh
Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh | 27 October 1956 – 19 August 2014
Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh was a human version of the missile defence system which protected Nigeria from the attack of the Ebola epidemic in 2014. She was an endocrinologist working at the First Consultant Hospital, where she met Nigeria's Ebola virus index patient – Liberian Patrick Sawyer. At that time the Ebola virus had killed more than 4,500 in West Africa and running wild in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Worse still, the Nigerian medical doctors were on an industrial strike which would have fostered a disaster if she had discharged and allowed the index case into the country. She did not. Instead, she heroically prevented the index case from leaving the hospital after she correctly diagnosed him of having the disease. With a population of approximately 180 million (the most populous black country in the world) at the time of the outbreak in 2014, successfully preventing Nigeria from the attack also substantially saved the continent from being ravaged by the epidemic. She eventually contacted the virus from the index case and died on August 19, 2014. The paragraphs below explain the entrepreneurial lessons in the critical steps that she took to prevent the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
Outline of Entrepreneurial Lessons of Her Heroism
Although there are more entrepreneurial lessons in the heroism of late Dr Adadevoh, I have identified only seven character-traits that gave her success and elevated her to posthumous stardom. These are:
- Attention to details
- Alertness and speedy response
- Inspirational leadership
- High-quality decision making
It is selflessness rather than the selfishness that promotes productivity and output. Even though there is a self-interestedness factor in entrepreneurial activities, it is the connectedness to other people in terms of value that they will benefit from that gives businesses its leverage. The same consideration is evident even in the workplace. Dr Adadevoh demonstrated much of that in serving the country with life beyond the walls of her hospital. She committed her life to the pursuit of the greater public good. Even when she could focus mostly on her primary assignments, she always took it upon herself to notify the government and related public health officials of an outbreak that could have far-reaching health implications for the public. Apart from that of the Ebola virus outbreak, she was the one who first notified Nigeria’s Ministry of Health of the spread of H1N1 in 2012. Even in the case of Ebola, she had the options of promptly discharging the index patient in response to diplomatic pressure from the Liberian government as well as to protect her hospital from further contamination. She could as well have referred the patient to any of the public hospitals where the virus could have easily replicated and spread. She did not do any of these to protect the entire country. When entrepreneurs rigorously factor in the greater good of the public in their product and service designs, the results are usually positively phenomenal.
Attention to details
Albeit the zero-experiential knowledge of the Ebola disease by the Nigerian medical community at the time, she relied on the information available to her to conduct an impeccable medical examination of the index case. Her comprehensive assessment of the index case must have required rigorous compliance with the full procedure of such tests and investigation. She was not misguided by the patient's denial of any contact with anybody who had the virus. She also did not mistake the ailment for malaria infection as many health professionals in Nigeria would do at first contact. Wholesome business conduct always requires outstanding attention to details in virtually every aspect of the enterprise. Poor attention to specifics always results in defective products and bad strategies.
Alertness and speedy response
It is a well-known truth that alertness to opportunities and speedily responding to it is one distinguishing feature of great entrepreneurs. Dr Adadevoh demonstrated rare attentiveness in the discovery of a genocide-deflecting chance. It was an opportunity to save hundreds of millions of humans on planet Earth. Because of her alertness, she correctly identified the presence of the virus in the index case and speedily moved to prevent its spread. First, she stopped the index patient from leaving the hospital. Even with the lack of protective equipment, she created an isolation area by using wooden barricade outside of the door to the index case. Second, she alerted the Lagos State Ministry of Health who unleashed its apparatus for preventing the spread of the virus. Like a hungry hunting lion, business entrepreneurs should always look out for profit-making opportunities. Otherwise, such opportunities may just easily fall into another person's hands.
Single-minded and unswerving
One trait that appears to run in the DNA of every excellent entrepreneur is the fixation of the eyes on the ball. Unwavering focus on performance goals underscores the achievement of expected results in most instances. Adadevoh was so focused on the prevention of the outbreak in Nigeria that she vehemently turned down the request by Sawyer's employers as well as the Liberian ambassador to Nigeria to have him discharged so that he could catch a flight to Calabar. Even the denial by the patient that he was never in contact with any person with the disease in his home country of Liberia could not sway her resolve to protect the country Nigeria. The single most important goal of any business is to make as much profit as possible. It is an entrepreneurially wholesome act to pursue that goal with an unwavering single mind.
Notwithstanding that all the previously discussed traits of Dr Adadevoh point to her professionalism, the subject of her professionalism nevertheless deserves more attention. Professionalism is the exercise of self-discipline to govern the use of one’s competencies and skills to deliver on assigned tasks and goals. First, the profundity of her self-discipline in complying with the rigorous processes of assessment and investigation resulted in her conduct of the impeccable evaluation of the index patient even when no prior experience existed. Secondly, it was on record that Dr Adadevoh had an unwavering commitment to the Hippocratic oath. That commitment is so ingrained in her innermost self that she visibly hung its letters on her consulting room as a constant reminder to live and practice by it. In much sense, the Hippocratic oath represented the core values and the compass that guided her practice of medicine. Excellent entrepreneurs also rely on a set of principles that self-disciplines them to focus on achieving what they have decided to actualise.
Her selfless, self-disciplined, focused and attention-to-detail approach to the practice of the medical profession is no doubt inspiring. According to her colleagues, Dr Adadevoh, upon discovering that the index patient had the Ebola virus infection went ahead to equip her subordinates with all relevant information and knowledge appropriate for successful management of the case. She even went ahead to procure the equipment and other protective gadgets that would enable her and her team to succeed. That is inspirational leadership. Great entrepreneurial leaders must be inspiring not only to the people who work with them but also to the customers who patronise them. Authentic inspiration stimulates ‘the inspired’ to act in a way that produces desirable effects. Consequently, an entrepreneur that is desirous of succeeding must also inspire both the team that work with him and the customers that buy his products.
Effective decision making
Dr Adadevoh had lots of options. She had a choice to save herself and the hospital that she has served for twenty-one years by hurriedly discharging the patient. But that option would not protect the country from the potential genocidal consequences of the virus outbreak that would ensue. Another option open to her was to transfer Mr Sawyer to any of the country's university teaching hospitals in Lagos. These hospitals usually swarm with patients and would have been veritable outlets for disseminating the virus. She also did not invoke this option. She chose to act in line with the ethics of her profession and compliance with the Hippocratic oath. Decision-making requires the will to go for the best option given any circumstance. This decision-making role is the primary calling of businesspeople.
Much of the quality traits that distinguished Dr Adadevoh is aggregable in her superior level of professionalism and self-discipline. However, her alertness and speedy decision-making are unique qualities that typically drive entrepreneurs who possess them to even higher levels of success.