NEF Fellow Dr. Tolu Oni

NEF Fellow Dr. Tolu Oni

From clinician, to public health specialist, Next Einstein Fellow, Dr. Tolullah Oni is transforming the way scientists in Africa learn and work, as a driving force for community engagement in healthcare.

As a member of the South African chapter of the Global Young Academy, the 35-year old, Nigerian-born Oni says she hopes to inspire upcoming scientists across the continent and offers these 5 tips for anyone who wants to become part of the next generation of #AfricasEinsteins.

Dr. Tolu Oni accepting her award with President Macky Sall of Senegal.

Dr. Tolu Oni accepting her award with President Macky Sall of Senegal.

  1. Make personal contacts and hold on to them

“If you find somebody who you think is interesting, hold on to them. Follow them. Contact them. Because that’s one thing I’ve noticed in coming through, is how willing people are to assist. And I think that’s not something you realize as a younger person. I think you realize ‘oh no they would never get back to me.’ You get in touch with somebody personally and people are excited that you’re interested in what they’re interested in and when someone much younger gets in touch with them it’s actually exciting and I wish I’d known that earlier.

  1. Pursue your interests

“Use your explore your interests don’t be afraid to push back, ask for forgiveness instead of permission.”

  1. Be an answer to ending gender inequality

“I have a message to little girls and little boys on the continent and the reason I say that is because it’s important. If we want to have a greater impact, we have to both empower individual girls and say, ‘listen you are just as capable as anyone!’ But we also have to address the structural issues, you know the societal issues so that achieving gender equity isn’t just about teaching girls how to push through walls constantly but actually think about how we can start to tear those walls down.”

Tolu Oni speaks at the Next Einstein Forum in Dakar.

Dr. Tolu Oni speaks at the Next Einstein Forum in Dakar.

  1. Support the sciences

“I think I was lucky, I think I’m privileged. Because I have parents who prioritized my education and my sibling’s education above all else to make sure I could do anything I wanted to do. And they were not restrictive in terms of what I wanted to do, and what I should do – they were very supportive. And I think having that support and knowing that whatever you’re interested in is really priceless.”

  1. Engage with your community

“So again it comes back to the impact. I worked many years as a clinician, internal medicine, HIV, and infectious diseases. And in looking at HIV and TB, those are not local issues, they are global issues and you look at a lot of where it is happening, so it got me thinking… there’s a lot of research happening, what role can I play in understanding and contributing to that? I thought, ‘I have to look back to my public health training and apply my research and my science of so the impact is rethinking and changing the way we address healthcare. Realize health as an outcome is not just the responsibility of the health sector, it cuts across a lot of other sectors.