I completed my residency training in psychiatry at Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Enugu, Nigeria (2012 – 2017), passed each of the required examinations at first sitting, and thereby obtained the Fellowship of the West African Postgraduate Medical College and the Fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In recognition of my qualities, the hospital has recently (July 2018) appointed me as a Consultant Psychiatrist, the only one in my set to receive such an appointment.
My interest in research deepened during my years in residency, thanks to the guidance of a father figure and mentor, Professor Jude Uzoma Ohaeri, MD, FRCPsych, DSC, FAS. He encouraged me to carve out a niche for myself and make relevant contributions to the development of biological psychiatry in our resource-challenged country, Nigeria.
Based on his advice, I developed interest in the area of biological psychiatry, specifically in the genetics of severe mental disorders, in addition to outcome studies of mental illness and other chronic medical conditions in Africa. My interest in psychiatric genetics was strongly influenced by the finding that, whereas the allelic variation in African populations is thought to be richer than in other populations (Campbell & Tishkoff, 2008), which in theory might suggest different heritability and molecular genetic patterns from the Western and Asian worlds, there is a paucity of psychiatric genetic studies from Africa. In addition, attitudes to mental illness are strongly driven by belief in supernatural causation (Ohaeri & Fido, 2001). Hence, I consider it important to generate psychiatric epidemiological and molecular genetic data from my country, in order to make the needed African input in this field, to help drive public mental health education on the biological basis of mental disorders, and to encourage policy makers to invest in research in biological psychiatry and provide the necessary infrastructure for related clinical practice.
Accordingly, my career plan is to start with genetic epidemiological studies and progress to molecular and translational studies, possibly by articulating research grant proposals that will attract the funding to sponsor such endeavors. In view of this, I have successfully carried out and published studies on the morbid risk of mood disorders and schizophrenia in my community (Onu & Ohaeri, 2018a, Onu et al., 2018b).
I am particularly skilled in research methods especially in statistical analyses. These I achieved after many years of tutelage by my mentor and involvement in collaborative research. This knowledge of the rigors of research methodology, I hope to bring to the team.