Regina Askia-Williams needs little introduction. The former Nollywood actress and beauty queen talks to Leading Ladies Africa about her rebranding and her vision to make a huge impact in the healthcare sector in Nigeria and beyond.
Who is Regina Askia-Williams and what does she do?
I am a New York City based registered nurse working in a level one acute care trauma center.
You started out as an actress. What was the experience like for you?
That experience opened many doors for me. It built my portfolio, sharpened my confidence and my public speaking skills.
After gaining so much recognition as a model and actress, why did you venture into nursing?
For me, the time had to come to be a part of something greater than me. I wanted to learn hands-on skills that will make practical impact and difference in lives, to serve, and to be a nurse.
In all your years of nursing what is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Getting over the “messiah complex” was a big challenge. Accepting and respecting patient’s wishes even though that may rub against the grain can be quite difficult. People have a right to decide whether they want to live or die. Also, you have not been appointed to bring people back from the brink. Your service is to make the life they choose as healthy and as functional as possible for them.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I still look at my kids and wonder if these people came from me. Life is amazing. To have been the vessel that channeled such brilliant, gifted and lovable people into the world makes me so proud.
You are known as a healthcare activist; what do you think is the biggest problem facing the healthcare sector in Nigeria?
A lack in the number of available healthcare personnel, a deficiency in curriculum, inconsistencies in the pathways to credentialing and lack of enforcement of laws against quackery, in addition to lack of defined and regulated scope of practice .
How do you plan to help solve some of the current healthcare challenges we face in Nigeria?
I plan to establish regulatory bodies to oversee pathways to credentialing, oversee licensing and practice, patient satisfaction and patient safety. I also plan to work towards revamping the curriculum and establishing continuous educational assessment requirements.
With your experience in healthcare, how would you rate the government’s involvement and what can they do better?
I must say after the recent appointments of stalwarts to key segments in the healthcare industry, the government is in the right direction as regards overhauling the industry. If you look at the resumes of those appointed, the positions they have held would give them a clear understanding of the nature of the healthcare industry and what is required to keep it afloat. I however do not see enough checks and balances to review their performance. I do hope it does not become a case of when in Rome do as the Romans do. The American society has enough checks and balances fuelled by individual accountability to his practice and consequences of bad judgement. The legal system has enough teeth to bring to book those who stray. Does Nigeria have this? The Government would also do well to allocate a higher percentage of the GDP towards the healthcare sector.
You manage several projects; top on the list is the R.A.N.E Project and African Health Dialogues. What led you to start these projects?
The R.A.N.E project is my dedication to making a positive impact in the nursing industry in Nigeria and turning things around. There is no reason why Nigerian nurses should not enjoy the same work environment and privileges as their internationals counterparts. I must warn though that as per my projects and everything else I am involved in, I talk a mean game but I also bring my A game. By this I mean that I work my talk. While I am all about helping the nurses I need to see performance; patient testimonial, safe nursing care, curriculum revamping and licensure. When a nurse tells me they have got what it takes, they also need to show me in practical terms what they are about.
You recently re-branded and launched your official website. What informed this decision?
Refocusing. The site needed to be available as a learning tool, an informational portal and a town hall meeting place for nurses all over the world, especially Africa.
How have you been able to stay ahead and consistent over the years?
It is through service. The only way to truly be a leader, stay ahead and be on top of your game is to be in service to others. This is the only way you can truly discover salient needs and find ways to meet these needs. In my case, it was the health of the people. In meeting these needs you become a resource person. People come to you for advice for direction and for help. Another name for one who does all the above if you ask me is a Leader. A great man once said, “If service is beneath you, leading is beyond you.”
What do you do to maintain the balance between your career and your role as a mother?
Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. I recognize my responsibilities and manage my time with due consideration for all. My first assignment is as “Mom in Chief” which is a responsibility to my home. Then my job and everything else that comes with comes after.
Do you have a mentor? What is it about the person that inspires you?
My greatest mentor will forever be my mother. Her wisdom perseverance and faith in the face of all odds has empowered and emboldened me. My mother has taught me that the world is at my feet. Picking it up or not is my decision to make. Thank you Mom, God bless you.
How do you stay motivated?
My job motivates me. Being a part of little miracles everyday motivates me as well as living fully in the present with gratitude, the wonders of nature, life’s abundance and the joy of sharing.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
By God’s grace, I see myself becoming an established Family Nurse Practitioner, in service to the American and Nigerian populace.