The story of his life has the makings of a legend or fairy tale… From excruciating poverty to being educated in Harvard as a medical doctor and just in his early 50s doing so much to serve God and humanity. The depth and reach of what Godwin Maduka has achieved, since coming to America in the 80s and qualifying as a Chemist and going on to obtain a Doctorate degree in Pharmacy and a Post Graduate Medical Degree from Harvard, is truly amazing. In about 25 years of practice Dr. Maduka has built five hospitals from the scratch in the Las Vegas Nevada area. His Las Vegas Pain Institute has been rated the top #1 in Pain Management in the U.S. by the health inspection community. Besides his work in Las Vegas, Dr. Maduka has transformed his hometown of Umuchukwu- building over 50 homes for poor kinsmen, building a town hall a magistrate court, a post office,, a police station, a police barracks, the divisional headquarters of the State anti Robbery Squad (SARS), a catholic church, a home for the catholic priests and reverend sisters, a monastery and presently constructing a 15 storey building that he wants to convert into a college of medical sciences.
He has also awarded full scholarships to hundreds of needy students in his town and all over Eastern Nigeria and donated a lot of money to help several communities around Nigeria. He has given away a lot money in free grants in micro finance schemes to kinsmen to start several businesses…
The amazing thing is that this man despite all his success attributes nothing to his abilities but credits God for all that his life has become and all that he is doing..
Listening to him and talking to him for several hours thoroughly made a major impact on me come and reaffirmed the fact that with hard work and divine blessing you can rise above your circumstances and be all that you can be…
Following are excerpts of Dr. Maduka’s interview with our Publisher- Hon. Chike Nweke
1. Q: Who is Dr. Godwin Maduka?
A- This is the first time someone has ever asked me who I am, and maybe today while I’m trying to tell you who I am, I will discover who I am myself. Well, I will try and keep it very simple. I guess to explain who I am is to start with what I believe in. Number one, I have the fear of God. That makes me who I am. I also believe that I have been blessed from childhood. So, being who I am, the person that I am, whether it’s my education, my business, my children and family all roots from my belief in God’s supernatural powers and blessing.
As I look at who I am, I do know who I am not. I don’t believe in seeing anybody suffer while I just watch, without trying to help. I know what it feels like to suffer; so I do not even wish to see my enemies suffer. I won’t cause suffering for anybody. I believe that happiness sometimes comes from the goodness we show to others. If you do something good for someone, it will make them happy and also gives you happiness. I also believe that we are all created equal and that God chooses to give talent or money or other attributes to whom he pleases.
I am someone who believes in eternal life and want to be accountable to my maker when I get to heaven. I am someone who also likes to have fun. I like people around me and enjoy good company. I don’t like confrontations. However, if confronted, I can push back. The people I don’t like on earth are those who are negative and evil people who go after someone who have not wronged them. I am the guy that believes that nobody should be discriminated against because of gender, race, religious background, age etc. I also believe that success comes from hard work. You also have to have faith.
2. Q: Tell us a little bit about your growing up years and early education in Umuchukwu?
A-My formative years were very exciting and interesting. My parents were very responsible and determined to raise us to be responsible and productive adults. Period. That’s why it is very important that we raise our children to become responsible. When we leave them alone they won’t know how to handle things. If you start teaching a child the secret of success by designating time to play, time to relax etc, then they grow up and become responsible. If you teach a child early enough to learn to take responsibility it becomes engrained in their brain. So from my earliest childhood it was already engrained in us that hard work is the only way to succeed and that we have to take responsibility for our actions.
Our parents loved one another very much and were strong parents that complimented each other very well. They had nine of us. Some of us were born before the war of 1966. But growing up in those days, we had one love which was the community of people that works directly with each other. The people actually can see you doing something wrong and would correct you. Parents would not say, “How dare you talk to my child” if you tried to correct them. It was the community that helped raised the child.
In retrospect, I had a wonderful childhood. I remember as a child joining masquerades, dancing to the rhythms of the talking drums. I remember dancing in the moonlight and playing moonlight games. My childhood was one of fetching water from the village stream, one of going to the farm, planting yam and cassava and waiting for a bountiful harvest. It was also a life of climbing the palm trees to harvest nuts for food and to sell for school fees or the next meal. Also, it was one of going to the stream to fetch water to cook and eat before going to school. Looking back now, it was bare existence, but back then even when we were in poverty, we never felt poor. We were content with what we had and we were happy. We were enamored to devout Catholicism in those years, praying with our rosary, and praying to Virgin Mary all the time. Those were years of being in the choir, one of going to Bible studies and respecting the Reverend Fathers and Clergy. The curious thing was that my parents were not Christians. Yet, they fully encouraged us to embrace the faith. I still don’t understand it. But our parents made sure we go to church every Sunday, yet they did not go. I did ask my mother to become a Christian but she only agreed to do that when I stayed 12 years in America without coming home. As a result, she went to church just so I can come home and she became a devout Christian.
Growing up in the village was a lot of hard work too. We struggled for money, for food and school fees. My early years were even tougher. Though it was beautiful, I had so many mishaps that I should not even be alive today. Due to the fact that we always had very marginal income I had to become a man before I was a child. Can you imagine your child at 13 years old climbing a tree that is about 50 feet from the ground to get the palm nuts and make oil out of it? That is how we sustained ourselves to pay our school fees to stay in school. With marginal income my father would bring from the native doctor business, and the work that my mother would get from the little farming we do, they were able to send off all their children to school. Although, they were able to send all their children to school, as children we had to contribute too. The unfortunate thing in my childhood that I don’t envy was when I fell from the palm tree seven times to the point of being disfigured. As a child I was placed in risky and harmful situations just to survive. At that time I did not think much of it because it was all that I knew. The only time I knew something was wrong was when I was in secondary school with my oldest brother whom has passed away now. He and I went to the hospital back then and found out that I had a spinal compression from all the multiple injuries sustained from falling from the palm trees. I was actually meant to be 6 foot 4, but I am close to 5’8, 5’9 because I had a spinal compression. So you see I lived by the mercy of God. My body is one of a miracle. Even my mere existence is a miracle. The last fall I had, my head was sandwiched between two sharp objects. So even then, God was sending his angels to guide me because God had predestined what He wanted me to be. At 13 years of age, by his divine power, God prevented my head from being crushed by those sharp objects.
3. Q: You really put it together. Your personality comes through as a very positive and forward thinking person. You have so much interest in appreciating God, and you believe in humanity, and your love for humanity shows clearly as one who believes in lending a helping hand where you have the opportunity. I know this is driven by your love for your creator God. Now, you studied chemistry, pharmacy and later on medicine. What was your driving force in getting yourself this together and launch yourself into where you are today.
A-I grew up in an agricultural rural community with my parents. I saw my parents work hard. My mother worked hard as a petty trader, farmer and home maker. My father was a native doctor and a very good one. I saw him relieve a lot of people’s pain. I saw him give hope to women with infertility. I saw him treat the people with dignity. I saw him as a happy man.
In those days 80% of the men in my village were native doctors. They traveled all over Eastern Nigeria to practice their trade. There were over 2,000 native doctors called “Dibia.” Not all were good. Some engaged in evil and voodoo magic. The good “Dibia” made diagnosis and treated the sick and gave them hope. What I have become today was inspired from those experiences from my childhood. This is not to make it sound good, but that is where it all started. My father’s profession as a native doctor was my first motivation to become a chemist, a doctor and pharmacist. I wanted to know the composition of all those herbs my father would give to his patients and the effect of how those medications worked. While in school in Nigeria, I concentrated on excelling in sciences to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor and following in my father’s footsteps. However, I had no one to sponsor my education to train as a doctor in Nigeria. One of my relative whom was sent to America by the support of the community had sent applications home to his brother, and I took one of those applications to fill out.
My younger brother and two other relatives came up with the money I needed to travel to the US. When I got here, I studied very hard and took extra classes. I graduated in a year and a half with summa cum laude in Chemistry, class of 1984 from Rust College in Mississippi. That was the starting point of this goal in striving to reach to the top. At that point I knew that I still believed in living that childhood desire. God has been merciful to me in actually letting me live out my childhood dreams and desires. I studied chemistry in my first degree because I believed like they all did in Nigeria that a Chemist is equipped to administer medication. I later found out in America that it was a misconception, and that a Chemist is just a scientist and that you have to be a Pharmacist to administer medications.
4. Q: You studied Pharmacy @ Mercer then went on to University of Tennessee Medical School and Graduate Medical Training at Harvard. What propelled you to combining pharmacy and medicine as career choices?
A-After I graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Rust College, I went on to Pharmacy School at Mercer University, and obtained a doctorate degree in pharmacy in 1988. After the Pharmacy program, I proceeded to Medical school at University of Tennessee School of Medicine to start the next phase of my journey. When I obtained my medical degree it was time to figure out what profession I wanted to practice. I considered chemistry, pharmacy, and medicine background. Then I decided that pursuing Anesthesiology with Interventional Pain would make use of my education and training . At that time, for a little poor boy from a rural African village, it seemed like I had come a long way. But, I was still not satisfied. I continued on. I applied and was accepted to the graduate medical training at Harvard University School of Medicine in Boston Massachusetts to train as an anesthesiologist. By being accepted into Harvard and graduating from there as an anesthesiologist, proved to me that there is an omnipotent God, a God of all possibilities…
The Harvard program was very tough and challenging, but God saw me through. I graduated from Harvard and worked for one and a half year with other folks before The Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medial Center of which we have 5 locations in the Las Vegas Area. We have also been rated the top #1 Pain Management in the U.S. by the health inspection community.
5. Q: You are also an adjunct clinical professor @ Touro University school of Osteopathic medicine. How do you find time from your hectic practice to teach?
A-I have always loved the academia and being an adjunct professor at Touro University School of Osteopathic Medicine is my way of fulfilling that dream of being in the academia and giving back to the community. This also gives me the opportunity to inspire and impact positively on the up and coming student physicians.
6. Q: You have built over 50 homes, schools, a civic center etc. in your home town of Umuchukwu in Orumba South Local Government Area and helped several other communities. Just last weekend you donated a large sum to Mbano women to renovate schools in Mbano. What propels you to give so much?
A-The reason for my philanthropic work is to give back and thank God for all he has blessed me with. I believe that it is from God that all blessings flow and I cannot possibly out give him. I do that with the overwhelming conviction and belief that everything that you do, whatever you are, came from God himself. So you see if you believe that, when you make a donation it does not bother you. I also believe that it is what you do when you are still alive that matters.
So that is the reason why I went home to make a little change in my home town Umuchukwu. I left for America in the 1980s and came back in the 1990s and the community was still as it was. Most of the people were still poor subsistent farmers. So many people were very poor and the sickness was abundant. It was then that I decided to help the community grow and develop with the blessings that God has poured into my life. That is how we started sending children to school, secondary schools, and Universities to train as lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, school teachers etc. We also started a micro finance program to give free grants to people to start a vocation or a trade. Several people came to me complaining that they did not have a decent roof over their heads. So we developed several thatched huts in the town and we started helping people who did not have homes. We built several homes which were given to people. We also helped build a monastery for the Mother of Peace Congregation which is a United States based Catholic congregation. We also helped the community build a Catholic Church, residence for the parish priest, a police station, police barracks and the State Anti-Robbery Squad Divisional headquarters. Other projects include the town hall, a filling Station, a magistrate court and we are currently constructing a 15 floor multiplex planned to house Offices and the Medical College of the Anambra State University College of Medical Sciences.
I attribute all these, not to my own power but to the goodness of the Almighty God. I want to thank and acknowledge the first born child from my mother’s womb Chief Joseph Maduka, late Marcel Maduka, late Obi Maduka, Hycinth Maduka, Barrister Kenneth Maduka, Barrister Ifeoma Maduka-Arisa, and my nephews Doctor and Engineer Kingsley Maduka, and Chukwudi Ogbonna who were on ground in Umuchukwu supervising and actually doing the construction work over the years. I want to also acknowledge Arc. Nnaemeka Okpara who designed most of these projects. I also have very fond memories and gratitude to my late Uncle Pius Onwu in mentoring and encouraging me during my early school days in Nigeria. I will never forget the contributions of my late uncle, Igwe Michael N. Ukaegbu who is the founding father of Umuchukwu and who created the enabling environment for all these developments. Of course I could go on and thank many more wonderful people but the list will be too long. But I do want to give back all the praise to God who made all these possible.
7. Q: There has been some past controversy regarding the change of name of your home town to Umuchukwu. Please address this issue and your role in the name change?
A-Like I told you earlier, a lot of my kinsmen were herbalists or native doctors. There were two categories of them. Those like my father who used their knowledge of herbs to help people with ailments- infertility, malaria, and other sorts of diseases to get better. There were however, the other category of evil “dibia” similar to witch doctors and voodoo men who did terrible things such as burying 16 year old virgins alive to harvest their spirits for evil deeds. There was so much evil in the town because of all these evil deities that there was no progress and the people remained poor and in darkness. Development eluded us. We had no motor-able roads, no town hall, no church parish.
Yet, we had grooves for the deities in abundance. In fact the name Nkerehi- was linked to fetish and deity worship. The people of the town felt they had had enough when worshippers of these deities wanted to resist all development coming into the town like constructing of the town hall and the Catholic Church because they claimed the land upon which they will be built belonged to the deity. That was why a majority of the town decided that they had had enough and destroyed all the deities and had a referendum to change the name of the town from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu- which means- Children of God. This referendum was organized by the State Government under Governor Peter Obi and an overwhelming majority of about 90% of the town voted for the name change which was then gazetted as law by the State Government. Subsequent challenges by those opposed to this in courts of law have been defeated and the name change was approved by the overwhelming majority of the town stands. The town has experienced so much positive growth and development since the name change.
8. Q: What propels your drive for excellence and achievement? A-What drives me is the desire to be the best in what I do and to leave a positive name and mark for posterity.
9. Q: Tell us a little about your family and how supportive is your wife to all that you do
A-I have a wonderful, beautiful and supportive wife named Stella and we are blessed with five adorable children. Our children ages, range between 8 and 16, so you can imagine how busy our daily life is. My wife immigrated to America when I finished training from Harvard and was starting my own practice. When I think about her, I remember how supportive she was during the dark hours of my practice when there were a lot of push backs and bigotry which made it difficult to succeed. In the early years, before we had children she used to go to work with me and patiently waited in the lunchroom so we can go home together. She was there for me every step of the way and we never stopped praying.
I also remember when I needed a loan to build the practice; she would accompany me through all those meetings with various banks in the city. She is an intelligent woman. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Business and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree. Being strong at home and basically raising our children on her own, has allowed me to dedicate the time and hard work needed to accomplish what I have done so far.
10. Q: What is next for Dr. Maduka?
A-I will go where God leads me. I will not go before him, but wait upon his divine guidance.
11. Q: What are your hopes and dreams for Anambra state and Nigeria.
A-I dream of an Anambra State and Nigeria that is more prosperous, where people live in abundance and plenty, where the dividends of development will reach every home and every citizen.
12. Q: What advice will you give to a new African immigrant on succeeding in America? When your work is done, how will you Dr. Maduka, like the “Lion of Africa” want to be remembered?
A-My advice to immigrants that come to America especially those from Africa is to follow their dreams and not be deterred by whatever challenges they may face.
When my work is done, I would love to be remembered as a lover of God and as a man who did his utmost best to help humanity.