We are proudly telling the world about our alumni in our 50th anniversary year. Ayodele Odutayo graduated from the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Turner Fenton Secondary School, Canada. Ayodele recently completed his PhD in epidemiology at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He is now a physician-scientist who is interested in cardiovascular epidemiology and clinical trials.
Why did you originally decide to pursue an IB diploma?
The suggestion to pursue an IB diploma actually came from my mother. While my mother was a student in Nigeria, she had also completed the IB diploma and found it to be a formative experience. Therefore, she always intended for my sister and me to enroll in an IB school and she went to great lengths to ensure it happened. Specifically, my mom, sister and I had relocated from Nigeria to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in October 1996. In the BVI, the only DP programme at the time was at a newly established small private school. Unfortunately, the costs were completely prohibitive. So, to give my sister and me an opportunity to study in a DP school, my mom relocated us to Canada before high school in March 2001 and I ultimately ended up at Turner Fenton Secondary School.
"Although I was inclined towards science at an early age, the DP programme challenged me to develop a strong aptitude in other subjects including history and English."
The IB diploma had an important impact on my education and future learning. Although I was inclined towards science at an early age, the DP programme challenged me to develop a strong aptitude in other subjects including history and English. By studying these non-science subjects at a higher level, I developed better critical thinking skills and a strong foundation to pursue my university education.
Which of your IB teachers inspired you most?
This is such a difficult choice! I was most impacted by my DP English teacher in grade 11, Mr. Lowens. For my first two years of secondary school, I always had difficulty with English as a subject and it was not until Mr. Lowens’ class that I had my first breakthrough in how to thoughtfully read and interact with English literature. Mr. Lowens taught me an approach to crafting essays and arguments that I still use today! In fact, I structure many of my written personal reflections using strategies and techniques he taught me on how to craft a clear narrative for a reader. I think this is what was important about the DP. There was always a focus on in-depth learning, skill development and challenging students to explore their limits.
How did you reach where you are today and what advice do you have for current students?
I completed the IB diploma in 2006 and a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario in 2009. This was followed by a Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of Toronto from 2009-2013. Finally, I completed my Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in epidemiology at the University of Oxford from 2013-2017, where I studied as a Rhodes scholar. Together, my academic training has prepared me for a career as a physician-scientist with a specific interest in cardiovascular epidemiology and clinical trials.
I would offer two pieces of advice for students. The first is to focus on the quality of your learning experience as opposed to the exact academic degree you pursue or the order in which you pursue your degree. In university, it can be very easy to be squarely focused on the task of achieving milestones without considering whether you have the skills to ultimately think independently and creatively.
Second, don’t be afraid to teach yourself things. Buy a text book, teach yourself a new computer program or enroll yourself in an online course. Much of my learning during my DPhil involved a lot of self-directed work and this put me in the best position to succeed.