Africa's high-flying doctor

Founder & Managing Director of Flying Doctors Nigeria

Country: Nigeria

Sector: Medical Emergency Services

Dr. Ola Orekunrin is a medical doctor, helicopter pilot and the healthcare entrepreneur founder of Flying Doctors NigeriaWest Africa’s first Air Ambulance Service. She's dedicated to bringing trauma care to the most remote parts of Western Africa and her company, an air ambulance service based in Lagos, is doing just that. She was motivated to start the company after her younger sister tragically died whilst traveling in Nigeria as a consequence of their being no medical air service available to transport her to hospital. Ola graduated as a medical doctor from the University Of York in the UK and is a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine. 

Ola currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria where she is considered a national expert of disaster medicine and pre-hospital care. Her company has been featured on various local TV and radio stations as well as the BBC and CNN.

Dr. Ola Orekunrin.jpg

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Ola's Startup Story 

Ola Orekunrin’s startup story is truly remarkable. She was originally born in London and grew up in a foster home with her sister in the small seaside town of Lowestoft in the south-east of England. With a passion for medicine, she studied at the University of York in the UK, graduating at the incredibly young age of 21 as a qualified doctor. Her meteoric rise in the field of medical studies took her to Japan as a result of her being awarded the MEXT Japanese Government Scholarship. There, she conducted clinic research in the field of regenerative medicine at the Jikei University Hospital. However, the catalyst for a major life and career decision came when her sister became very, very ill on holiday whilst staying with relatives in Nigeria. The local hospital was unable to manage her sickle cell anemia condition, and as a result, Ola and her family started to search for an air ambulance so that she could be safely transported to a suitable medical facility in the country. The tragedy for the family was that there were no air ambulances to be found, even though the search took them from Nigeria, to Ghana, Sierra Leone and Cameroon, and across West Africa. The only one to be found was in South Africa, 5 hours away, but by the time the logistics had been arranged, Ola’s sister had died of her condition.... 

Read more about Ola's startup story →

On any level, Ola Orekunrin is an inspirational Lioness of Africa, making not just a difference to the lives of patients in Nigeria, but across Africa and the globe through her example. She is a successful woman entrepreneur and inspirational leader in a world that needs more like her. --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder and editor-in-chief

"Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s smallest number of motorized vehicles but the highest rate of road traffic fatalities, with Nigeria and South Africa leading the pack. Trauma has become a silent epidemic in Africa, an epidemic that will only spread as the economy grows. More and more Africans are buying cars and working in heavy and dangerous industries. At the same time, infrastructure is poor, safety laws lax, and cars badly maintained."

"... we take pride in being the first Nigerian indigenous company to do this...We are training more people to go into the air ambulance sector and I think our paramedics now have a huge amount of management skills. I just think that we need to start thinking outside the box and be more confident in the concept of African innovation."

"We have a mixed-pool of more than 20 aircraft that we use for different types of evacuation, and about 30 staff all employed in different capacities with us and branches in three major cities in Nigeria."


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Awards & Accolades

Ola's recent awards and honours include:

  • 2016 - Flying Doctors Nigeria wins ConsumerNG Award in the health start-ups category
  • 2014 - Ola is named by Time Magazine as one of the five Next Generation Leaders
  • 2014 - Oprah Magazine names Ola on their 2014 Power List
  • 2013 - Ola is named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
  • 2013 - Ola is named a New Voices Fellow by the Aspen Institute
  • 2012 - Ola is named as a TED Fellow
  • 2012 - Ola is a Future Award Recipient
  • 2012 - Ola receive the Mould Breaker Award Winner for Healthcare
  • 2012 - Ola is winner of the This Day Award for Nigerian Women of Distinction for her contribution to healthcare in Africa
  • 2011 - Ola is named a New Generation Leader for Africa by the African Leadership Network