The present day PUMSA (Port Harcourt University Medical Students Association) which is now in its fortieth year, began in 1979 among the pioneer medical students who were driven by the desire to create a sense of belonging among themselves in the emergent medical school and to ensure better association and interactions with other medical students both internal and external.
At inception, thirty-three students (ten of whom were female) were admitted into the Department of Medicine. Most just wanted to read and graduate as the programme was tough. Then, students from the University of Ibadan heard that there was a medical school in Port Harcourt that had not been participating in nationwide medical students’ association events, so they took up courage and came down to the University of Port Harcourt to meet the pioneer medical students and highlight the benefits of an association. This spurred the pioneer medical students to create association.
Under the interim leadership of the then pioneer Class Captain and Governor, Mr. Chijioke, Adonye Nwauche and the inspiration of the pioneer Provost of the Institute of Health Sciences (now College of Health Sciences), Professor Theodore I. Francis, a fact-finding committee was set up. The committee among other things came up with recommendations, mainly which was the name of the association. They came up with three names: 'Port Harcourt University Medical Students Association, University of Port Harcourt Medical Students Association' and 'Association of Medical Students of University of Port Harcourt'. The pioneer medical students settled for the still existing name of 'Port Harcourt University Medical Students Association' (PUMSA). Among the people that coined out the name, PUMSA was Mr. Princewill Chukwuemeka Stanley. Then the pioneer students had to pass through the Dean of Students Affairs clearly stating the motive of the association and sign an undertaken that it was not for violence or unionism but for a common goal in order to gain approval for the creation of PUMSA. Thereafter, a pioneer Executive Committee was elected under the leadership of Mr. Vincent U.E. Adiela who was President from 1980 to 1982.
Being pioneer medical students, there were lots of challenges. So, they wrote to the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Donald Ekong through the then Provost, Prof. Theodore I. Francis a letter captioned Medicine with tears', requesting for a speedy translation to the lofty dreams of a unique medical school in Port Harcourt. This letter was sent to the University Senate. This did not sit well with the Vice Chancellor. As at then, the gap between lecturers and students was much, talk more of the University Senate. Threats were issued and it subsequently resulted in a strike. In the end, this crisis gave birth to better days in the medical training in the University of Port Harcourt. The letter jolted the University Senate to fast track the development of the College of Health Sciences.
Of the thirty-three pioneer students, only twelve graduated with that class with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree. On the graduation day in 1987, because they were just twelve, they were called the twelve pioneer medical disciples of Uniport!
For a decade, between 1979 and 1989, the College of Health Sciences ran a seven - year medical degree structure in which students in the fourth year had to specialise in Anatomy, Pharmacology or Physiology to gain a Bachelor of Medical Sciences (B.Med.Sc) degree in any of these subjects after a comprehensive examination before they could proceed to the Clinicals that ran for three years. That means that a total of seven years was spent to obtain an MBBS degree. The B.Med.Sc programme was run in the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences within the College. Later on, the University Senate approved a change in the Basic Medical Science programme for medical students. The programme terminated with a comprehensive examination (MBBS Part 1) which is still terminated with a comprehensive examination (MBBS Part 1) which is still done till date unlike previously, when the programme terminated with a B.Med.Sc degree, following which candidates who made a minimum of Second Class Honours, lower division proceeded to undertake the clinical programme. The U1987 set were the last set to run the seven-year programme. Notable among the U1987 set is Dr. Dennis Alagoa. The U1988 set were the first set to write the comprehensive MBBS Part I exam in the third year, after which they could proceed into the Clinicals directly without having a B.Med.Sc degree.
Notable among the U1988 set is Dr. Orubibi Seleipiri Dokubo. In 1984, after the tenure of the then President, Mr. Nwosu Joel, a huge crisis emerged and there was struggle for leadership. When this crisis continued, an interim government was set up to resolve the issue. Mr. Olabitam Kasali was appointed the Interim PUMSA President.
In 1986, under the government of the then President, Mr. Princewill Chukwuemeka Princewill and the then Vice President, Miss Joan Braide Atemie Lolomarie, the maiden edition of the PUMSA magazine was produced. It was called 'Mediport Journal’. However, it was not until 2002 that the PUMA Editorial board was established under the government of the then President, Mr. Reward Nsirim. Mr. Alamie - Omu Ebenezer Nonju became the first Editor in-Chief 2002/2003. In 2006, a major PUMSA constitutional reform was made making the board independent of the executives. The board was structured to appoint its Editor-in-Chief who logically was the longest serving member. Miss Sibeudu Ogochukwu became the first female Editor-in-Chief in 2007.
In 1992, following a series of protests by medical students as a result of the radical change in the medical training programme, PUMSA was proscribed by the authorities of the College of Health Sciences and the medical students were rusticated from the school including the first-year students who just got admission into the school. This happened during the tenure of the then PUMSA president, Mr. Casmir Ezenwa Amadi. The medical students were suspended for about a year. After the suspension, they had to reapply to enter into the medical school again and had to bring their parents along. This proscription prohibited all PUMSA activities including elections. This continued until 1996 when the ban was lifted off and Mr. Dike Nwosu was elected the PUMSA President.
In 2002, Miss Isioma Okotcha was made the first female President, though by appointment not election. The then President Mr. Mbang Enang had handed over to the then Vice President, Miss Isioma Okotcha because no elections were held that year due to the protracted ASUU strike at that time. In 2008, the then President, Mr. Daniel Gobo upon his graduation, handed over to the then Vice President, Miss Chinyelu Okonkwo. Miss Chinyelu Okonkwo became the second female PUMSA President also by appointment. In 2016, Miss Mmonu Chiamaka became the third female president but the first elected Female President.
In 2002, the Port Harcourt University Medical Graduate Association (PUMGRADA) was conceived by former PUMSA activists (or PUMGRADs as they are now called). They were Doctors. Chijioke Nwauche, Vincent Adiela, Princewill Stanley, Abiye Hector - Coma, Chima Ohuabunwa and Hakeem Fawehinmi.
In 2007, the PUMSA Secretariat which is currently located in the Clinical Students Quarters (CSQ) was named after Prof. R. S. Oruamabo. Then in 2012, the PUMSA Secretariat was partitioned during the tenure of the then PUMSA President, Mr. Mbooh Noble. He was the first PUMSA President to organise the first PUMSA/PUMGRADA Reunion which took place December 2011.
For years since the inception of the dental school in 2004, dental students remained part of PUMSA as they did not have their own association. In 2012, under the leadership of the then president, Mr. Briggs-Otto David, the dental students were able to successfully secede from PUMSA and do form their own association- PUDSA (Port Harcourt University Dental Students Association). In 2014, the then Vice President, Miss Ogechi Anusiem under the leadership of d the then President, Mr. Onuche Lawrence Onuche composed the PUMSA Anthem and pledge.
It has been 40 years since the inception of this great association, PUMSA and by God's grace, it still stands strong, hen prominent and continuously growing. Currently, PUMSA has several arms. One is the executives which consists of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary General, the Assistant ale Secretary General, the Director of Socials, the Director of Sports, the Director of Welfare, the Financial Secretary, the Treasurer, the Public Relations Officer and the Provost Marshal. Another arm is the Editorial Board headed by the Editor-in-Chief and as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief. There is also the Senate Arm headed by the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President. During major events such as Health weeks, a Local Organising Committee (LOC) is set up and an LOC Chairman and Vice Chairman is appointed to head the LOC. PUMSA also has a Secretariat located in the Clinical Students Quarters (CSQ).
Forty years have gone by since the creation of PUMSA. From a small beginning of not more than 33 members, PUMSA has over 500 members today. PUMSA is ably represented not just in the University of Port Harcourt but also nationwide, participating in nationwide events for medical students and holding strategic positions in the Executive Councils and Administrations of associations such as Nigerian Medical Students Association (NIMSA), Federation of African Medical Students Association (FAMSA) and International Federation of Africa Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) for example, PUMSA produced two NiMSA presidents: Prof. Hakeem Miss Ship of Fawehinmi (1991) and Dr. Boris Nwachukwu (2018).
It does not end in medical school of course. PUMGRADS out there keep on making a difference wherever they are found. PUMSA has produced Deputy Vice Chancellors such as the current Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Hakeem Fawehinmi and Prof. Paingha Alagoa (Bayelsa Medical University), Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) such as Prof. Thomas Agan (the immediate past CMD of University of Calabar Teaching Hospital) and first ladies such as Dr. Linda Ayade (first lady, Cross Rivers State) to mention but a few where they are out there rendering selfless service to mankind. This is the mantra by which we, PUMSAites live by and would continue to do so 10 generations to come.