Dr. Dapo Popoola: A man on a mission

Church and medicine combine to aid underprivileged in small African village

by Paul Ero Contributing writer to the African Times

Greatness is unachievable to those who rest on their laurels. Dr. Dapo Popoola has never been one to shy away from challenges, wherever and however they may happen upon him. Recently, he and the congregation of Peninsula Community Church in Rancho Palos Verdes listened and watched church members after their recent trip to Bombo, Uganda. The proud travelers pranced about in their African attire and something welled up inside Popoola that touched the fabric of his soul. The experience inspired the good doctor to undertake a medical mission to Bombo. That moment of epiphany gave rise to an exciting idea, leading to the birth of Operation Heal Africa Foundation. The church members were so charmed by their experiences in Uganda that they decided to go back and do something tangible to help the people.

One result of which is the making of “Bombo, the Medical Mission,” a documentary which was screened at the Beverly Hills film festival this spring to critical acclaim. True to his nature, Dr. Popoola’s motivation is the joy a healing mission brings to impoverished citizens wherever they may be. A resolute candor and a pioneering visionary, the young and adventurous lad in him had his sight set on another goal; using his acquired skill as a medical doctor to effect change in the world.

Born in Ilora, Nigeria, Popoola is no stranger to taking risks. He came to the United States at age 18, an ambitious teenager. He settled in Eugene, Ore., and graduated from the University of Oregon. He was a doctoral candidate at Loyola University Medical School, Maywood, Ill. He would later graduate from the University of Illinois Medical School, Chicago. In mid 1978, he relocated to Los Angeles for his general surgery internship, where he earned the award for the Most Outstanding Intern of the year, and has garnered other prestigious awards as he continues to grow in both his personal and professional life.

Married to Lillie for 30 years, they have two wonderful children. Dr. Popoola embraces the idea of doing for others, and blessing them by sharing his life of abundance. Hence, it’s no surprise that he would reach out to a people across the ocean, in the most rural of places, to help them with his medical expertise at no charge. Connecting with colleagues in the medical field and social contacts, he created a fundraiser this past July to help Operation Heal Africa set sail for the next medical mission slated for early 2011, to Nigeria. An executive member of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, (ANPA) Popoola is no stranger to his native land. Going on this mission will be especially rewarding for the doctor.

This medical mission to Nigeria will primarily focus on eye diseases. Popoola has put together a group of eye specialists to embark on this project with him. The group will be working out of Dr. Awojobi Oluyombo’s clinic; a creatively unique doctor in his practice of medicine in rural Nigeria.
“The idea is to take this medical mission all over Africa and eventually the rest of the world, wherever our help is needed,” Popoola said. Vibrant and joyful, he emotes enthusiasm when he talks about Operation Heal Africa. “This is my passion,” he added. A reserved and thoughtful fellow, Popoola is the Managing Director of Surgilite Bariatric Management in Torrance.


“Bombo, the Medical Mission,” is a story that exhibits the triumph of compassion over complacency by a group of doctors from Los Angeles working in concert with a local community church to export goodwill to the rural African community of Bombo, Uganda. The resilience of the inhabitants of this small town is exposed in this little documentary. The small production demonstrates the relentless spirit of hope that permeates the continent in the face of mostly self-inflicted problems. Hope shines like a true northern star and therein lies the beauty of this piece.

The filmmakers weave a comfortable tale of faith in God through the Christian religion in the heart of Africa amongst a people who have very little in terms of basic medical needs and social amenities. It draws on their beliefs and strengthens their resolve to be grateful, which seemingly comes easy for them. A makeshift “hospital” is created out of a church, and an adjoining military hospital that lacks basic surgical equipment is ingenuously converted into an operating theater. Lives are saved as a result of the selflessness of these doctors, the pastors and the unshaken faith of the people of Bombo.
As a result of this mission, the status of the church was elevated in the community and many unlikely candidates were converted to Christianity. It suffices to say that the medical mission was a resounding success. The unintended added value is an instant boost of a people’s morale and an intoxicatingly gratifying experience shared by the religious and medical missionaries. “Bombo, the Medical Mission” is worth seeing. PEN

Operation Heathy Africa Foundation (formerly known as Operation Heal Africa) is a CA non-profit 501(c)(3) Organization