Baby whisperer

Nigerian ex-pat pediatrician Samuel Daniyan is loved for his warm nature and worldly knowledge

Dr. Samuel Daniyan loves caring for little ones.

Dr. Samuel Daniyan loves caring for little ones.

photo by christine g.k. lapado

“I love babies! Yes, for sure I like babies,” said Dr. Samuel Daniyan, beaming as he sat in one of the patient rooms after a busy day seeing patients at Feather River Health Center in Paradise. “That’s why I’m a pediatrician.”

Daniyan’s reputation as a lover of babies precedes him. It was the unusually exuberant, thumbs-up comments made to this writer by a mother of one of Daniyan’s patients, in fact, that made him the subject of this story. (“He loves babies,” she said, adding that her baby loves Daniyan as well.)

Indeed, Daniyan, the father of two adult children, exudes the kind of warmth and joyful approach in person that makes it easy to imagine why babies take to him.

Daniyan, who hails from western Nigeria, has been a pediatrician in Paradise since 2004. He sees patients both at the Feather River Health Center, located on The Skyway at the entrance to Paradise, and at Paradise Medical Group (PMG) Pediatrics, near Feather River Hospital on Pentz Road.

He first came to the United States in 1974 and studied medicine at Loma Linda University, a Seventh Day Adventist university in southern California, from 1976 to 1979. After Loma Linda, Daniyan—who is a member of the Yoruba tribe—went back to Nigeria to work as a general practitioner at a Seventh-day Adventist hospital in the western part of the African country.

He returned to the states in 1984 to complete four years of pediatric training at Loma Linda before returning to western Nigeria to work as a pediatrician. “I say ‘pediatrician,’ but you also have to do everything [when working at a hospital in Nigeria],” he noted. “Sometimes you have to deliver the baby, but also take care of the mom.

“Obviously there is not as much equipment and diagnostic aid like we have here [in the U.S.],” he continued. “But the people [of Nigeria] value their kids very well. Every child is wanted. … There is total family support when you have a child. The grandparents and the extended family are always involved.”

Daniyan, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, also worked for a time as a missionary in an Adventist clinic in Guam shortly before coming back to the U.S. in 2004.

“I think that one of the things you see after working in different countries is that the kids are similar,” he said. “I don’t see any difference in the way the kids relate to me—it doesn’t matter where I work. Whether it’s an African child, an American child or a child from Guam, they seem to relate exactly the same way.

“Usually kids are friendly if you approach them in a friendly way,” he went on in his charming Nigerian accent. “I think some people assume that children don’t know anything, [that] they don’t think, so they treat them as if they are not people. But I think that a child wants you to talk to them.

“You know, when you are able to have a high contact with a child, the child wants you to communicate with him or her. And the child may not be talking to you in the language that you are used to talking with adults, but the child does respond back when you communicate to them.”

Two-month-old children, for example, will smile at you when you smile at them, said Daniyan. “Why is the child not crying? Because they see the smile and they recognize the expression and they smile back,” he said. “They want to communicate. You just have to establish what level they are at and communicate appropriately.”

Babies have “obvious personality differences,” Daniyan offered. “It’s not just adults [that do]. Even from infancy, you can start to see personality differences, but I think every kind of personality responds to love.”

Daniyan’s love for children includes an emphasis on the importance of vaccinations. “There’s a lot of confusion now about immunizations,” he offered. If people [in the U.S.] could only see the effects on a community when vaccinations are inadequate. Measles, chicken pox, meningitis, tetanus, polio—all of these diseases still exist and are killing people every day.

“I’ve seen patients for more than 20 years in this country and I’ve never seen a case of tetanus in children, whereas [in Nigeria] I’ve seen an average of two cases per month. I’ve worked in places [in Nigeria] where there are so many measles that we literally had a clinic just for measles.

“And it’s not because the people don’t want vaccinations—they can’t get them.”

Vaccinations “definitely are one of the best things parents can do for their children,” Daniyan said passionately. “But I do understand the concern that some people have.”

Daniyan’s devotion to caring for children is appreciated by the people he works with.

“I have known Dr. Daniyan since I started here…in 2005,” wrote Jackie Walker, one of Daniyan’s nurses at Feather River Health Center, in an email. “The Lion King was popular then and he somewhat reminds me of the Rafiki character. After a circumcision, he would hold the infant in the air and pronounce, ‘Now you are a man,’ and then hand the child to the parent.

“I find him to be very wise,” continued Walker, who also wrote that “the children just love him. … He always goes to the baby or child first and engages the child with his easy smile and laugh.”

“His caring nature, wonderful sense of humor and infectious laugh are only surpassed by his extensive knowledge of pediatric medicine,” offered Margaret Farace, another nurse who works alongside Daniyan at Feather River Health Center. “He has such rapport with the children and their families, they are always happy to see him no matter how ill the child may be.”

“Doing something you like, it doesn’t feel like you are working,” Daniyan summed up with a chuckle. “It’s kind of depressing to do something every day that you don’t like.

“They [the children that are his patients] cheer you up. Especially little babies.”