As promised yesterday, here it is, only a day late, this week’s ‘good people’ post! Thanks so much to those of you who suggested that I should be the ‘good people’ of the week! You brought a smile, and I so appreciate the encouragement, the vote of confidence. But, in truth, I don’t see myself as a ‘good people’, especially as compared to the good people I write about who are out there doing things for others, while I sit home in my comfy chair, with a fresh cuppa coffee, and only write. But again, thanks so much … I love you all! But now …
I’d like you to meet Dr. Olawale Sulaiman, 49, professor of neurosurgery and spinal surgery at the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana. Born and raised on Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria, he says of his childhood …
“I am one of 10 children born into a polygamous family. My siblings and I shared one room where we often found ourselves sleeping on a mat on the floor.”
There was no way his parents could have afforded to put him through college, but at the age of 19, he received a scholarship to study medicine in Bulgaria through the Bureau for External Aid, a Nigerian government program targeted at improving the quality of life for Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities.
He received a combined MD/MSc degree at Medical University, Varna, Bulgaria, and a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His neurosurgery training was completed at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. He completed post-residency fellowship training in complex nerve reconstruction at Louisiana State University and complex spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, USA.
A well-educated and energetic man, but that isn’t what qualifies him for a spot on the “good people” post. That honour comes from his philanthropic works for the people of Nigeria. Sulaiman said the scholarship opened many doors and, in turn, he feels responsible to give back through healthcare.
“Africans who have had the privilege of getting outstanding training and education abroad must mobilize their network of influence to transform our continent.”
In 2010, Sulaiman established RNZ Global, a healthcare development company with his wife, Patricia, a nurse. The company provides medical services including neuro and spinal surgery and offers health courses like first aid CPR in Nigeria and the US. Dr. Sulaiman also negotiated with his employer to take a 25% cut in pay in exchange for extended vacation time so that he could spend more time working in Nigeria.
“I would use my vacation times for the medical missions, which were also planned with education and training sessions. We donated a lot of medications, equipment and hands-on training on surgical techniques.”
RNZ Global has treated more than 500 patients and provided preventative medicine to up to 5,000 people in the US and Nigeria. But, it doesn’t stop there. RNZ Global also has a not-for-profit arm called RNZ foundation. The foundation focuses on providing free neurological health care to those in need but who cannot afford to pay. Sulaiman and his team have performed miracles. In December, Sulaiman operated on a man whose back pain affected his ability to walk. The man was able to walk unaided a day after the surgery. Another of his patients is also able to move independently after the doctor did emergency surgery for a brain tumor that previously left her comatose.
“That’s why I continue to do it. Because I think you can really make a significant impact on people that would otherwise be hopeless.”
And, in a related story …
Allow me to introduce you to Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder of LifeBank, a blood and oxygen delivery company in the West African country of Nigeria. In 2014, Giwa-Tubosun experienced complications from her pregnancy. She was rushed to the nearest hospital where her and her son’s lives were saved by a C-section operation.
“I realized after I had my son that the highest cause of maternal mortality is postpartum hemorrhage, the most important thing you can do when a mum is hemorrhaging is replace the blood she has lost, even if you can’t stop the bleeding.”
Since she founded LifeBank in 2016, the company has raised thousands of dollars, launched across three states in Nigeria, serving in more than 300 hospitals and saved up to 4,000 lives.
Donated blood has about six weeks before it becomes too old for transfusion. Quite often, the blood expires before it is used because doctors find it challenging to get the type of blood they need. Giwa-Tubosun found that there was a communication lag as doctors struggled to get blood while blood banks were discarding it after the six-week expiration period.
“One of the insights I got was the existence of a surplus and a shortage of blood. We have people on the supply side discarding expired blood and on the demand side dying because the blood is not available. I thought the solution was to help both sides pass information to each other.”
With Lifebank, Giwa-Tubosun was able to connect blood banks with hospitals and their patients. Her team gathers inventory data from about 52 blood banks across Lagos and responds to requests from hospitals based on the data provided by the banks.
Between them, Dr. Sulaiman and Temie Giwa-Tubosun are saving lives in a nation where many cannot afford medical care at all. I give two thumbs-up to both of these generous people!