Like many African countries Nigeria’s healthcare system does not have enough personnel to effectively deliver essential health services to its population as reported by the Global Health Workforce Alliance.
Dr. Olawale Sulaiman, 49 is working to provide healthcare for the multitudes of Nigerians that lack access to it, whether financially or due to the scarce resources. Sulaiman, a professor of neurosurgery and spinal surgery and chairman for the neurosurgery department and back and spine centre at the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute in New Orleans, told CNN his motivation comes from growing up in the relatively poor region of Lagos Island.
“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,” he said.
Dissimilar to numerous others with his background, Sulaiman received a scholarship to study medicine in Bulgaria through the Bureau for External Aid, a Nigerian government program which is targeted at improving the quality of life for Nigeria’s most vulnerable communities.
He went on to receive 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 and he completed his post-residency fellowship training in complex nerve reconstruction at Louisiana State University and complex spine surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee
It is through his initial scholarship that he gained all the other many opportunities that got him to where he is today.
“Africans who have had the privilege of getting outstanding training and education abroad must mobilize their network of influence to transform our continent,” he explained.
“As I often do, I consulted with my loving and devoted wife for advice. We both decided that giving back was the only option for both of us, and for our family. We have never looked back,” he added.
Towards their goal the couples established RNZ Global, an organisation that has become a leader in healthcare development, operations and management in sub-Saharan Africa, and is at the forefront of revolutionizing healthcare in the region.
The organisations website details that, through the use of emerging and established technological advancements in medicine, they are committed to ensuring that cutting edge healthcare is both made available and accessible to those in the region. To date RNZ Global has treated more than 500 patients and provided preventative medicine to up to 5,000 people in the US and Nigeria.
Outside of establishing RNZ Global Sulaiman also negotiated a 25% pay cut with his American employer in exchange for longer holidays to Nigeria to pursue his passion.
“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,” he told CNN.
Furthermore, the RNZ Foundation which is the not-for-profit arm of RNZ Global is providing scholarships for university level education, establishing youth centres for recreational activities, sports, mentorship and networking and financially empowering women via targeted investments in trade and commerce.
Sulaiman serves as the Co-Medical Director of the Ochsner Neuroscience Institute and the Medical Director of the most comprehensive Spine Centre in the region. He is recognized as one of the best spine surgeons in the USA and is skilled in the application of minimally invasive techniques to treat spinal disorders.
With a PhD in Neuroscience, he is actively involved in neuroscience research and heads the Laboratory for Neural Regeneration at Ochsner Medical Centre. In fact, he is currently Ochsner’s Medical Director of International Medicine for the African Region.