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Surgeon saving lives in N.O. and Nigeria

" I feel privileged. I feel like I have been given an opportunity to impact somebody's life."

NEW ORLEANS – Doctor Wale Sulaiman is a neurosurgeon at Ochsner Hospital and most would consider that a full-time job, but Dr. Sulaiman manages to find the time to operate on two continents.

From New Orleans to Nigeria, Dr. Sulaiman finds himself on a plane every month traveling between the two regions.

While in Nigeria he performs surgery for free.

“My philosophy is whether you are Nigerian, Vietnamese, an American, everybody should have access to some degree of good quality healthcare,” Dr. Sulaiman said.

He treated one man in New Orleans who suffered from back pain for years. The man wanted to avoid surgery, but the pain intensified to the point where it impacted his walking. After having four epidurals he turned to Dr. Sulaiman.

The man had spine surgery in December and after just one day following the surgery, he was able to walk virtually carefree.

Dr. Sulaiman started his medical mission to Nigeria in 2010. In the beginning, he would leave his post at Ochsner to return to Nigeria every few months. Now he travels every month, spending seven to ten days performing surgery and arguably saving lives.

One 40-year-old woman in Nigeria who was comatose with a brain tumor underwent emergency brain surgery. After Dr. Sulaiman performed surgery, she was able to open her eyes and move about by herself.

“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,” he said.

The New Orleans to Nigerian endeavor is demanding. Dr. Sulaiman must say goodbye to his three children every month. He also agreed with Ochsner to give up 15 percent of his salary so he can have a flexible schedule to travel.

In the past five years alone, Sulaiman and his team have performed surgeries for 500 patients and they also have screened and provided preventative medicine to 5,000 people. Ochsner has supported his efforts by sending supplies overseas with him.

Dr. Sulaiman is now developing programs to train locals, so they can spread healthcare to those with no access.

“ I feel privileged. I feel like I have been given an opportunity to impact somebody’s life,” he said.

Through his work, Dr. Sulaiman established the RNZ Foundation. The foundation's goal is to build a medical facility in Nigeria where Sulaiman and his partners can provide treatments to patients and training for the next generation of doctors.

If you would like to know more about the foundation, click here.

Those who wish to make a donation can click here or call 504-842-1500.

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