|Trini neuro-surgeon making waves in Canada |
By Richardson Dhalai Sunday, June 21 2015
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Safraz Mohammed, Resident, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto....
A neurosurgeon is a highly trained medical professional who specialises in surgery on the brain, spine, and peripheral nervous system and is usually regarded as one of the most complex within the medical field. And it may be for precisely this reason that the speciality is one which has the most vacant positions within the local medical field.
However, for one medical practitioner, Dr Safraz Mohammed, who underwent extensive training at the University of Toronto, Canada, the field is one which brings an enormous amount of satisfaction or, as he put it: “we bring hope to where hope is no longer perceived.”
Dr Mohammed recently became a fully trained, certified neurosurgeon, as of June 10, 2015 and was previously the Chief Neurosurgical Resident at the Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto in his final year of training.
In a recent interview, Dr Mohammed, who won the 1995 President’s Gold Medal in Mathematics at GCE Advanced Levels’, admitted that he had attempted to get into the field of general surgery and not neurosurgery.
“When I tried to get into the field of general surgery here at San Fernando General, I couldn’t, they said that they did not have any space and the neurosurgeon would not mind having me and I got into neurosurgery and thoroughly loved it,” he said.
The challenge he said was to provide hope to patients and their families who were diagnosed with tumors, brain traumas or even those facing paralysis through accidents .
“Take people out of that pit of hopelessness and giving them a new lease on life, we give people a chance of living some semblance of a quality of life that they wouldn’t normally have without neurosurgery,” he said.
Mohammed, who grew up in Charlieville, central Trinidad attributes his success and moral attributes to his parents who encouraged him to pursue education as a means of escaping a life of poverty.
“My mother always taught us, my two sisters and myself, that education was the only way out of poverty,” he said.
And Mohammed took his mother’s words to heart as he entered Presentation College, Chaguanas after the Common Entrance examination and was soon topping his class. However, he hit a road block on his way to becoming a neurosurgeon as he was never got a satisfactory answer following a request for funding to complete his studies at the University of Toronto.
This did not stop Mohammed who, despite not getting funding, first enrolled in a Masters in the Medical Science programme at the University of Toronto in 2007 and after two years gained admission into the highly coveted neurosurgery training programme in Toronto which is currently ranked as the best neurosurgery training facility in the world.
Across all of Canada, only 20 Canadian medical students were accepted into the programme but in2009, the Canadian government opened a single spot for training of a foreign medical graduate in neurosurgery. Mohammed was awarded this single spot.
He then completed a one year In-folded Spine Fellowship at the University of Toronto in 2013.
He also attributes his continuing success to his wife, Anita Bahall-Mohammed, a Mathematics teacher at Naparima College, as the backbone of his family as he has had to commute between Toronto and Trinidad while the couple raised three children, two boys and a girl.
Mohammed is also a course director candidate for ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support) and was nominated in 2014 for the Wrightman- Berris Teaching awards at both the Undergraduate and Post Graduate Teaching levels.
During residency, Mohammed published 25 abstracts, eight journal articles, one book chapter on Spine and Spinal cord injury in Critical Care (in progress) and gave three research oral presentations at a national level, and one invited lecture to the Canada National Neuroscience Symposium in 2013.
He was recently highlighted at a Canadian national level to the CAIR Resident Spotlight by the 2014 CAIR Education & Professionalism Committee; he was selected from a cohort of over 15,000 medical and surgical residents across all of Canada. Mohammed has performed about 1,700 procedures which include both cranial and spinal operations.
His future plans include a one-year spine fellowship in Toronto, for further sub-specialty training in minimally invasive surgery, spine trauma, oncology and deformity correction in adults and kids.