Professor Olawale Sulaiman : Renowned Neurosurgeon With a Big Heart

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Professor Olawale Sulaiman is a globally acclaimed professor of neurosurgery and spine surgery. Currently regarded as the best spine surgeon in America, Sulaiman is highly skilled in the application of minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat spinal disorders and complex nerve reconstructive surgery.

As the system chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, Sulaiman oversees all of the clinical and academic neurosurgery activities at all Ochsner-owned and network hospitals. Recently, Ochsner Department of Neurosurgery was named number four in the country for patient care and quality by CareChex.

In 2016, Sulaiman was named co-medical director of the award-winning Ochsner Neuroscience Institute, thereby expanding his leadership role to including neurosurgery, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation and neurocritical care departments.

Humanitarian missions

For many years, Professor Sulaiman has been committed to improving the quality of healthcare available to disadvantaged people in sub-Sahara African countries, especially in Nigeria. He began his medical mission to Nigeria in 2010, where he would visit every few months. Now, he travels almost every month and spends seven to ten days, performing surgery there.

Another remarkable sacrifice by Professor Sulaiman was his agreement with his employers (Ochsner Institute) to give up 15 per cent of his salary in order to give him the flexibility to travel for his medical missions. For over six years, he and his team have performed surgeries on over 500 patients, as well as screened and provided preventative medicines to 5,000 people. His employers have bought into his vision and support his efforts by sending medical supplies overseas with him.

Sulaiman is also the CEO and Chairman of RNZ Global Limited, a company focused on healthcare development, operations and management in sub-Saharan Africa, and is at the forefront of revolutionising healthcare in the region. The firm has played a major role in bringing modern neurosurgery and spine practice to many in Nigeria, raising the standard of neurosurgery in both private practice and government teaching hospitals.

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Professor Olawale Sulaiman
Professor Olawale Sulaiman

Aside from the contributions of kindhearted people like Sulaiman, quality and affordable healthcare is inaccessible to millions of people in Nigeria. With an inadequate health insurance system, only a privileged few of the population with the means can afford the high cost of standard healthcare available in few hospitals in the country. Sulaiman is using his influence and expertise to bring this issue to the forefront.

As a well-respected thought leader in the Nigeria’s healthcare challenges, Sulaiman acts as an advisor to Nigerian ministries of health at the state and federal levels. He has recently been appointed as Special Adviser to the Governor of Kwara State on Health Matters.

Education and career

Professor Sulaiman was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1970. He had his secondary education at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos. His academic brilliance earned him the National Scholarship for Academic Excellence for his tertiary education and to pursue his dream of becoming a surgeon.

Sulaiman completed a combined MD/MSc degree at Medical University, Varna, Bulgaria, in Europe, where he received the university prize for academic excellence and graduated among the best in  medical school. His interests in nerve and spinal cord injury and regeneration research led him to the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, where he also completed a PhD in Neurosciences (neurobiology of nerve injury and regeneration) under the tutelage of a world-renowned neurophysiologist, Dr Tessa Gordon.

He completed his neurosurgery residency at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He also completed two world-renowned clinical fellowships in both complex nerve reconstruction (Louisiana State University Health Science Centre, USA – under Dr David Kline) and complex spine surgery (Medical College of Wisconsin, USA – under Drs Larson and Maiman).

Sulaiman is board-certified in neurosurgery by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He is currently the medical director of the multidisciplinary Back and Spine Centre at Ochsner, as well as the director, Laboratory of Neural Injury and regeneration.

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The acclaimed neurosurgeon has extensive research experience in both nerve and spinal cord injury and regeneration and he runs a nerve/spinal cord regeneration translational research laboratory at Ochsner. He is also a recipient of several honours and research grants, including: Research Excellence Award/Fellowship by the Canadian Institute for Health Research; Outstanding Research Recognition/Incentive Award by the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research; Principal Investigator Research Fellowship Award by the Rick Hansen Institute/Alberta Paraplegic Foundation.

Sulaiman is a reviewer for many neurosurgery and neuroscience journals and has also authored several peer-reviewed publications and book chapters in these areas. He is a member of many editorial boards and the Associate Editor for Biomedical Reviews and Section Editor for Frontiers in Surgery.

Sulaiman lectures at local, national and international meetings, including serving as faculty, moderator and member of the scientific programme committee at neurosurgery national meetings (CNS, AANS, Louisiana association of neurological surgeons). He currently serves as a Professor of Clinical Neurosurgery at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

Sulaiman is happily married to Patricia Sulaiman, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Like her spouse, Patricia is also very passionate about improving the quality of life of indigent people living in Nigeria. They both launched RNZ Foundation for the management of their philanthropic activities.

Professor Sulaiman and Patricia are blessed with three children.

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