When asked, U.S.-based Nigerian neurosurgeon, Dr. Olawale Sulaiman, says the reason he forfeits 15% of his salary in the U.S. to be able to travel home to Nigeria to conduct free, scheduled surgeries, is because he wants to give back.
Dr. Sulaiman is a professor of neurosurgery and spine surgery who currently serves as the System Chairman of Department of Neurosurgery at the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. He is, however, making headlines now not for being just that, but because of his generosity towards the deprived in his native country of Nigeria.
“If I have been given all these opportunities in life then the least I can do is to give back to the society,” he said.
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For as long as seven to 10 days each month, he flies down to Nigeria to undertake free scheduled surgeries for those who can’t afford such medical bills. He has been hailed for showing that despite his success abroad in his chosen field, he still remembers home.
Recognized as one of the best spine surgeons in the U.S., Dr. Olawale Sulaiman also serves as co-medical director of Ochsner Neuroscience Institute and medical director of the most comprehensive spine center in the region. He is also skilled in the application of minimally invasive techniques to treat spinal disorders.
In a 2018 Atlanta Black Star story, he was described as a dedicated doctor who manages to split his time between New Orleans and Nigeria, often performing life-saving surgeries in both places for free.
“My philosophy is whether you are Nigerian, Vietnamese, an American, everybody should have access to some degree of good quality healthcare,” Sulaiman said.
After earning success as a surgeon years ago, he said he was looking for meaning in life, which he eventually found: to give purpose back to people who need it.
Born into a family of 10 in a community in Lagos which he describes as a deep ghetto (a place where there was hardly electricity or water), he dedicated himself to school, educating himself to the highest levels, especially because his parents are not formally educated.
He earned his medical degree in Bulgaria and went on from there to Canada where he met his wife. They ultimately settled in New Orleans with their three children.
Dr. Sulaiman describes his wife as his biggest support as he has to juggle between travelling between two continents every month; a tough decision he makes but believes is worth it.
“I feel privileged and that is why I feel I have to use this talent and skills to help those in need.”
Today, he and his team have treated nearly 500 patients and provided preventative medicines to at least 5,000 in the last five years alone.
Through his work, Dr. Sulaiman has established the RNZ Global Foundation (the initials of his children) which aims to build a medical facility in Nigeria where he and his partners can treat and train the next generation of doctors.