ISABELLA OPOKU

"OUR DESTINY IN LIFE CAN BE THROWN AT US IN TIMES OF PAIN"

Dr. Isabella Opoku is a Ghanaian Resident Neurosurgeon at the International Neuroscience Institute in Beijing. She started her educational life in Ghana where she completed St. Rose’s secondary school. She obtained her Medical Degree (MD) from the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil which prepared her for her career in the field of Neurosurgery.

Dr. Isabella Opoku, a Ghanaian Resident Neurosurgeon.

How about the work the WFNS Foundation is doing for the most disadvantaged?

Recently in 2017, Liberia announced the presence of its first and only Neurosurgeon in the Country. This goes a long way to tell how most African Countries are under-resourced and lack professionals in the field. The WFNS Foundation through supervision of Training programs has been trying to bridge that gap ratio of Neurosurgeons to Population to an acceptable level by the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommends at least 1 neurosurgeon per 100,000 inhabitants.  Personally, I am honored to be a benefactor of the laudable work of the WFNS Foundation which incorporates all the full-time residency/specialization and fellowship programs under WFNS which includes the “Africa 100’’ Neurosurgical Project which was started by the World-renowned Neurosurgeon Prof. Majid Samii which aims to train 100 Neurosurgeons for the African Continent. The distribution of Neurosurgical Equipment to young African Neurosurgeons from various countries also boosts Neurosurgical practice for the very young ones starting life as Neurosurgeons in Africa.

How did you get to neurosurgery?

Our Destiny in Life can be thrown at us in times of pain. Neurosurgery actually found/discovered me. During my medical school days, I initially wanted to specialize in Urology. Unfortunately, during my 5th year of medical school my mother was diagnosed with a complex skull base meningioma which could not be operated on in my home country (Ghana) according to the few Neurosurgeons we consulted at the time at Ghana’s Largest Hospital- Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Her constant headaches and suffering brought so much pain to our family and that was the time I developed an interest in Neurosurgery.

What’s the journey through Neurosurgery like?

Crafting a career in Neurosurgery is not an easy task and it’s even more daunting for women. The first lesson is recognizing and acknowledging there are no straight lines in the Universe. There are always going to be obstacles and roadblocks that try to slow us down and take us off our paths. In hindsight, it has become more apparent that those are my greatest learning opportunities. Having years of training far away from my home country with no female role models from Ghana, undeniably a strong presence of female Neurosurgeons on the African continent especially in West Africa is practically non-existent. This has propelled me to learn to create my path in alignment with my values and aspirations as a Young African resident Neurosurgeon. Help and guidance have always been a phone call away from my mentor Prof. Ling Feng through transitions, decisions, and challenging times.

Routine morning Ward rounds with Prof. Zeng Gao And Prof. Du Jianxin

Are there many great days in your profession?

Yes, there are many great days in this extremely challenging field of Neurosurgery, interestingly after a hard day’s work, those are the days you feel extremely fulfilled and relevant to society, knowing you can be the ‘’magic wand’’ someone could be waiting for to ease their pain and suffering.

Resecting a Cerebral Cavernous Malformation in a 4-year-old boy

What values do you appreciate in your work?

Hard work, Compassion, and Bravery (In my line of work there are a lot of things that as human you would feel you dare not try) sometimes a little motivation from others can be stimulant you needed to dare into the unknown.

Certificate for the 2019 UMA Competition during the WFNS World Congress

What was your mentors’ strategy for deciding their vocation as a neurosurgeon? What concepts are instilled in you?

My mentor Prof. Ling Feng who is the president of the Chinese Board of Neurological Surgeons vocation as a Neurosurgeon has always been and remains her passion to be there for people in need in all situations, her full residency training program as part of the “Africa 100’’ Neurosurgical Project started by Prof. Majid Samii is a clear example of her dedication. Believing in the nurturing and empowerment of her protégés she has and continues to strategically train and groom women for key positions in the field of Neurosurgery over the years.

The most important concept she has instilled in me is the art of giving a helping hand especially to women to be able to rise in life and this is evident during our Women In Neurosurgery meetings dubbed “ goddess meeting’’ held once every 3 months in my hospital for all female Neurosurgeons. That is the time we interact share our problems and delve into solutions.

‘’Goddess Meeting’’ held once every 3 months by Prof. Ling Feng for the few Women In Neurosurgery (WIN) at the China International Neuroscience Institute (CHINA -INI).

My mentors Prof. Mahmood Qureshi (left, President of Continental Association of African Neurosurgical Societies-CAANS, University Hospital Aga Khan, Nairobi- Kenya) and Prof. Kazadi Kalangu ( far right, Former second Vice President of WFNS, Honorary President of CAANS,  Head of Dept of Neurosurgery, University of Zimbabwe) with the WFNS Foundation Chairman Prof. Miguel Angel Arraez at the 2019 WFNS World Congress in Beijing.

What are you focusing your work on now?

I am currently focusing more on scientific publications in the field of Neurosurgery which is also a requirement in my Ph.D. program which runs concurrently with my specialization program and obviously acquiring more practical neurosurgical knowledge from the operation room with my patients at the hospital.

China International Neuroscience Institute -Beijing. A World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies Accredited Training Hospital.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my Mentors Prof. Ling Feng, Prof. Mahmood Qureshi, and Prof. Kazadi Kalangu, the entire Neurosurgical Team at the China International Neuroscience Institute (China-INI) especially the Pediatric Neurosurgery team.

Special thanks to my Colleagues Dr. Wang Tao, Dr. Lidan Jiang, Dr. Chen Sichang, Dr. Qi Meng, Dr. Liu Yang, and Dr. Ignatius Esene who have held my hands on this journey.

My sincere gratitude to two brilliant Neurosurgeons from Brazil, Dr. Washinton Oliveira and Dr. Claudio Marcio who gave me the opportunity of my first contact and experience with Neurosurgical patients during my time in medical school.

To Prof. Suzana Serra and Dr. Arthur Da Cunha, I say I am grateful.

To Dr. Mabel Banson (Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital) I say, hand in hand together we can inspire young Female Ghanaian Doctors and propel them into the field of Neurosurgery.