During a vacation and medical mission to North Africa, Medhkour, chief of the Division of Neurosurgery at The University of Toledo Medical Center, also spoke at a meeting in Casablanca, Morocco, to the Maghreb Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, representing the neurosurgical community from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. He had spoken in 2009 to the Algerian Society of Neurological Surgeons about the state of medicine in the management of traumatic brain injuries.
“North Africa’s mix of medical equipment and expertise ranges from quite modern in some areas to quite inadequate in others,” said Medhkour, UT associate professor of surgery. “Neurosurgery is an area where there is tremendous need for modernization and by meeting and working with young neurosurgeons in the region, we are educating physicians today who will be educating neurosurgeons across their nations in the years to come.”
While there, Medhkour gave lectures on advanced neurosurgical procedures and walked through treatment case studies, highlighting how he would address a variety of tumors and aneurysms. Medhkour also was invited as a visiting professor to the Neurological Institute of Tunisia, Tunis, where he spoke with the residents and staff physicians and gave grand rounds about traumatic brain injuries.
At the end of his trip to North Africa, Medhkour examined 20 children who came from across Algeria hoping for possible surgical intervention. These children suffer from myelomeningocele, a birth defect that leaves part of the backbone and spinal cord exposed.
Some of the problems to be confronted are not merely a matter of increasing knowledge, he said.
“There’s a tremendous need for brain pressure monitors, which are essential when treating traumatic brain injuries,” Medhkour said, adding that the roads are deadly in Algeria, and reckless driving makes them three to four times more deadly than in the United States.
Another challenge is that even the most skilled brain surgeon needs a team of specialists around him or her when treating children with severe deformations like myelomeningocele.
“You need an anesthesiologist, a pediatrician, a neurologist and numerous other experts whenever you’re dealing with the brain and the nervous system because they are so intricately connected with every organ system in the body,” Medhkour said. “Those multidisciplinary teams simply don’t exist in North Africa.”
To change that, Medhkour and others, including Pearce, have begun discussing the necessary steps to be taken by first increasing the scientific exchange, and in the future planning for an American hospital in Algeria. With further progress, the idea would be to build an American university in Algiers. This will help train doctors and health-care professionals while treating the local population.
In the meantime, additional scientific exchanges were discussed, including seminars focused on different pathologies among which cancer treatment will be a good start.
“The ambassador was very enthusiastic and promised whatever assistance he could provide,” Medhkour said, noting that despite his busy schedule, the ambassador was very generous with his time and advice.
There are a great number of people who are working to help create a self-sustaining medical system in North Africa, Medhkour said, adding that many retired physicians or those on sabbatical are coming to North Africa to help treat the population and educate doctors.
In November, Medhkour will travel back to the region, this time for a neurosurgery conference that will include nations across the Arab world.