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Mark Bernstein Appointed to the Greg Wilkins Barrick Chair in International Surgery

Mark Bernstein with Vera Wilkins and Peter Munk (from left to right)

Mark Bernstein with Vera Wilkins and Peter Munk (from left to right)

A $5.5 million gift from the Barrick Gold Corporation and Vera Wilkins will insure a legacy of education and care based on the pioneering work that Mark Bernstein has done to encourage improvement in neurosurgical treatment in developing countries (see also http://www.surgicalspotlight.ca/Article.aspx? ver=Summer_2010&f=BernsteinGhana).

The Barrick Gold Corporation, the largest gold mining corporation in the world, has 26 operating mines in many countries. The company has decided to honor the memory of Greg Wilkins, their charismatic and highly effective Chief Executive Officer. He is described by his friends as highly intelligent, adventuresome (he was a Grand-AM auto racer), humble and fiercely loyal. He had taken the company to great heights during his tenure as CEO. Greg died from a glioblastoma multiforme at age 53. The Greg Wilkins-Barrick Chair was planned as his legacy. It will perpetuate his memory and celebrate his accomplishments.

Mark’s vision of the Chair is to improve neurosurgical health care delivery in developing nations, to decrease inequities, to enhance engagement and understanding between healthcare providers in developed and developing countries, and to advance the general well-being of developing nations, specifically in the domain of healthcare. This mission will be accomplished by enhancing the access and quality of neurosurgical care - by empowering their surgeons, nurses, anesthetists and other healthcare providers through hands-on education inside and outside the operating room in their local environment and in Toronto. Mark’s specific aims include:

Support of scholarships for surgeons, nurses, anesthetists and other healthcare providers from developing nations to visit and observe neurosurgical care at Toronto Western Hospital, and to provide salary support for neurosurgeons from developing nations to obtain additional specialty training in neuro-oncology as Fellows at TWH.

Support of travel costs for the Chair holder and other members of the team for missions to teach neurosurgery, nursing and surgical ethics in distant lands, and to recruit students and residents to participate in international surgery by visiting developing nations.

Support for research to assess the impact and sustainability of the teaching program, support the Chair holder and his/her designate to present lectures at international meetings, support video conferencing, tele-teaching, internet-based teaching in developing centers, and support visiting professorships and academic symposia based on international surgical education.

The Chair will add countries where the Barrick Corporation has mines to Mark Bernstein’s already productive international teaching program. For example, a recent Barrick outreach scholar, Mariam Al-Rashid is an international neurosurgery observer from Saudi Arabia. Mark will travel to Zambia, a country he has not yet visited, but an important part of the Barrick program, to assess and advance neurosurgery capacity there. He will continue to fulfill his mandate in other countries, in addition to those of interest to the corporation, such as his Nigeria mission where he will bring two nurses, an anesthetist, a resident and a qualitative researcher for his next visit.

Supported by the Chair, students will be enabled to participate in these missions, and a Global Health Professional Masters degree in International Surgery will be funded. George Ibrahim, a current neurosurgery resident will be the first to enter this graduate program. George teaches the ethics module on informed consent to the 3rd year medical students, accompanied by Mark Bernstein. Mark is developing a model of teaching ethics through and with residents, a well established model of education in clinical surgery. The international chair will bring students and neurosurgery residents with Mark to assure that a legacy of international Neurosurgery is established. An important theme of the program is enculturating residents and students to inspire them to sustain the program. There is an axiom often quoted in our bioethics centre to describe the importance of teaching moral reasoning in addition to providing answers to ethical dilemmas: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life”. Embodying the transgenerational theme of the Barrick- Wilkins Chair, Mark adds: “If you teach a man to teach his son to fish, you can help feed a community for life.”


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