Resident Spotlight: Abdul Naeem - Neurosurgery

When Dr. Abdul Naeem was in high school he met his hero — then medical student Dr. Abdel Lawendy, MD’03, PhD’14. Dr. Lawendy’s empathy, selflessness, desire to help others and dedication to his surgical specialty led Dr. Naeem to pursue medicine and help patients in any way he could. As a PGY5 resident in Neurosurgery, Dr. Naeem is making a difference in the lives of so many people – and he’s just getting started.

Why did you choose the Neurosurgery program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?

I chose Neurosurgery at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry because of its phenomenal legacy as a pioneer in surgical innovations to improve patient outcomes. I came to appreciate this legacy even more when I decided to take an academic leave to study in London, England. I was surprised that neurosurgeons on the other side of the pond knew about Dr. Charles Drake and his innovations in clipping the basilar tip aneurysm. It was a proud moment for me to see the impact of a Canadian from rural Windsor, Ontario in shaping the field of neurosurgery internationally. It has been a dream come true to train at a centre that was built by Dr. Drake.

Describe your experience as a resident in Neurosurgery?

My experience with being a Neurosurgery resident has been fantastic. The support provided by the consultant staff team and in specific our program director, Dr. Siddiqi, has been great. You are encouraged to follow your passions, dream big and the program supports you. In fact, Drs. Parrent, Boulton, Megyesi and Lownie all encouraged me to pursue my dream of surgical innovation by enrolling in an MSc Biomedical Engineering program at Imperial College London in England.

My co-residents who have been my family during the past few years have made my experience so much more memorable and fun. I am grateful to the nurse practitioners, Deb, Pat, Jackie and Chelsea, who have been instrumental in our training and have looked after our emotional needs by always being there for us and having a steady supply of chocolates on their desks.

And above all, I am grateful for the patients who have entrusted their care to me and in our neurosurgery team. Being involved in their care has been a life-changing journey for me as they have taught me the value of resilience in the face of terrible odds.

What is the most important lesson you have learned through patient care?

Being a Neurosurgery resident, you see a lot of morbidity and mortality. You tell young parents that their nine-year-old daughter has brain cancer or that their 21 year-old son is never going to wake up after the car accident. You tell an elderly man that his wife, though fine the day before, has suddenly died of a fatal brain aneurysm rupture. These conversations happen several times during a busy week for the on-call Neurosurgery resident. While tragic, these events remind me that life is short and often unpredictable. These experiences through patient care have taught me to be thankful for what I have, especially my health and loved ones, because all of it can be lost in a matter of seconds.  

Who inspires you?

My dad inspires me. Orphaned as a teenager, he took on the responsibility of looking after his family.  He eventually got trained as an engineer and had a successful career solving energy problems of developing communities. His energy, drive, values and ability to see the positive in every negative situation inspires me to be a better human being.

What project would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date?

Outside of my clinical duties, I have been fortunate enough to work with a team of engineers with an interest in biomedical engineering. This collaboration allows us to come together away from the silos of our primary disciplines and work toward innovating in the health care ecosystem. We are using engineering principles to help overcome some of the technical barriers facing medicine. I am happy to say that this after-hours collaboration has resulted in several innovative projects and we are excited to share them with the broader health care community soon.

What is the title of the last book you have read?

The last book I read was called “Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment” by George Leonard. It offers practical wisdom for anyone willing to dedicate themselves to learning a new skill and achieve a higher level of excellence and fulfillment from life. The book shares stories of true masters from various fields and shows inspiring perspectives into their minds. These stories galvanize a roadmap for the beginner in his or her journey to achieve mastery so that they are cognizant of common pitfalls and obstacles on the road to attaining mastery.