Nigerian-born surgeon breaks new medical grounds

…Performs landmark robotic surgery in North Carolina hospital

At the Fayetteville Veteran Affairs Medical Centre (VAMC) in North Carolina, a new ground was broken in the field of medicine and surgery. The hospital, working in collaboration with the Department of Defense (DOD), recently recorded its first robotic surgery using the Da Vinci surgical system technology.

Da Vinci surgical technology is a state-of-the-art technology designed to enable surgeons to perform complex surgeries through minor incisions using a minimally invasive technique with the surgeon at the console operating with system-assisted clear vision and precision. With Da Vinci technology, the surgeon’s hand motion maintains accurate movements in four robotic arms operating inside the body of the patient.

The surgeon at the console, steering this pioneer joint project is Nigerian-born prodigy and celebrated surgeon, Dr. Obinna Igwilo, who worked with a team of clinicians and other employees of the Fayetteville Coastal Healthcare system.

At the core of the surgical breakthrough is the desire of the Fayetteville VAMC and DoD to overcome some of the endemic problems facing the healthcare systems in the US: the high cost of care.

Da Vinci technology was approved by the FDA in 2000 as the first surgery system technology for general laparoscopic surgery in US hospitals, according to RoboticOncology.com, and since then, the use of this cutting-edge technology by surgeons has been on the rise due to its stated effect on cost reduction. Because the technology is precise and minimally invasive, post-surgical bleeding is minimized while hospital stay is drastically shortened, leading to a reduction in hospital cost.

Other benefits specific to VAMC and DoD, according to VAMC Chief of Staff, Dr. Jeffrey Morgan, include a productive “partnership and collaboration resulting in beneficial resource sharing, commitment to good stewardship of taxpayer resources and best patient care possible.” According to a release by the medical centre, Dr. Igwilo said that the veterans who received the surgeries were happy and appreciative of the benefits.

Within Fayetteville VAMC, Dr. Igwilo’s robotic surgery remains a historic event being the very first to be performed in the 80-year-old hospital. Yet Fayetteville VA isn’t the robotic surgical root for Dr Igwilo who holds the fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (FRCS) Glasgow and Edinburgh, and American College of Surgeons (FACS).

A member of SAGES Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, with special surgical interests in Robotic/laparoscopic/minimally invasive surgery; Endocrine and Colorectal surgery,  Igwilo has been performing robotic surgeries since 2014. A consultant General Surgeon at VAMC and WAMC, he has been cited by his employers for his “active engagement with the training of medical students and surgical residents while also serving as clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery with Campbell University School of Osteopathic medicine.”

Born in Nigeria, Igwilo attended Ngwa High School, Aba in Abia State, where he was nicknamed ‘Archimedes” – after the Greek Mathematician and Physicist – because of the ease with which he handled Math, the very elusive subject loathed by many of his peers. He graduated from Ngwa High School in 1980 with a distinction. The same year, he was admitted to the University of Nigeria College of Medicine and Surgery, graduating in 1986 with MB.BCh.

Following his Internship at University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, Nigeria, and Clinical externship at Whipps Cross University Hospital in London, UK, among numerous clinical exposures in Europe and America, the budding MD emerged onto the US medical ecosystem, making sure to take a front seat in the ever-changing and technologically driven world of medicine and surgery.

Among Nigerians in the Diaspora and the homeland, Dr. Igwilo’s exploits in medical practice abroad have brought pride and inspiration to many both young and old. His high school class of 1980 and current students at his alma mater, Ngwa High School Aba, and staff, are said to be in festive moods following Igwilo’s recent accomplishment.

This ground-breaking surgery in NC by a Nigerian-born surgeon bears clear testimony to the leading roles being played by Nigerian doctors in the US and around the world in promoting health and advancing the cause of humanity.

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