A SALUTE TO SAYED EL GINDI – An African Titan.
The serious practitioners of neurosurgery (brain and spinal cord surgery) in Africa are never put off by adversity. However, the news that came out of Heliopolis, Cairo this week was particularly tough to handle.
Prof. Sayed El Gindi came of age when the anti-colonial struggle was gathering strength on the African continent; he completed his undergraduate medical degree from Cairo University in 1956. In the ensuing years, as many African states gained the right to self-determination, he pursued post graduate training in neurosurgery- both in Cairo and the UK and gained the FRCS in 1963.
Fully compatible with the ethos at the time, Sayed El Gindi returned to Egypt and established a Neurosurgical Department at the Maadi Military Hospital and powered it into one of the best specialist units in the country. He later went on to assist in the establishment of Neurosurgery Departments in Alexandria, Mansoura and Luxor.
The pan-Africanist fervor of the times was not lost on El Gindi. He embraced it with zeal and proceeded to train many neurosurgeons from Africa and the Arab world. His first trainee was Adel El Hakim, a life-long El Gindi loyalist- and an excellent neurosurgeon who rose to become Professor and Head of the Neurosurgery Department of Ains Shams University and later the Nasser Institute.
In the academic arena, El Gindi was on the Editorial Board of the flagship scientific journal-“Neurosurgery” and he published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in international scientific journals- all of which have helped to provide knowledge and improve patient outcomes.
Whether it was on a boat on the Shire River as the hippopotami saluted us with their glistening sabres; or at a beach side restaurant in Cotounu; or navigating the market stalls in Blantyre and Aswan or standing together and watching the sunset over the west bank of the Sakumono Lagoon- for me he was a quiet re-assuring presence, rooted and confident in his African and Arab heritage- a renaissance man; a true citizen of the world.
I still remember poignantly, the tightness of his jaw and the gleam in his eyes when he stood at Kwame Nkrumah’s grave in silent tribute on that Sunday morning barely a few hours after arriving in Accra for the first time; El Gindi never abandoned the Pan-African spirit.
As cognoscenti of the arts, he and his life-long partner- Mrs. Samia El Gindi, had an extensive collection of paintings, illuminated manuscripts and objets d’art at their lovely Heliopolis apartment to uplift the human spirit; and their hospitality was always the most gracious.
If we are to honor this gentle giant of a man and titan, then we must perpetuate his legacy of live long service and humanism – always bringing living water to a thirsty land.
Nii B. ANDREWS, MD