Dr. Osman first fell in love with vascular surgery during his post-graduate surgical training in Ireland. As he said, “With vascular surgery we can help a wide variety of people and the effects of surgery can be immediate and life-saving or life-changing.”
He didn’t always know he wanted to become a vascular surgeon. After graduating from the University of Khartoum in Sudan, he moved to Dublin in Ireland where he trained as a general surgeon. “Initially I thought I might go into paediatric surgery,” he said, “but when I was introduced to vascular surgery, I knew that was where my future would be.”
After his time in Ireland, Dr. Osman came to Canada; specifically as part of a vascular surgery fellowship at Toronto General Hospital. “Toronto is a big city,” he laughed. “Downtown Toronto, where I lived, was very busy, with lots of traffic and people. When the opportunity to move to Thunder Bay came along, I was immediately intrigued. The green spaces reminded me very much of Ireland, and, once I got landed here, I felt the peace that comes with being away from a major city centre.”
Dr. Osman was recruited to work at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre by Dr. Yaasin Abdulrehman, a vascular surgeon who was instrumental in developing the vascular program in Northwestern Ontario. The surgeons worked together when Dr. Abdulrehman was doing two months vascular lab rotation at Toronto General Hospital in early 2014, as part of his vascular fellowship training. They also met again late 2014 after Dr. Abdulrehman’s appointment at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, when Dr Abdulrehman used to travel to Toronto from Thunder Bay to perform endovascular procedures on patients from Thunder Bay. “We became friends and I looked forward to joining him in Thunder Bay,” commented Dr. Osman.
It was January 2018 when Dr. Osman officially began his practice in Thunder Bay, at which point Dr. Abdulrehman had moved to Edmonton. “I was sad he wasn’t here, but was excited to work with Dr. Mary Macdonald to further expand the vascular surgery program that was underway,” said Dr. Osman.
Fast forward another six months and Dr. Matthew Ingves joined the team to round out the full complement of vascular surgeons needed to provide 24/7 access to vascular surgery.
“The vascular surgery program has certainly matured over the past several years and is becoming better known among physicians and other care practitioners in Northwestern Ontario,” said Dr. Osman. “This is really important because we are seeing more patients being referred earlier for care, and we are able to help save limbs, or provide fistulas for dialysis access. It’s really about improving peoples’ lives.”
Currently the surgeons are able to complete approximately 80% of the vascular surgery cases that present to them. “For the other 20% we require cardiac surgery backup,” said Dr. Osman, “and we’re very excited for that part of the program to be developed soon so that we can provide care for approximately 95% of the patients we see.”
“We are lucky to have a partnership with the University Health Network (UHN), as it has solidified our program” added Dr. Osman. “Thanks to the one-program, two sites model, we have access almost immediately to experts in Toronto and they are only a phone call away. Additionally we meet every Wednesday with our colleagues in Toronto to review our cases and determine the best course of action.”
As the vascular surgery program has grown over the past several years, Dr. Osman reflected on one of the biggest successes so far. “The RAVE (Rapid Access Vascular Evaluation) program has been very important and impactful,” he said. “We are working closely with primary care providers throughout Northwestern Ontario including physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses to ensure we’re providing earlier access to care for patients so we can provide the best outcomes.”
In the future, Dr. Osman wants to focus on expanding health education to significantly reduce the number of amputations, which are, in our region, three times higher than the rest of Ontario. “I want to travel to remote communities to provide education about diabetes, smoking and screening for aneurysms,” he said. “It’s vital that we improve access to vascular care and provide education so that we don’t continue to see some of the health issues that are prominent in our region.”
Looking back on the path that brought him to this point in time, Dr. Osman can recall two experiences that deeply shaped his life.
“When my son, Ahmed was born, the joy of welcoming our first child into our little home is an incomparable moment to anything that happened to me to this day,” he said. “Many years later, Ahmed has now completed his undergraduate studies in Physiology, Immunology and Global Health from the University of Toronto and is currently doing a Master’s in Public Health. My daughter Amal will earn her medical degree in two years, and my son Omer just finished his third semester at Ryerson Business. Finally, Mujtaba is looking forward to graduating from high school.”
As well, in his youth, Dr. Osman had the chance to travel to Germany for an elective in medical school, after learning German Language at Goethe Institute. “When I went there, it made me look at the world in a different way. Traditionally the path for me and my colleagues was to do our education in Sudan, train in Ireland or the United Kingdom and then come back to practice in Sudan. When I was in Germany, I met people from all over the world including the United States, Finland and areas of Africa. That experience helped me realize that there were no limits to what I could do, while not forgetting my hometown.”
“When I came home from Germany, I did a lot of charity work because I very much wanted to give back to my community. As well, when I was in Ireland I would go to Sudan for two or three weeks every year and contribute to promoting the healthcare system in any way I could. Eventually, I managed to help establish the vascular program at the Khartoum Teaching Hospital,” he said. “It was really my experience in Germany that gave me the confidence and knowledge that I could venture further afield while maintaining my connection to home. That has stayed with me to this day.”
Currently Dr. Osman continues to care for patients from across Northwestern Ontario. He concluded, “There are so many people who need our help, from trauma situations, to life-threatening aneurysms to amputation avoidance. It’s a privilege to care for my patients and I am thankful to do so in a beautiful setting like we have here.”