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Pediatric neurosurgeon and director of the UNC Global Neurosurgery Program, Dr. Carolyn Quinsey, and two neurosurgery residents from the UNC School of Medicine traveled to Mauritania last month to visit the first neuroscience center in the region.

The center is located in Nouakchott, the capitol city of Mauritania, in northwest Africa. The center will include operating roomsGlobal neurosurgery equipped for neurosurgical procedures and a neuro intensive care unit (ICU), the first of its kind in the country.

The center will open in early 2024 under the direction of Dr. Soumare. “This is a major step forward in providing very high-level care for the citizens and in building trust in healthcare overall,” said Dr. Quinsey. “The surgeons here are extremely talented and thoughtful.”

Dr. Quinsey is also the associate program director of the neurosurgery residency program. Dr. Bethany Andrews, PGY 4 neurosurgery resident, and Dr. Olivia Gilbert, PGY 2 neurosurgery resident, accompanied Dr. Quinsey on her visit to the center. “Dr. Soumare has put his heart and soul into the planning and creation of this hospital in order to ensure high quality comprehensive care for the patients,” said Dr. Andrews.

The center will also include an endovascular suite, emergency department, physical therapy, psychiatric unit, CT/MRI scanners, and stepdown service for neurology and neurosurgery patients. “The facilities are beautiful and state of the art,” said Dr. Gilbert. “The attention to detail is a quintessential reflection of Dr. Soumare’s commitment to the people of Mauritania.”

Neurosurgery residents in Africa learning about global neurosurgeryDuring their visit, both Dr. Andrews and Dr. Gilbert had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Soumare and the residents at the center. “They immediately welcomed us with open arms and were so intentional in their interactions with us, always making sure to take opportunities to not only teach us, but also get to know us,” said Dr. Andrews. “Their diagnostic skills as well as knowledge of anatomy and the neurologic exam were outstanding, and we took away so much just from watching their interactions with patients and listening in on case discussions.”

During their time in Mauritania, Dr. Quinsey, Dr. Andrews, and Dr. Gilbert had the opportunity to meet with US Ambassador Cynthia Kierscht and her team at the US Embassy in Nouakchott. They have played a crucial role in sustaining a global relationship to improve neurosurgical care in Mauritania. “We look forward to continuing the relationship by working on research projects that will ideally enhance the quality of neurosurgical care globally, but importantly for the wonderful Mauritanian people,” said Dr. Gilbert.

Dr. Andrews and Dr. Gilbert were also invited to participate in case discussions during conferences, and observe the residents with patients in clinic. “The residents there are so well-trained and passionate about their work,” said Dr. Gilbert. “Watching them compassionately and

thoughtfully interact with patients in clinic in multiple languages until almost midnight, was really inspiring.”

Both Dr. Andrews and Dr. Gilbert left Mauritania with new surgical techniques and fresh ideas on how to improve patient careGlobal neurosurgery - UNC Neurosurgery Residents that can be applied to their own neurosurgical practice. “One of the key takeaways for me was the importance of performing a good history and physical exam when diagnosing and treating patients,” said Dr. Andrews. “It is vital to ensure that the patient’s symptoms and history actually correlate with these studies before jumping into surgical interventions that may not be beneficial to them or may even cause harm.”

For all three UNC Health doctors, the trip to Mauritania was an unforgettable experience and lesson in the importance of fostering global relationships to ensure that affordable neurosurgical care is available to all who need it. “I learned how rewarding it is to collaborate with other neurosurgeons who treat populations different from our own with different resources,” said Dr. Andrews. “It was eye-opening to see how there are numerous ways to provide excellent patient care as long as one is able to come up with creative solutions.”

Dr. Carolyn Quinsey and neurosurgery residents with Dr. Soumare in AfricaDr. Quinsey and Dr. Soumare’s passion for global neurosurgery will hopefully inspire the next generation of neurosurgeons, like Dr. Andrews and Dr. Gilbert, to continue building meaningful relationships with neurosurgeons all over the world. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy when I think about my experience in Mauritania,” said Dr. Gilbert. “I am grateful to the entire community in Nouakchott, especially Dr. Soumare, for investing so much of their time and resources into fostering our global relationship.”



Written by: Makenzie Hardy, Marketing Coordinator, UNC Health Department of Neurosurgery