A Salute to Sayed El Gindi - An African
Nii B. ANDREWS, MD
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.
Professor Sayed El Gindi, the revered African neurosurgeon,
had passed on.
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.
El Gindi was an untiring advocate- no, protagonist for
progress in African neurosurgery. He was particularly moved by
the absence of personnel and resources for treating head
injuries in Africa. On account of this, he travelled
extensively throughout Africa to train surgeons and establish
facilities for the management of head injuries.
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.
He became an iconic figure in world neurosurgery; an honorary
President of the World Federation of Neurological Surgeons (WFNS),
the African Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (AFNS), the
Pan African Association of Neurological Sciences (PAANS), the
Pan-Arab Neurosurgical Society and the Egyptian Neurosurgical
But more importantly he was debonair, a consummate gentleman
and a humanist.
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.
Our thoughts at this difficult time are with Mrs. El Gindi,
his daughters and family.
If we are to honor this gentle giant of a man and titan, then
we must perpetuate his legacy of life long service and
humanism – always bringing living water to a thirsty land.
Nii B. ANDREWS, MD
Chief of Neurosurgery and Vice-President, neuroGHANA.