Dr. Mark Bernstein
Over 18 years, Dr. Mark Bernstein has led teams to numerous countries, including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Kenya. "We often learn more than we teach," he says. (Photo: UHN)

Dr. Mark Bernstein smiles when he thinks back to his first global teaching experience.

In 2003, he took a month-long trip to Indonesia to train residents in neurosurgery. It was 38 C and humid every day, there was scant internet and he stayed in a tiny hotel, sharing his room with numerous beetles and moths. He was hooked.

Since then, Dr. Bernstein, a neurosurgeon and clinician investigator at UHN's Krembil Brain Institute, who is also part of the Sprott Department of Surgery at UHN, has participated in more than 30 similar missions to countries around the world. He helps build capacity in neurosurgery and palliative care in countries where physicians don't have access to the same resources and infrastructure as they do here.

"A lot of people would see it as charity or philanthropy," he explains. "I see it as justice."

In April 2021, the University of Toronto's Temerty Faculty of Medicine honoured Dr. Bernstein with the Dean's Alumni Humanitarian Award for his work training doctors in neurosurgery and palliative care. The award is given to alumni who have gone above and beyond clinical responsibilities in their work to help civic, charitable and social causes, either locally or globally.

Over 18 years, Dr. Bernstein has led teams to numerous countries, including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Kenya. He often returns multiple times to continue teaching and bring new and gently used equipment to the hospitals he visits.

"We often learn more than we teach," he says. "It's a two-way thing."

Read more stories about advancements in brain research and patient care, in the 2021 Krembil Brain Institute magazine.

Dr. Mark Bernstein abroad
Dr. Bernstein teaching future neurosurgeons in Kenya. (Photo: Courtesy Mark Bernstein)

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