​Neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Bernstein knows all too well the challenges of providing neurosurgical care in developing countries like Ghana. In many communities around the world resources and health care expertise are in short supply.

Image of Mark BernsteinBut these challenges are the driving forces behind Dr. Bernstein's goal to foster locally sustainable, modern neurosurgical care in developing countries.

"It is vital that we attempt to address the global inequities in health care," says Dr. Bernstein. "And in doing so we have the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues overseas that will advance our ability to fight disease throughout the world and here at home."

Thanks to a multi-million dollar donation from Barrick and Vera Wilkins, wife of Greg Wilkins, the former CEO of Barrick, TWH will play a role in improving surgical care for neurological conditions in developing countries.

The $5.5 million donation to the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation ( TG&WHF) in honour of Greg's memory will be a lasting legacy to a great Canadian business leader. In December 2009, at 53 years of age, Greg Wilkins died of brain cancer. His courageous battle brought him to TWH, where he underwent brain surgery performed by Dr. Bernstein.

On June 23, TG&WHF marked the official opening of the Barrick Gold Corporation Centre for International Outreach, the naming of the Gregory C. Wilkins Centre for Excellence in Neuro-Oncolocy at TWH and Dr. Bernstein as the inaugural holder of the Greg Wilkins – Barrick Chair in International Surgery.

Dr. Bernstein specializes in neuro-oncology, a subspecialty in neurosurgery that is tasked with removing brain tumours. In 1996, he performed the first awake-outpatient craniotomy in the world. Craniotomy is a type of brain surgery most commonly performed to remove a tumour. By keeping the patient awake and able to communicate during the surgery, surgeons can ensure that they are not harming areas of the brain that are critical for normal function.

Over the past eight years, Dr. Bernstein has pulled together over 15 international missions to help bring surgical skills and training to communities in need.

"It was one of Greg's last wishes, in the final weeks of his life that we pay tribute to Mark Bernstein," said Vera Wilkins. "He wanted others to benefit from his personal experience with this type of illness and give patients less fortunate than himself a real fighting chance."

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