Omaha World Herald
This article was written by Michael Kelly and published Tuesday, May 25th 2010
Just back from Kuwait, the head of the Nebraska Medical Center’s international program said Monday that its relationships with other countries have reached “a new dimension.”
Nizar Mamdani says the med center now has formal connections with 118 medical institutions in 44 countries and is offering telepathology and electronic second opinions.
Yes, surgeons from Omaha are on the cutting edge. But these new services are cutting-edge, too. Specialists can view medical records over a secure Web site and give medical opinions to patients in other nations within two to four days. Telepathology, meanwhile, allows docs in Omaha to examine electronically scanned slides of patients’ biopsied tissue. The program is starting now under agreements with medical centers in Mexico, India, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
“This is brand new,” Mamdani said. “It’s just been introduced in this country.” Mamdani (whose first name is pronounced Nee-ZAR) started the International Health Care Services program at the med center 10 years ago. He has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles setting up relationships.
“We establish comfort levels between our specialists and those in other countries,” he said. “The idea is the more they know about our institution and programs, the more comfortable they will be in referring patients here.” International patients pay cash, either from their own resources or under health care arrangements with their countries.
Hundreds of patients have traveled to Omaha the past decade, with more than 40 from 11 countries this year alone.
A recent success story is Jana Al Yami of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who turned 2 years old on May 7. She had intestinal failure at birth and required tube feeding, but her parents brought her to Omaha in November for a small-bowel transplant. She may go home soon.
Besides world-class medical care, patients and families receive what Mamdani calls a full range of personal care – local transportation, translation, special meals and help with financial transactions and sightseeing.
Jana’s family was introduced to local Muslims and has worshipped at their mosque. A Presbyterian minister from New Zealand was hooked up with a church in Bellevue while his child was here.
Mamdani, 63, a former businessman, is a native of Tanzania who was living in Atlanta when he brought his wife to Omaha in 1998 for cancer treatment. She died a year later, but he was so impressed with the skill and compassion in Omaha that he persuaded med center officials to let him start the international health care program. He later married an Omahan, Marsha Davidson, and plans to stay here — except when traveling, which is often. “I’m hooked on Omaha,” he said. “I love my work and the people here.”