Emphasizing that more persons can be saved if organs were provided, Vincentian Dr. Malcolm Samuel is strongly advocating the need for a drive to encourage organ donation.
In an interview with THE VINCENTIAN he noted, “It can make the difference between life and death for someone with organ failure such as kidney or liver failure. It improves their quality of life and enables the recipients to live a normal life. It’s probably one of the most selfless things someone can do for their loved ones or friends.”
Dr. Samuel, a Vincentian by birth, is the Renal Transplant/ General Surgeon and Clinical Director (Ag) National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Trinidad & Tobago. He is the son of Claude and Barbara Samuel.
He admitted that his parents have always encouraged their three children – two sons, one daughter – to do things properly, which instilled a discipline that has helped them achieve.
Dr Samuel confessed that he has always admired his father’s achievements, as he came from humble beginnings in Chateaubelair, and was the only one of his siblings to go to University.
Towards becoming a surgeon
After graduating as an Island Scholar from the St Vincent Grammar School in 1978, he entered the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, from which he graduated in December 1982.
He intimated that since he was nine years old, he had set his aim at becoming a surgeon, as he liked using his hands, and believed that by becoming a medical practitioner, he would help to make people better.
In pursuit of his childhood ambition, Dr. Samuel received training in General Surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Barbados, Hospitals of the University West Indies and in the United Kingdom, on to becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in General Surgery.
He completed Fellowship training in the UK in Breast Disease, Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery and Renal Transplantation and, since 2009, has been the Chief Renal Transplant/General Surgeon at the NOTU at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Trinidad & Tobago.
From this base Dr. Samuel has performed over 150 transplants in both live related and deceased donors.
He served as a Visiting Renal Transplant Surgeon at the University Hospital Birmingham UK 2010 to 2011, and upon his return to Trinidad & Tobago, introduced Hand Assisted Laparoscopic Donor Nephrectomy in the living donor surgery programme.
As would be expected of someone of his caliber and experience, Dr. Samuel has presented a number of research papers on kidney transplantation, not least being one on the first 100 cases performed at NOTU, which he delivered at the 2013 South African Transplant Congress in Durban.
Needless to say, the sought after surgeon has mentored surgeons in start-up transplant programmes in Jamaica and Barbados, over the past six years.
St, Vincent and the Grenadines is not excluded from the Surgeon’s expertise. He is the lead Consulting Surgeon to the locally based Health Solutions Inc. (HIS), ‘a medical service provider that first opened its doors in 2012 through its initial service offering as the first ever established outpatient hemodialysis unit in SVG, and one of the reference centres for diagnosis and treatment of chronic renal pathologies in SVG’.
His latest feat
The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed down Dr. Malcolm. He disclosed that there have been more challenges with all the restrictions, as transplant patients are high risk due to them being immune-suppressed, but he pushes forward.
Notwithstanding the challenges, Dr. Samuel cut another niche for himself when, in November 2020, he led a team at the NOTU/Eric Williams Medical Science Complex in Trinidad and Tobago, and performed a successful kidney transplant on a 72-year-old Michael Harris, a former columnist with the Express newspaper.
In so doing, Harris became Trinidad and Tobago and the English-speaking Caribbean’s oldest recipient of organ donation and transplant, according to the Express of December 20, 2020.
The article, as referenced, described Harris’s case as a “complicated one.” Harris had underlying heart and lung issues which had to be resolved before he could be considered for transplant surgery.
Even when those obstacles were out of the way, the surgical team knew the risks of something going seriously wrong during Harris’s surgery were far greater than if they were operating on a patient half his age, the Express reported.
Dr. Samuel told the Express, “It is an operation that is very unforgiving regarding mistakes; we need to make sure that both the donor and the patient are in optimal condition.”
In Harris’s case, the donor was his son.
After the six-hour high-risk but successful surgical procedure, Dr. Samuel told the Express, “Mr Harris’s transplant has now given him an extra ten years of life or more, which he would not have had if he remained on dialysis.”
Malcolm Samuel – the man
Believing in reciprocity and the importance of doing good unto others, Dr. Samuel’s personal philosophy is to “treat everyone with kindness and respect.”
The avid football/sports fan and supporter of Manchester United FC and father of two enjoys cycling, cross fitness and advocates a good work-life balance.
And just like any good doctor, he advised on the importance of consuming more locally grown nutritious foods – eating less fast or convenience foods, getting regular exercise, smoking and drinking less.
In pursuit of his goal to have Renal Transplantation accessible to all in the Caribbean who suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease, Dr. Samuel’s availing of his medical/surgical expertise is making Vincentians and the region proud, one patient at a time.