A Ghanaian professor of Surgery and Pathology flying high in the US – Dr Francis Ali-Osman


A Ghanaian professor of Surgery and Pathology based in the United States of America (USA) has been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the US National Cancer Advisory Board.

Dr Francis Ali-Osman was appointed among other members to advise President Obama, the US Secretary of Health and Human Service and the Director of the National Cancer Institute on a wide range of issues relating to the US national cancer programme.

The world-renowned cancer researcher and oncology leader is currently the distinguished Professor of Neuro-Oncology Research at the Duke University School of Medicine in the USA.

In an interview during a visit to the head office of the Graphic Communications Group Limited, Dr Ali-Osman said: “It is a great honour because very few people are privileged to have this opportunity.”

He said his appointment also demonstrated Ghana’s human resource potential.

Supporting his country
Dr Ali-Osman, whose speciality is in brain tumours and translational cancer research, has held many positions in the field of cancer and served on many boards, including the Iowa Cancer Center and the Board of Scientific Advisors of the US National Cancer Institute.

With more than 25 years’ experience in cancer and brain tumour research, Dr Ali-Osman said he was bringing his expertise to Ghana to help fight cancer, which is claiming more lives than malaria and HIV.

“If President Obama was able to appoint me as a member of the US National Cancer Advisory Board, then I believe I have a lot to offer,” he said.

Already, he said he had been working with the Neurosurgery Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) on some surgeries and programmes, respectively.

Although Ghana faced the threat of cancer, he said it lacked the infrastructure to deal with the disease.

To bring his expertise on board, Dr Ali-Osman said he was working with the NMIMR to set up a Cancer Research Programme where scientific-based research on cancer would be studied, while a cancer registry would also be established to collect data on cancer cases.

‘Cancer differs by race’
He noted that Ghana and Africa needed their own research on cancer to ensure effective treatment, since the disease differed by genetic factors in race.

“Although the disease is the same, it differs in race by the genes, but most of the medicines are for the White race and so we have to start studying our race, which is the Black race of the disease, to get effective treatment,” he explained.

On the Cancer Research Programme, he said the centre would test herbal medicines and incorporate them with other medicines to get effective treatment for the disease.

“Currently, we are working to get partners from the US, so that a state-of-the-art cancer research centre will be built in Ghana to serve the West African sub-region,” he said.

The Head of the Neurosurgery Department at KBTH, Dr Thomas Dakurah, who accompanied Dr Ali-Osman to the GCGL office, said there were many renowned Ghanaians who were doing well outside the country.

Considering the poor infrastructure at home, he said it took committed people to come down to bring their expertise to help the country in the medical field.

He commended Dr Ali-Osman for his support to the department over the years and his vision for the country and urged others to defy the odds to help their country.

Academic background
From the Navrongo Senior High School in the Upper East Region through to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where he had his undergraduate training in Pharmacy, Dr Ali-Osman moved to obtain advanced doctorate degrees in Germany.

He pursued doctorate degrees in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, Pharmacology and Laboratory Medicine from the Free University of Berlin, Germany, and completed a fellowship programme in Neuro-oncology at the Brain Tumour Research Center at the School of Medicine of the University of California, San Francisco.

In the US, Dr Ali-Osman has served in a variety of positions, including Assistant Professor and Director of Brain Tumour Research at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Senior Investigator and Chief Scientific Officer at the Hipple Cancer Research Centre at the Wright State University School of Medicine.

Also, he has been the Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Experimental Pediatrics and Professor and Director of Neurosurgery Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.