Black Excellence: Meet The Ghanaian Neurosurgeon Helping Joe Biden Relaunch Campaign Against Cancer

by Duke Magazine

Edjah Nduom is the son of Ghanaian parents who came to the United States years ago “with nothing”. On Wednesday, Nduom, who is now a neurosurgeon-scientist at Emory University, was at the White House to help President Joe Biden unveil a national campaign to fight cancer.

The Ghanaian physician was chosen to introduce Biden at a ceremony to relaunch the Cancer Moonshot initiative that started five years ago under President Barack Obama’s administration. The initiative is now focused on reducing deaths from cancer by 50 percent in the next 25 years and improving the lives of people and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

“This is a moment to believe in a healthier future for all families. To believe that we can end cancer as we know it. To believe in science and to believe in America,” Nduom said while calling Biden the nation’s “patient advocate in chief”.
“Knowing that there is a president who is throwing the full weight of the presidency behind this effort means that even between big announcements like this one, all levers of government are being pulled to create a brighter future for cancer patients,” he said.

In 2016, then-vice president Biden launched the first Cancer Moonshot in the Obama administration. He lost his adult son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015. Beau was 46.

“I committed to this fight when I was vice president,” Biden said Wednesday. “It’s one of the reasons why, quite frankly, I ran for president. Let there be no doubt: Now that I am president, this is a presidential White House priority — period.”

More than one million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,708,921 new U.S. cancer cases were reported in 2018. It’s the second leading cause of death after heart disease. In 2019, 599,601 people died of cancer. The most common causes of death were breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Nduom, who is elated to be helping Biden relaunch Cancer Moonshot, talked about his African roots. He said that there was a time when he would not have been allowed to do what he is doing now.

“As a son of Ghanaian immigrants who came to the United States with nothing, there was a time when I could not participate in scientific discussions in the United States,” he said.

“We have ways to go before harnessing all of the diverse talents of our country. But the progress that we have made means that we are constantly bringing new ideas to this challenge,” the Ghanaian neurosurgeon added.

Nduom is the son of Ghanaian politician and businessman Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom. He is a neurosurgical oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, an Emory Brain Health Center neurosurgeon, and associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine, where he completed his residency, according to his profile by Emory University.

His research focuses on ways to harness the power of the immune system to fight brain tumors. Nduom served as Assistant Clinical Investigator in the Surgical Neurology Branch of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health before joining Emory in 2020.

He is a member of the board of directors of the National Brain Tumor Society and a co-founder and diaspora representative of the Society for Neuro-Oncology Sub-Saharan Africa. A fellowship-trained and board-certified neurosurgical oncologist, Nduom is particularly interested in the safe resection of malignant tumors located in eloquent areas of the brain, the brainstem, and spinal cord.

Holding numerous positions in national and international medical societies, Nduom received his MD from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before completing a residency in Neurosurgery at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

He completed a Research Fellowship in Neurosurgical Oncology in the Surgical Neurology Branch of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, and an additional Neurosurgical Oncology Fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

He has presented his translational and clinical work on immune therapy for brain tumors at numerous national and international meetings.

His father’s firm Groupe Nduom saved a failing bank in the U.S. six years ago. The ISF Bank, or Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association, located in Chicago, Illinois, was founded in 1934 to cater to the capital and banking needs of families, local small businesses, faith-based institutions, and nonprofit organizations in the community.

But the Black-owned bank started experiencing difficulties during the economic downturn of 2008 and by 2016, it was in danger of shutting down due to lack of capital. This was when the Ghanaian firm Groupe Nduom stepped in. An entrepreneurial and enterprise building firm then operating out of West Africa and the UK, the firm donated as much as $9 million to the ISF Bank to revive its struggling operations. The Ghanaian firm was eventually allowed to buy the ISF Bank, following the regulatory approval by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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