Profile of the Month
Sulaiman Azeez, M.D.
Chief of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center
||Dr. Sulaiman Azeez with Josefina Hernandez
World Wide Doctor
I’m originally from Nigeria, where I went to medical school. My initial residency and medical training was as a House Officer in the British National Health Service before starting residency in America, at SUNY-Downstate. I chose to study and focus on gastroenterology and hepatology because many of major causes of death and illness in the world that are preventable are in this field, for example, diarrhea, liver cancer, colon cancer, peptic ulcers to name a few.
Why Colon Cancer Awareness Month Matters
I think that having a date or a month that’s dedicated to major events, cultures or personalities in our community permits one to reflect in a undistracted manner on our communal values. This month dedicated to Colon Cancer awareness gives us the chance to ponder on the negative impact of this preventable and third most common cause of premature cancer death among men and women, both in human cost and actual dollars. It’s a great opportunity to again remind folks how preventable colon cancer is.
The Ethnic Disparity
We know we can prevent colon cancer deaths by screening early, starting at age 50 and earlier if people have family history of the disease. Blacks die of colon cancer at higher rates because of poor access to healthcare and compounded by lack of awareness about the importance of screening. HHC’s focus on increasing the rate of colonoscopy and other forms of colon cancer screening by educating our communities and ensuring access to anyone who needs it is really helping to close that gap.
The Thrill of Saving Lives
At Lincoln, we perform more than 2,000 colonoscopies every year and we find colon polyps in about a quarter of those. Those polyps can turn cancerous – so we are really preventing cancer before it starts. We are saving lives. Despite our ability to prevent colon cancer, there are still too many people who die from it. The good news is that since President Clinton made colon cancer awareness a national priority in 2000 by officially dedicating March as the recognition month, the rates have declined. But in the South Bronx it remains the second most common cancer.
Most Memorable Patient Moment
It wasn’t a patient, it was a colleague. She was going to retire and kept promising that she would get a colon cancer screening. Finally, on her last week, she got a colonoscopy. She had two large adenomatous polyps with invasive cancer. That meant the colonoscopy was curative and she did not need surgery or chemotherapy. Needless to say, she was very happy, and so were we.
Giving Back as a Way of Life
My volunteer work with the Episcopal Parish of St Augustine's in Brooklyn, which I have been doing since 2007, involves a focus on AIDS/HIV education. We created a special brochure for the parish that emphasizes the impact of AIDS and means of reducing HIV infection. The brochure which I helped create is shared with our sister Parish of Diocese of Gold Coast in Ghana. This effort is all part of a push to incorporate the UN Millennium Development Goals, which is a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. One of the main goals is to eradicate the spread of AIDS and increase education. As a physician, I was in an obvious position to help the parish advance this work.
His Brain at Play
I like golf and chess because you are not in a hurry to play—you can take your time. They are also social games. I am very lucky to play a round of golf every four months at my local municipal golf course. Regarding my chess skills—well, all I can say is, thank God for computers because I get to play chess every day.