Date of Birth: 6th Oct 1947
CEREBRAL PALSY: a disorder involving brain damage, which limits the movement of legs, arms, or an entire side of the body. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common type of cerebral palsy
CRANIOPHARYNGIOMA: rare brain tumours that affect eyesight and hormone levels in children
ENDOSCOPY: a medical procedure that uses a viewing instrument called an endoscope to observe organs within the body with minimal injury
PAEDIATRIC: related to the treatment of children. Paediatric specialists are called paediatricians
TUMOUR: a mass of cells that divide endlessly. Cancers are tumours that spread throughout the body and interrupt normal body functions
Paul Steinbok entered school at the age of three and completed his primary schooling when he was seven. He completed his O’Level Examinations at the age of 13!
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Professor Paul Steinbok is considered a world leader in the field of paediatric neurosurgery and has been listed in the International Directory of Distinguished Leadership and the Best Doctors in North America. He has lectured on medicine, neurology and paediatric neurosurgery in many countries, both developed and developing.
Paul Steinbok was born on 6th October, 1947 in St. Lawrence, Barbados, spending his childhood in Palm Beach. His parents, who were immigrants from Poland, ensured that their son always had company and was well looked after. They encouraged him to pursue medicine and, after he earned both a University of the West Indies (UWI) scholarship and the Barbados Scholarship at the age of 17, he began studying medicine at UWI, Mona, Jamaica. He left for England after accepting a one-year scholarship from the British Overseas Development Ministry to complete a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Physiology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. After graduating in 1968, he returned to his studies in Jamaica and earned his medical degree in 1971.
Dr Steinbok specialised in neurosurgery because of his interest in research and his fascination with the functioning of the brain. He did his neurosurgical training in Vancouver, Canada where he was taught the importance of listening to and empathising with patients, in addition to giving one’s best effort in surgery. In 1979, after spending a year at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA on a brain tumour research fellowship, he returned to Canada intending to specialise in brain tumours in adults, but grew to love paediatric neurosurgery instead. In 1984, he was appointed head of neurosurgery at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital and he gave up his adult practice.
Internationally recognised as an expert in the treatment of children with spastic cerebral palsy, he was the first Canadian surgeon to perform the only surgical procedure that can permanently cure the limb stiffness associated with cerebral palsy. He is also recognised for his pioneering research in treating craniopharyngioma tumours. With the help of Dr Douglas Cochrane, Dr Steinbok found ways to reduce the amount of blood needed for neurosurgery.
Dr Steinbok has taken a major interest in the education of paediatric neurosurgeons around the world. He has been Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of British Columbia since 1996. He helped introduce the use of endoscopes in neurosurgery at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica and has assisted Caribbean neurosurgeons with complex paediatric neurosurgical cases.
Professor Paul Steinbok attributes his success to the principles by which he leads his life. He recommends, “Always try to do your best. Be trustworthy. Treat your fellow human being with respect. Be honest to yourself and do nothing to undermine your personal values.”