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Dr. Mandat Maharaj celebrated for almost three decades of contributions to neurological services in Cape Breton

Dr. Mandat Maharaj, Neurologist at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, has made significant contributions to health care in the Eastern Zone. At the end of June, Dr. Maharaj semi-retired after 27 years of service within the Nova Scotia Health system and a 30-year career in neurology. Dr. Maharaj will continue his work in supporting the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on a part-time basis.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Maharaj completed medical school at the University of West Indies in Jamaica. He then completed a fellowship in neurology in Montreal before returning to the Caribbean and practiced as an internist and neurologist until 1992. He then completed his neurology residency at Dalhousie University before beginning practice at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital where he has practiced since 1996.

Before Dr. Maharaj began his practice, there was not a complete neurology service at Cape Breton Regional Hospital. Dr. Maharaj has been instrumental in the implementation of the Neurology Service at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, including specialty clinics for Multiple Sclerosis, electroencephalogram (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and Botox. Dr. Maharaj also set up one of the first non-academic stroke units in the country.

“There were a lot of long nights setting up the machines! They were trying years but enterprising years,” explained Dr. Maharaj.

Dr. Maharaj described this as a very exciting time in his career as many other physician specialists were setting up other clinics at the brand-new hospital. “We all felt like we were building something, and these clinics have matured into full clinical services 25 years later,” said Dr. Maharaj. “It’s been very rewarding to see.”

Dr. Paul MacDonald, Cardiologist at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, has worked with Dr. Maharaj at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital for over 25 years and trained together at Dalhousie.

“Dr. Maharaj has been the perfect colleague and always supportive. He has contributed tremendously to the community having treated thousands of Cape Breton patients and their families” said Dr. MacDonald. “It is hard to put into words how big the contribution he has made to the community truly is.”

“Medicine is constantly evolving and changing, and Dr. Maharaj has always stayed at the forefront of those changes by being involved in research, teaching others, and providing the best care to Cape Bretoners,” said Dr. MacDonald.

Dr. Maharaj said that one of the most demanding tasks of his role is reading the latest medical evidence. “I read more now than I did when I was a medical student,” said Dr. Maharaj. He shared that in a smaller hospital, each specialist has a need for a wider knowledge base as they perform many roles in the care of their patients.

Although reading medical journals and the latest clinical evidence is important, Dr. Maharaj acknowledged, “medicine is not only about medical knowledge, but also about social interaction and empathy,” said Maharaj.

Dr. Maharaj spent time in his career advocating for his patients and speaking up on issues that matter to him. One issue he believes in is equity of access regardless of the area where a patient lives.

“Health care should not be by zip code,” he said.

Dr. Laith Shimon, Neurologist at the Cape Breton Regional, has worked with Dr. Maharaj for the last eleven years. From personally calling drug providers on behalf of his patients to working to bring additional resources to Cape Breton, Dr. Maharaj is “a strong voice for Cape Breton,” said Dr. Shimon. “He is well-respected locally and nationally among neurologists.”

Dr. Shimon recalled Dr. Maharaj inviting neurology specialists from Canada and the United States to gather in Cape Breton and providing a seminar series to local family physicians and health care providers.

“Dr. Maharaj is not only an experienced neurologist and colleague, but he is also a great friend,” said Dr. Shimon. “He is passionate about neurology and the care he provides locally. He is the cornerstone of neurology in Cape Breton. I will miss him, but he definitely put in his time!” said Dr. Shimon.

Dr. Maharaj said that the support in triaging patients to the department of Neurosurgery at Nova Scotia Health located in Halifax has been outstanding, especially the support from the Division Head of Neurosurgery, Dr. David Clarke. 

"I have had the privilege of working with Dr. Maharaj for more than 25 years,” says Dr. Clarke. Dr. Maharaj has great pride in the people of Cape Breton and in the Neurological service he established there.” 

Dr. Clarke said Dr. Maharaj has been a constant advocate for neurological care for his community. 

“Dr. Maharaj is always accessible, thoughtful, helpful, and willing to do whatever is in the best interest of the patient. On behalf of the Division of Neurosurgery, all the best in the next phase of your career, my friend!” said Dr. Clarke.

Dr. Maharaj is also an Assistant Professor of Neurology with the Department of Medicine at Dalhousie University. Dr. Maharaj has been involved in important phase four Multiple Sclerosis clinical trials, as well as stroke and Parkinson’s Disease over the years.

Many neurology and family medicine residents have rotated through his department, and this will be, perhaps, his largest legacy for health care in Nova Scotia as his students continue to make impacts now and into the future.

In 2015, Dr. Maharaj received the Distinguished Service Award from Doctors Nova Scotia for his outstanding contributions to raising the medical standard in neurology and for his commitment to providing professional development for local physicians.

In his spare time, Dr. Maharaj is the lead singer of a local band of colleagues from the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. He has a love for reggae music which originated from his time studying medicine in Jamaica. He recalls having many kitchen parties and gigs with his colleagues who have turned into close friends.

When Dr. Maharaj retires, he is looking forward to spending more time in his garden planting trees, annuals, perennials, and other colorful flowers. Apart from medicine and music, he says gardening is one of his passions. He is also excited to catch up on reading, jokingly adding that the reading materials will be non-medical literature. Dr. Maharaj also hopes to learn to play an instrument in his spare time.

Congratulations, Dr. Maharaj!

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