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Celebrating the Life and Death of a Medical Icon

Celebrating the Life and Death of a Medical Icon

Omolola Ayoola  

The distance across continents cannot be a barrier to friendship, especially one built on helping humanity.  This is apt in describing the bond and friendship between two families – Brian Abraham Lieberman of Manchester and Ibrahim Wada of Abuja.

The passage of Dr Lieberman at 81 recently was indeed a great loss to his immediate and extended family in England and Nigeria. It provoked a barrage of emotions when Dr Ibrahim Wada, the founder and CEO of Nisa Premier Hospital, Abuja, broke the news of the demise of his good friend and mentor. 

Dr. Wada went into a sober reflection. He recalled how he met Dr. Lieberman and the role he had played in his life.

“The man of hard work, the man of integrity, the man of ability, the man that will give everything to another person is now gone. I wish him a safe journey into the afterlife”, were the words from Dr. Wada as he reflected on the demise of his friend and colleague, Dr. Lieberman. The farewell procession was held at the Lieberman Building, Nisa Premier Hospital, Abuja, Nigeria on Friday 24, February.

Dr. Brian Abraham Lieberman, an IVF, In Vitro Fertilization specialist, was born in 1942.  He was one of the pioneers of Reproductive Medicine in the United Kingdom and had contributed greatly, improving the lives of women who had infertility issues and saving many marriages. Dr. Lieberman was an award winning, highly accomplished doctor in his field of medicine who brought joy to many families.

The enormous advancement made in science by the fertilization of an egg with sperm outside the body, then implanted into the uterus for the woman to carry to term is nothing short of being genius. His skills in the field of Reproductive Medicine and sound judgment had played a major part in people’s lives including that of Dr. Ibrahim Wada.

After passing the key specialist exams of the West African College of Surgeons, Dr. Wada decided to widen his horizon and looked to England.

Telling his story, Wada recalled:

“I arrived in England in the year 1986 at Addenbrooke Hospital in Cambridge and then started the advanced learning processes that led me to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn. It was after passing the examinations of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1988 that I started looking for opportunities to study and acquire skills in invitro fertilization which was a very new subject then.

“I was lucky that one of the places I applied was Manchester Fertility Services owned and operated by Dr. Brian Liebermann and we spoke on the phone before the interview and I had a good recommendation from my consultant in King’s Lynn. I think, I was very lucky that out of 99 applicants including the British, Indians and Africans, I was selected.

“During the period of experience and training under him I did not relent. When the opportunity for a permanent stay at Manchester’s Saint Mary Hospital and National Health Service post came up, he advised that I should apply. I applied and got it, again we worked very well and closely together and I kept saying I must go home and deliver the knowledge I had acquired to Nigeria.

“He supported me greatly with advice and more trainings to the extent that when an opportunity arose at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, he supported my going there as a consultant and that was a mind-blowing place to work, an opportunity for even more experience, more command and control of the field. I was there for two and half years and until my return to Nigeria. We were in good contact all through my period in Cambridge. Upon my return to Nigeria, I established an IVF treatment Centre which I kept him informed.”

Greatly moved at the farewell procession organized in honor of the deceased, Wada prayed that his soul Rest in Peace. He further said, he and his wife, Mrs. Rabi Wada were deeply touched by the life and death of the deceased.

“In 2002, Dr. Brian Liebermann and his wife visited my family in Abuja with and that passage cemented the relationship between the two families. Whenever we traveled to England, we would visit them or talk with them over the phone if the opportunity did not exist for us to visit. This was our routine until his time on earth was up and he left quietly.

“During their visit to Nigeria the “Lieberman Building” at Nisa Premier Hospital Complex, Abuja, was dedicated to him to which he personally cut the ribbon. I think my life wouldn’t have been the same if my path didn’t cross Prof. Brian Liebermann’s and I’m grateful to God that it happened. Everything I knew that helped me to overcome the obstacles towards IVF in Nigeria came from him. I hope that his work continues. I am proud of the fact that this building here is named after him and it will continue to bear his name forever and ever as long as we will live,” said Wada.

Dr. Wada emphasized that he would not be where he is today if not for Prof. Lieberman’s immense contributions to his training and skill acquisition. He also encouraged him to return home and help millions of families/women with infertility problems. He said a visit from Prof, was like an understood encouragement and acceptance that he had approved of his work in Nigeria.

“I had never seen a person work as hard, work as honestly, work as diligently, work with so much focus as Prof. Liebermann. Even though he was in a high position, he was so simple, so down to earth. These are some of the attributes that I came home with; hard work, dedication, commitment, quality, truthfulness, integrity, more hard work and results”, Wada reminisced.

He consoled the bereaved family saying the death of Dr. Lieberman is difficult for him and he couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be for his family to bear such searing loss. He would draw strength from the fact that he belongs to the Creator more than he belongs here.

Everyone present at the event sang: “For he was a jolly good fellow” to celebrate his life and death.

Dr Lieberman was a teacher, mentor and friend of Dr. Wada who was a Clinical Research Fellow from 1989-1990 in Reproductive Medicine at Manchester Fertility Services founded by Dr. Lieberman and St. Mary’s Hospital, Manchester where he practised as a Consultant Gynecologist.

He founded Manchester Fertility, United Kingdom, in 1986 as a reproductive medical center providing treatment by various techniques including the use donor gamete, in vitro fertilization, surgical sperm retrieval egg and embryo cryopreservation and intra-uterine insemination.

The world’s first IVF baby was born in Britain on July 25, 1978. This procedure is now widely available to women who, because of infertility or other problems would otherwise be unable to conceive.

Today, Manchester Fertility is one of the UK’s most reputed fertility clinics, not only known for life-changing innovations and fertility expertise, but also for their compassion and patient focused dedication which has helped over 5,000 babies be born.

He not only had impacted lives with his skills but had also done a lot of research works that have helped others. Those works include: Reducing the incidence of twins from IVF treatments: Predictive modeling from a retrospective cohort; Management of ovarian hyperstimulation following ovulation induction with Buserelin; human menopausal gonadotropin; Gene expression analysis of a new source of human oocytes and embryos for research and human embryonic stem cell derivation, and Measurement of human chorionic gonadotropin during early pregnancy: A comparison of two immunoradiometric assays; Altered sex ratios; and Quality control in an in-vitro fertilization laboratory: Use of human sperm survival studies among others.

Overtime, their relationship developed which resulted in Dr. Wada being among the pioneers of IVF in Nigeria. Lieberman had been a permanent source of wisdom, advice and encouragement to him.

“We have lost an icon and a truly great man. It’s been a day of sober reflection for me. He touched my life to touch thousands of lives in Nigeria”, said Wada who is a recipient of the National Award of the Order of the Niger for his ground-breaking works in the field of invitro fertilization in medicine.

This prompted him to set aside 25 February for staff at Nisa Premier Hospital to gather around the “Professor Brian Lieberman Building” to say a prayer and remember him, promising that he will live in their hearts forever.

His photo will be proudly on display on the building for a long time to come, he promised. A book of condolence which is being signed by Nisa and his well-wishers will be sent to Manchester to the family of the deceased when it’s completed.

CAPTION: Director, NISA Premier Hospital, Abuja, Mrs. Rabi Wada and President Nisa Medical Group, Dr Ibrahim Wada with other members of staff at a tribute session for Professor Brian Lieberman, Professor of Obstetrics & Gyneacology and Specialist in Infertility who passed on at 81 in England

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