Norfolk surgeon is a world-wide inspiration
The pioneering medical expertise of Norfolk-based surgeon Prof Jerome Pereira has inspired thousands across the world. Mike Wiltshire reports.
The remarkable story of Professor Jerome Pereira, a leading cancer surgeon, began in South India many years before when, as a teenager, he and his family were heartbroken by the death of his 12-year-old cousin, Lyn, through cancer.
Jerome visited the hospital many times before little Lyn died. He determined then to study medicine – and, years later, became a professor of surgery and an international trainer of surgical consultants.
Today, the Norfolk-based surgeon’s pioneering medical expertise and personal Christian faith has inspired thousands. His work has also included intensive research into leprosy which afflicts three million people who face permanent disability due to this disease, mostly in Asia and Africa.
Early in his career, Dr Pereira was himself inspired by another Christian surgeon, the late Dr Paul Brand, author of the well-known book, ‘Ten Fingers for God.’
This famous English doctor was the first surgeon in the world to use reconstructive surgery to correct leprosy-caused deformities in the hands and feet. It was said of Dr Brand (who died in 2003 at the age of 89), that “he changed the world’s perception of leprosy and leprosy sufferers."
His pioneering tendon transfer techniques are still used today to allow the hands and feet of leprosy patients to function properly. It was because of Paul Brand that Jerome – half his age - took up leprosy research. Dr Brand told him: “The Lord is bringing young men like you to carry the torch forward.”
Dr Pereira’s own research and surgical experience with leprosy patients has been foundational in his own career in helping to train other surgeons. He has a special interest in the outcomes of surgery and helped lead the national mastectomy and breast reconstruction programme. This was the first study in the world looking at the outcomes of breast cancer surgery and the largest patient outcomes study ever done in the UK.
As a consultant breast surgeon at James Paget University Hospitals in Great Yarmouth, he welcomes research which helps women make the right decisions about their treatment, with clearer advice from clinicians, thus improving quality of life after surgery.
Dr Pereira now leads advanced master-classes in online learning courses with live-link television seminars on breast surgery in 20 countries. This month has also seen the launch of a national feasibility study for the further training of NHS doctors.
He is a founder member of the Norwich School of Medicine and an honorary professor at the University of East Anglia.
Dr Pereira and his Irish-born wife, Mary, are both committed Christians whose faith that has helped them rise to many challenges in their service to others in the UK and overseas.
“My work is so absorbing and our life is very full – and we travel a lot. But we relax occasionally as avid walkers,” says Dr Pereira, who came to faith in Christ through the personal testimony of his wife, Mary.
With memories of a strict Catholic education as a child, he admits he initially found Mary’s new-found faith “rather strange at first.” He also recalled several years of “irresponsible social life” as an ambitious young medic - a lifestyle that did not help his dream of becoming a successful surgeon in the US.
Nevertheless, Mary’s vibrant faith impressed Jerome who admitted he “felt somewhat empty” despite all the eventual advantages of a successful medical career. So he began reading the Bible in spare moments – “and over a period of six months, the words came alive to me, with the help of the Holy Spirit.” He eventually made a personal commitment to faith in Christ and discovered a peace of heart he had not known before.
Jerome considered doing missionary medical work and made a costly decision to work for six years in the area of leprosy research. Today he “just stands back amazed” at the way God has helped him and Mary make the right career decisions and helped them persevere in their service to others. Mary, a former midwife, has a degree in psychology and is a trained Christian counsellor.
In the last 13 years, in addition to medical work, Jerome and Mary have helped to support training courses for more than 2,000 Christian ministers in tribal areas of India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Assam and Nepal, plus many summer camps for young people in the region.
Speaking recently at an inspirational dinner for Christian businessmen in Norwich, Dr Pereira urged his listeners to take seriously the claims of Christ. “Try to find God’s plan for your life, he will definitely show you. In John’s Gospel, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, promises us: My sheep hear my voice.”
Pictured above is pioneering surgeon, Dr Jerome Pereira.