Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the first black African (Sub-Saharan Africa) to perform a heart transplant is certainly an African celebrity worth writing about. Frimpong-Boateng was born to two farmers in Ghana, in the year 1950. His father, Kofi Frimpong died from chest injuries he sustained from a car accident before his birth.
Frimpong-Boateng had his secondary education at Sekondi College in the Western Region of Ghana. After completion of Sekondi College, he was admitted to study a one year pre-science course at the University of Ghana in 1968 and was subsequently admitted to study medicine in 1969. At the end of his studies at the University of Ghana in 1975, he came out as the best candidate in the final examinations. He graduated with an MB (Bachelor of Medicine) and ChB (Bachelor of Surgery) degrees. He was also the winner of the Easmon Prize for being the best student in surgery.
After working for sometime at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, he went to further his studies in Germany. In Germany, he spent almost a decade by first studying language at Goethe Institute at Radofzell in April and May of 1978, then Boppard from June to September, 1978 and finally specialized in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Hanover Medical High School from October 1978 to December 1988. He qualified as a general cardiothoracic surgeon and vascular surgeon at Hanover Medical High School. He subsequently worked as a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and was one of the pioneers of the Heart Transplantation programme at Hanover.
What makes Frimpong –Boateng stand out as a distinguished African celebrity is not only his academic laurels, but his return to Ghana to practice as Ghana’s first cardiothoracic surgeon. He left Germany and all its comforts in 1989 to a country that did not have a democratically elected government, never had a Cardiothoracic Center, never had a cardiothoracic surgeon nor had in their plans to get one and a $300-a-month salary. The rich in the country at that time were the only people who could afford to have a cardiothoracic surgery by flying to Europe or North America. The poor who suffered from heart related diseases were left at the mercy of their hearts. This touched Frimpong-Boatengs heart and made him stay. As Prof. Frimpong-Boateng is quoted as saying, “We may be poor, but the heart is the same everywhere”.
Against all odds, Frimpong Boateng stayed and spear-headed what is known today as the first Cardiothoracic Center in Sub-Saharan Africa located at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana. Prof. Frimpong-Boateng also started the Ghana Heart Foundation which supports all poor patients who cannot afford to have a heart surgery. The Cardio Center has served a lot of Africans and nationals from other continents as a result of its world-class standards.
This is a life well lived and worth emulating as Africans. We can build our continent if we decide to. Let us rise and build for no one will build it for us.
By Maxwell Nana Addi (Ghana Correspondent)