When the history of medicine in the post-colonial era in West Africa is written, the name of B. O. Osuntokun will figure large, as a man of great talent, of prodigious application and as a tireless advocate of the study of neurology in the tropics.
In a recent project, Osuntokun spent time in Indianapolis and Cambridge, in 1990-91, developing an international collaboration on the comparative epidemiology of the dementias between the Yoruba of Ibadan and an African- American population in Indianapolis. This had risen from his earlier clinical observation of the relative rarity of Alzheimer's disease in his practice, in Nigeria. The research has been received with acclaim by the scientific community world-wide and the preliminary data confirm intriguing differences between the two populations.
Benjamin Oluwakayode Osuntokun was born in 1935 and grew up in the former Western Region of Nigeria, in Ekiti. Christ's School, Ado-Ekiti, one of the country's best secondary schools, honed his gifts and produced the classical all-rounder, sportsman and academic, who graduated with honours from University College, Ibadan, in 1961. Kayode Osuntokun's was the second batch of students to qualify in medicine from what was Nigeria's first and deservedly renowned medical school.
The college was still, in those confident early years of national independence, under University College London. It nurtured those with talent and Osuntokun was chosen in 1963 to join Harold Scarborough's Medical Unit in Cardiff. Scarborough had himself developed an interest in Nigeria and its people after a short sabbatical in Ibadan. He recognised Osuntokun's formidable ability. In Cardiff, Osuntokun received a superb training, developed a lifelong admiration for British medicine and made close and lasting friendships.
Osuntokun was now committed to neurology and the next step, in 1965, was the medical school at Newcastle upon Tyne University, to be trained by the great neurologist Henry Miller. After an apprenticeship at the National Hospital, Queen Square, in London, he returned to Ibadan. The professor of medicine at Ibadan was Sandy Brown, a Scotsman of wisdom and foresight, and in 1966 Osuntokun was appointed consultant neurologist to University College Hospital, Ibadan, only five years after graduation. A personal Chair followed in 1970, and Osuntokun was the obvious successor to Oladipo Akinkugbe as Dean of the Faculty in 1974. …