Magazine article New African

The Inheritance of Sickle Cell Disease. (Medical Themes)

Magazine article New African

The Inheritance of Sickle Cell Disease. (Medical Themes)

Article excerpt

Starting from this month, Dr Felix I.D. Konotey-Ahulu, the award-winning ghanaian physician, will write a column on "clinical medicine made simple" for new African every two months. Here is the first one.

For Africans who are said to come from a "hopeless continent", Dr Konotey-Ahulu is a revelation. He qualified MB BS(London), MRCS(England) and LRCP(London) at the London University's Westminster Hospital School of Medicine in 1959, and later obtained his Doctorate in Medicine (MD Lond) followed by Membership and Fellowship of two Royal Colleges of Physicians, FRCP(London) and FRCP(Glasgow).

He has a diploma from the oldest School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Liverpool; he is a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians (FWACP), and a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (FGA). In 1974, Dr Konotey-Ahulu won the Academy's Gold Medal "for the most outstanding contribution to knowledge in the medical sciences by a Ghanaian between 1952 and 1973".

In 1972, he was one of the recipients in Philadelphia of Dr Martin Luther King Jr Foundation Award "for outstanding research in Sickle Cell Anaemia", and in London in 1976 he received the Guinness Award for Scientific Achievement (GASA) in the Commonwealth "in recognition of his work in applying science to the service of the community".

From Trieste, Italy, he won the 1998 Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) Award in Basic Medical Sciences. The prize was presented to him in 1999 in Dakar by the then Senegalese president, Abdou Diouf.

Before his illustrious foreign adventures, Dr Konotey-Ahulu had been consultant physician at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. He was also the director of the erstwhile Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics.

While teaching at the University of Ghana Medical School, together with the Hungarian professor Bela Ringelhann and the Cambridge University professor Hermann Lehmann, Dr Konotey-Ahulu was involved in the discovery of several new haemoglobins including Haemoglobin Korle Bu.

He is currently a consultant physician at two famous London medical landmarks, Harley Street and Cromwell Hospital.

He was recently appointed the "Dr Kwegyir-Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics" by the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. The appointment is based in the Faculty of Science at Cape Coast, with duties that include familiarising Ghanaians with genetic epidemiology and, among other things, explaining how the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) could help West Africans trace long lost relatives across the Atlantic, and vice versa.

When the Aids epidemic first burst upon the world, Dr Konotey-Ahulu became the first African to go round the continent to obtain grassroots epidemiological and clinical information. He has published extensively on Aids in the international medical press. His books, The Sickle Cell Disease Patient, and What Is Aids? have been universally acclaimed.

With respect to Sickle Cell Disease, Prof Helen Ranney of the Medicine and Haematology Department at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, once published this comment: "There is no single clinical experience in the United States comparable to that of Dr Konotey-Ahulu."

Prof Thomas Mensah, the first Ghanaian high commissioner to South Africa, and the first president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, reviewing Dr Konotey Ahulu's book, What is Aids?, said:

"It takes a truly first-rate expert to make a highly technical subject understandable to laymen... This is what Dr Konotey-Ahulu has managed to do in a highly admirable way... He has set the problem of Aids in a totally different context by giving the individual African man and woman, as well as African governments and the world community in general, the information and perspectives on which to formulate a strategy for the future. For this he deserves the gratitude of us all. …

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