Honouring the nation’s foremost heart surgeon

Among Ghana's impressive list of achievers in any sphere of endeavour, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng's credentials as a renowned heart surgeon mark him out as one of the greatest.

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Last Tuesday, the National Cardiothoracic Centre of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra unveiled a bust at the centre in honour of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, the founder of the facility, as it launched the 35th anniversary of the centre.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to excellence in medical practice, pioneering open heart surgery in Ghana, and grooming his handiwork into international acclaim.

Indeed, he was part of a team, its only African, to perform the first heart transplant in Germany. The bust in front of the centre the pioneer surgeon personally raised funds and carried brick and mortar to build was an effort to immortalise Prof. Frimpong-Boateng and acknowledge his contribution as an astute medical doctor.

It was a genuine recognition of his remarkable bravery to dare the complex manoeuvring that mends the delicate nerves of a heart to bring healing to perhaps the most sensitive human organ that separates life from death.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng set up the cardio centre in 1989, with the backing of then Head of State, Jerry John Rawlings, against strong systemic opposition, according to the venerable 74-year-old himself.

Heart care is an expensive venture and to navigate that path, he set up the Ghana Heart Foundation alongside the centre to receive donations to fund surgeries and care for children and the vulnerable.

From one breakthrough surgery to another, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng and the centre made the headlines as his team began to serve humanity beyond the shores of Ghana. Today, it stands as the foremost cardio centre in West Africa, with a competitive profile to anything that happens anywhere on the continent in terms of cardiovascular care.

Over the course of time, he trained newer generations of heart surgeons who today hold the fort. The centre is said to have performed over 13,000 surgeries over the years, saving the country about $70 billion dollars.

At last Tuesday’s event to celebrate him, Prof. Frimpong-Boateng disclosed that he personally provided funding for the start of the project and expressed joy that his vision had become a centre of excellence for the cure and treatment of heart diseases.

But this does not tell the full story of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng. He trained in Germany as a heart surgeon, and abandoned the comfort and prospects of better financial reward of the more elite environment to return home to Ghana where he had his secondary and first degree education in medicine.

It was a selfless sacrifice of the highest order for him to have given consideration to service to his people over the material reward for higher personal attainment and professional practice when a credible and concrete opportunity was at his door.

 That he made that choice at the peak of a national cry over the infamous "brain drain", the mass exodus of the country's products from higher academic training institutions when Ghana was still under military rule, justifies his heroism all the more.

This is the man who is being celebrated in his lifetime by the current generation of beneficiaries of his astute leadership and foresight, nationalistic character and exemplary attitude to nation-building.

The Daily Graphic cannot help but join all the voices of appreciation in hailing the personality of Prof. Frimpong-Boateng for sowing a legacy beyond materialistic pursuit in a time when financial fortune was the easiest route to fame.

His life must inspire succeeding generations to rededicate themselves to the cause of the country, offering service to humanity and sacrificing for what we demand of leadership.
He has bequeathed to the country a legacy of enormous importance, one founded on integrity and patriotism, and a kind that will outlive many generations.

 It is critical to safeguard what he built and add to it as the present managers of the facility have done. As he himself put it, “Great institutions are difficult to build but easy to destroy and impossible to restore”. We must not let his words be true in the life of the cardiothoracic centre or any organisation of state.

Thank you, medical hero; thank you, national star.

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