A visionary medical doctor for the season - In memory of Prof. Samuel Ofosu-Amaah (1931 – 2023)
There is a proverb about generational thinkers that says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.”
We tend not to fully appreciate our great national forebears till we find ourselves, sometimes, in a precarious situation.
A few years back, I found myself speaking with some difficulty and sounding hoarse at the same time.
I had gone to seek remedy at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, at the ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) department.
While in the waiting room, I noticed a marble plaque on the wall.
It was dedicated to Prof. Emeritus Samuel Ofosu-Amaah for his pioneering effort in getting the ENT department established.
[It was through Prof. Emmanuel D. Kitcher and Dr Kafui Searyoh that it was detected I had developed a polyp on my vocal chords, and which was duly removed successfully.]
God moves in mysterious ways: I was to meet Prof. Ofosu-Amaah himself finally in the flesh. He was at my residence to grace the marriage of my daughter to his young nephew.
When the professor passed — January 13, 2023 — I was at the house to offer my condolences.
In our conversation, the widow, Mrs Virginia Akweley Ofosu-Amaah, led me into the living room to see the art collection and a citation in her husband’s honour from The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.
In recognition of his contribution to quality health care in Ghana, he was honoured and presented with the “Outstanding National and Global Leadership in Health Award 2022.”
The widow was so proud of the husband’s achievements she read the caption, a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which said, “Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”.
She said the quote truly captured the personality and spirit of her loving husband.
The citation encapsulated his life and proceeded as follows: “Emeritus Professor Ofosu-Amaah, you are an outstanding example of a visionary leader who goes where there is no path and leaves a trail for others to follow.
As the founding director of the University of Ghana School of Public Health (1994 - 2000), you established a robust and high-quality Master of Public Health Program that has endured over time and continues to make its mark on Ghana and globally.
You helped to guide the founding of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2003/2004, becoming its founding president.
“You have held several other notable positions, as UNICEF's Senior Advisor on African Health [1984 – 1992], as Chairman of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Management Board, as Vice Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School, and Acting Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, and as representative of the Medical Profession at the National Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1969 Constitution of Ghana, and as Fellow and Vice-President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“A distinguished Pediatrician and Professor of Public Health, you are the recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit from Harvard University, Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from the University for Development Studies and the Member of the Order of the Volta from the Government of Ghana.”
Emotional intelligence plays a great role in a servant leader's mindset.
Knowing how one's personal behaviour affects the behaviour of others, such leaders recognise the value of self-discipline.
Through the visible display of high moral and ethical standards, the servant leader motivates others by example and sheer force of character.
When one reflects on the perception of greed that seem to engulf this beautiful country of ours, one is tempted to think that we've run out of heroes.
I mean not only people who mean well, but people who actually go the extra mile to do well for others.
Writing about Prof. Kwabena Nketia, in my book, “Leadership: Reflections on some movers, shakers and thinkers,” I noted that “At the core of Prof. Nketia’s being is that absolute modesty: ‘Adepa pa nkasa’ as we say in Akan; the sense of purpose … those easy smiles that defy understanding.”
In the disdain for living large in ostentatious trappings, I remember - as a university student - Prof. Nketia tell me, in Twi, “Ma tra”.
[To wit, “I’m way beyond that!”] True heroes anticipate what they can do to enlighten and make other people’s lives easier.
Bright, professional, calm, unceremonious, Prof. Ofosu-Amaah fit the mould of that generation of servant leaders unfazed by the trappings of the outer world.
Prof. Samuel Ofosu-Amaah was born at Jamestown, Accra, on January 13, 1931, the first-born child of Lawrence and Bernice Ofosu-Amaah.
He attended Achimota School, the University College of the Gold Coast — Legon, and then Glasgow University Medical School, Scotland.
He returned to Ghana after specialising in paediatrics.
He first made his mark in the health service at the Children's Block of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
In her profile of Prof. Ofosu-Amaah, Elizabeth Ohene noted that public health was his main preoccupation.
That was how he came to be part — with the late Prof. Fred Sai — of the Danfa Health Project, the famous rural health project that sought to find the state of food and nutrition, housing, hygiene in the life of the rural child.
Noted as the doctor who wants to prevent rather than cure, it was his work on lameness that uncovered the many hidden cases of polio around the country and led to the major decision on Ghana undertaking the full-scale vaccination of children.
The writer is a trainer of teachers, leadership coach, motivational speaker and quality education advocate.