The School of Medical Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) marks its 40 years of existence this year, with the climax expected to be held in August.
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, who is also the Chancellor of the university, leads national high-profile dignitaries to celebrate the school’s unique training of health professionals whose contribution to healthcare delivery, especially to the rural folks, remains unmatched.
And in re-living its focus of helping the underprivileged, the school has embarked on a nationwide provision of free surgery to correct specific defects, as well as general health services, as part of the celebration.
The school is one of the country’s four medical schools. The others are the University of Ghana (UG), Legon; University of Cape Coast (UCC) and University for Development Studies (UDS). The idea to have a second medical school after the UG was re-echoed by the then Head of State and Chairman of the National Redemption Council, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who declared in February 1974 in Tamale that there was the need to have the institution based at the then University of Science and Technology (UST) and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH).
The idea of a medical school in Kumasi arose early in the 1960s when Dr R. P. Baffour was the Vice Chancellor of the university.
At that time, plans had been drawn for a new university hospital which was intended to be the nucleus of a teaching hospital for a medical school.
Following General Acheampong’s Tamale declaration, the next Vice Chancellor, Prof. E. Bamfo-Kwakye, appointed a five-member committee under the chairmanship of Prof. F. A. Kufuor of the Faculty of Science of the UST to work on the government’s declaration to set up the then second medical school.
The task of the committee, among others, was to investigate the justification and feasibility of establishing the medical school.
After considering the doctor/patient ratio in various countries, as well as the output of doctors from the University of Ghana Medical School, Legon, it was established beyond doubt that there was the need for a second medical school.
Per the history, the medical school in Kumasi was to train not only physicians but medical scientists and medical laboratory technologists. A three-year BSc (Human Biology) programme was to be the basic qualification for further training into the three categories. Teaching was also to be community-oriented and problem-based.
Founded in 1975, a year after the committee was formed, the school concentrates on training undergraduate medical doctors, postgraduate medical scientists and public health practitioners. The medical laboratory technology programme is currently run in the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences with other allied health disciplines.
In addition, the school is involved in the training of postgraduate doctors for the professional membership and fellowship certification of the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons and the West African Postgraduate Medical College.
In October 1975, the programme in Human Biology began with the first batch of 21 students. Political unrest disrupted activities in universities in Ghana at that time so much that the first batch of students obtained their BSc (Human Biology) in 1979.
The Dean of the School, Prof. Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, one of the alumnus to have taken over the running of the school, told the Daily Graphic ‘’these students who had then satisfied the basic requirements for entry into any of the three streams all opted for the medical programme after their first degree.’’
However, since KATH had not received accreditation for the teaching of clinical medicine, the students were sent to the University of Ghana Medical School in Accra, where they finally qualified as doctors with the MB ChB degree in June 1982.
He said clinical teaching started in KATH in 1980 when it obtained accreditation from the Medical and Dental Council of Ghana as a teaching hospital.
The second batch of students, therefore, did not have to be transferred to Accra. They were trained fully at the KNUST and the KATH, graduating with MB ChB in December 1982 to complete the first full cycle of training in Kumasi.
Despite the initial challenges, the KNUST School of Medical Sciences (KNUST SMS) has made great progress.
Infrastructure for the teaching of basic medical sciences is well established on the KNUST campus and a number of hostels have been built at KATH to house over 400 clinical students.
It has produced 2, 218 medical doctors, including 792 females since its inception and is currently contributing immensely to national and international development in community and evidence-based medical training and practice.
The school is exploring further possibilities of introducing new programmes and making training accessible to the increasing number of applicants.
The history of the school will be incomplete without the mention of the founding members. They are former Head of State, General Kutu Acheampong; the Asantehene, Otumfuo Opoku-Ware II; Prof. E. Bamfo-Kwakye, then Vice Chancellor, KNUST; Prof. F. A. Kufuor, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, KNUST; Prof. W. N. Laing, founder Dean and Prof. of Pathology, SMS/KATH; Prof. J. W. Ahiadzi, Associate Professor of Surgery, SMS/KATH; and Prof. E. A. Gyan, former Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, KNUST.
The rest are Dr K. E. Appiah, former Director of Health Service, KNUST, and Director, Bamso Specialist Hospital, Kumasi; Dr E. G. Beausoleil, former Director of Medical Services and WHO Consultant; Dr G. O. Prempeh, former Chief Administrator, KATH, Kumasi; Mr A. S. Y. Andoh, former Registrar, KNUST, and Private Secretary to Otumfuo Opoku-Ware, then Asantehene, and His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr Peter Akwasi Sarpong, the then Chairman of the University Council, KNUST.
The School of Medical Sciences is proud that three of its alumni, starting from the days of Prof. Tsiri Agbenyega (2002-2008), have become deans of the school. The rest are Prof. W. N. Laing (1975-1980), Prof. E. H. O. Parry (1980-1985), Prof. J. O. Martey (1985-1992), Prof. Sir G. W. Brobby (1992-2001), Prof. K. A. Danso (2008-2011) and Prof. Yaw Adu-Sarkodie, the current dean.