Charles Odamtten Easmon was a medical doctor and academic who became the first Ghanaian to perform the first successful open-heart surgery in Ghana in 1964.
Modern scholars credit him as the “Father of Cardiac Surgery in West Africa”.
Easmon was born on September 22 1913, in Adawso, Gold Coast now (Ghana).
In 1958, Charles Easmon was elected as the first president of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) after it was inaugurated by former president Kwame Nkrumah in Accra.
Professor Charles Easmon, who was working as a general surgeon head of the Surgery Department became the first to perform a closed mitral commissurotomy in the country. This was the first cardiothoracic operation performed in Ghana.
In 1964, he became the first to perform an open-heart procedure in the country using surface cooling to achieve hypothermia.
He used this approach to successfully close an atrial septal defect (ASD) in the first patient. The same approach was also utilized in the second patient in an attempt to close a supposedly similar interatrial communication but the patient did not survive the operation and died shortly in the recovery room after a wrong diagnosis.
The resulting criticism after the failed procedure was apparently harsh, being centered on the surgeon’s devotion of scarce resources to the pursuit of open heart surgery. Subsequently, the lack of funding and political upheavals in the country virtually brought the open heart program to a standstill.
Despite this, Professor Charles Easmon achieved a number of firsts in his lifetime.
The first Ghanaian to obtain a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, UK;
The first Ghanaian to obtain a Fellowship of a College in any branch of medicine;
The first Ghanaian to be appointed Surgical Specialist;
The first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Surgeon of Ghana;
The first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health;
The first president of the Ghana Medical Association;
The first Dean of the Ghana Medical School;
The first Professor of Surgery of the University of Ghana Medical School;
The first Ghanaian to be president of the West African College of Surgeons;
The first Ghanaian to be elected a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons;
The first Chairman of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council;
The first Chairman of the Council for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine.
Management of College of Health Science, University of Ghana has since named a building in hounour of the late Professor Charles Odamtten Easmon, the first Dean of the University of Ghana Medical School in Accra.
The University of Ghana Medical School also presents the Charles Easmon Prize in Surgery to the best medical student in surgery.
Also, a ward at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra has been named after him.
Charles Easmon died on May 19 1994 at the age of 80. He was survived by his wife, Genevieve, and his seven children.