Heart surgery

Meet Charles Easmon, the first Ghanaian to perform the first open heart surgery in Ghana

Professor Charles Odamtten Easmon

Charles Odamtten Easmon was a physician and academic who became the first Ghanaian to perform the first successful open heart surgery in Ghana in 1964.

Modern scholars give him the title of “Father of Cardiac Surgery in West Africa”.

Easmon was born on September 22, 1913 in Adawso, now the Gold Coast (Ghana).

In 1958, Charles Easmon was elected the first president of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) after its inauguration by former president Kwame Nkrumah in Accra.

Professor Charles Easmon, who worked as the chief surgeon general of the surgical 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 interatrial communication (ASD) in the first patient. The same approach was also used in the second patient to attempt to close a supposedly similar interatrial communication, but the patient did not survive the operation and died shortly after being misdiagnosed.

The resulting criticism after the failed procedure was apparently severe, centering on the surgeon’s dedication of scarce resources to the pursuit of open heart surgery. Subsequently, lack of funding and political upheaval in the country virtually crippled the open-hearted program.

Despite this, Professor Charles Easmon achieved a number of firsts during his life.

The first Ghanaian to obtain a scholarship from the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, UK;

The first Ghanaian to obtain a college scholarship in any branch of medicine;

The first Ghanaian to be appointed specialist in surgery;

The first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Surgeon of Ghana;

The first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health;

The first president of the Ghana Medical Association;

The first Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Ghana;

The first professor of surgery in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ghana;

The first Ghanaian to be president of the West African College of Surgeons;

The first Ghanaian to be elected a member of the International College of Surgeons;

The first president of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council;

The first president of the Scientific Research Council in Plant Medicine.

The management of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Ghana has since named a building in honor of the late Professor Charles Odamtten Easmon, the first dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ghana in Accra.

The University of Ghana School of Medicine also presents the Charles Easmon Prize for Surgery to the best medical student in surgery.

In addition, a ward in Accra Military Hospital 37 bears his name.

Charles Easmon died on May 19, 1994 at the age of 80. He is survived by his wife, Geneviève, and his seven children.


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