Medical fraternity mourns Prof Bartholomew

Prof Courtenay Bartholomew - Photo by Sureash Cholai
Prof Courtenay Bartholomew - Photo by Sureash Cholai

Prof Courtenay Bartholomew, who diagnosed the first case of Aids in the English-speaking Caribbean, died on Friday night.

In a Facebook post, former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said illness slowed down Bartholomew “in the last few years” but he remained one of this country's greatest intellectuals, academics, scientist,s public servants, doctors and patriots.

“He was the perfect example of what a doctor should be – highly skilled, brilliant, very knowledgeable, thorough, and in-depth with every medical case. But what stood out, even more, was his tremendous humanity. In his hospital ward rounds, his bedside comportment was especially exemplary, for he never failed to go beyond the call to analyse the vaguest medical issues of patients, treating everyone under his care with unmatched compassion and respect.”

Dr Ayanna Sebro, technical director of the National Aids Coordinating Committee, said she was still processing the loss.

“I know that these things happen and death is part of life, but I didn’t expect to lose him just yet.”

She told Sunday Newsday she had been interacting with him since 2004 and worked with him directly for five years at the Medical Research Foundation of TT, which he founded.

Asked to describe the type of man Bartholomew was, she replied, “He was epic.”

She said he was a mentor who shaped many of the people who are known to be “really good doctors” and influenced their careers. She said he was hard on her and others but he was also loving, and did his best to bring out their full potential.

“He is from the generation of people like Dr Violet Duke, Dr Waveney Charles, who we also lost. That’s a generation of clinicians who have really shaped medicine in Trinidad and Tobago and to have lost them leaves a little bit of a void. As younger physicians it’s important that we step up to try and fill some really big shoes.”

Born in 1931, Bartholomew attended Nelson Street Boys’ RC School and St Mary’s College before studying medicine at University College Dublin, Ireland and graduating in 1960.

According to both a St Mary's College Past Students' Union post and the Niherst website, he received a specialised degree in gastroenterology in 1964 and a doctorate in medicine from the National University of Ireland in 1965.

In 1967 he was recruited from the Royal Victoria Hospital of Mc Gill University to inaugurate the first medical school of UWI, and in 1977 became UWI’s first Trinidadian professor of medicine.

He was an international bioethics adviser, an external examiner for  the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and visiting clinical professor at the Liver Unit, University of Miami and Royal Victoria Hospital, McGill University.

He was the first local physician to receive membership of the Royal College of Physicians, London without examination, and was a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Ireland, Edinburgh and London.

“He has over 70 publications in scientific journals and is the author of chapters in eight textbooks of medicine...He has also written four religious books on Mariology, has spearheaded the restoration of four churches in TT and has designed all the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St Francis 'Church in Belmont.”

In 1975, he was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold), and the Order of the Republic of TT in 2017.


"Medical fraternity mourns Prof Bartholomew"

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