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Biographical entry Quartey, John Kwateboi Marmon (1923 - 2005)

MRCS and FRCS 1953; MB ChM Edinburgh 1948; ChM 1992; LRCP 1953; FRCS Edinburgh 1953.

27 August 2005
Urological surgeon


‘Kwashie’ Quartey had an international reputation for his work on the surgery of urethral stricture, and was one of the father figures of surgery in his home country, Ghana. He was the sixth of the seven children of Peter David Quartey snr, headmaster of the Government Junior School in James Town, and Elizabeth Abigail Quartey (née Marmon). He was educated at the Achimota Secondary School, where he was senior prefect, and won colours for cricket and hockey. In 1942 he was awarded a Gold Coast Government medical scholarship to Edinburgh, travelling there in convoy at the height of the U-boat war. At Edinburgh he captained the hockey team, became involved with the Student Christian Movement and graduated in 1948.

After junior posts, which included a spell at Wilkington Hospital, Manchester, and passing the Edinburgh and English fellowships in 1953, he returned to the Gold Coast. On the ship home to the Gold Coast he met his future wife, Edith Sangmorkie Saki, who was a nurse. Quartey then worked in Ministry of Health hospitals in Kumasi, Tamale and Accra, returning to do a course in tropical medicine in London in 1954 while Edith returned to England to study theatre work. They married in 1955.

He was appointed a surgical specialist in 1958 and in 1961 he was awarded a Canadian Government fellowship in urology at Dalhousie University, Halifax, where he is remembered with respect and affection, and where strenuous attempts were made to arrange a full residency for him.

On his return Kwashie set up the urology unit at the Korle Bu Hospital in Accra. The following year, 1963, he set up the anatomy department of the new Ghana Medical School, in the absence of any basic medical scientists. He was extremely active in the work of the surgical department, fostering its department of plastic surgery.

In April 1978 there was an order for his arrest on charges of treason and he went into exile in Lome, Togo, for six months, during which time it was arranged that he should become a WHO consultant in surgery to the Government of the Gambia. He returned home after the palace coup in which General Acheampong was ousted.

In 1981 he described his method of urethroplasty based on his own careful anatomical studies that used a pedicled flap of penile skin, which had the advantage of being non hair-bearing. The method was widely publicised and earned him an ChM from Edinburgh University.

He travelled widely and was a visiting professor in Iran, Johannesburg and Mainz. He was a founding member of the Ghana Medical Association and of the West Africa College of Surgeons, of which he became president, and was the recipient of numerous honorary distinctions, including the unique posthumous award of the St Paul’s medal by BAUS.

He was still busy with the Operation Ghana Medical Mission at the age of 82, and it was when returning from one of these outreach visits that he was involved in a fatal head-on road collision on 27 August 2005. Only two of the 10 occupants of the two vehicles survived. A state funeral was held in the State House in Accra in the presence of the President. Kwashie had an ebullient, irrepressible personality, which won him friends throughout the world of surgery and urology. He left a son (Ian Malcolm Kpakpa), daughter (Susan Miranda Kwale) and six grandchildren (Alexis Naa Kwarma, Smyly Nii Otu, Arthur Nii Armah, Nana Akua, Obaa Akosua and John Nii Kwatei).

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from S A Addai].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England