4th Jan 1928- 30th Jun 2016

Theodosius Poon-King
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Born in Biche, Trinidad on January 4th, 1928, Theodosius (Theo) Poon-King attended Arouca Boys’ RC School and later St. Mary’s College. He studied medicine at University College Dublin (now known as the National University of Ireland) and graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of the Art of Obstetrics (MB BCh BAO). As a postgraduate student, he worked with the research group in the Arteriosclerosis Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital that identified four new risk factors for coronary heart disease. In 1972, he received a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree from the National University in Ireland for his published research.

In 1958, Dr Poon-King’s research proved that scorpion stings were responsible for cases of inflammation of the heart muscle among cane-cutters, the first scientific proof of such a relationship, and he published his findings in the British Medical Journal. He was a member of a Harvard University team that published a seminal study on coronary heart disease in 1966, discovering three previously unidentified factors that cause it. Two years later, he published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet, the findings of the largest island-wide survey of diabetes ever conducted in Trinidad, identifying heredity, obesity and multiparity as key risk factors. This eight year study, which was published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet, involved a sample of 24,000 persons and revealed that diabetes was more common in Trinidad and Tobago than it was in Great Britain or North America.

He also investigated an acute nephritis epidemic among children and young adults in south Trinidad, identifying streptococcal bacteria as the cause, isolating four types that were new to science between 1965 and 1971. These studies were complemented by the establishment of the Streptococcal Disease Unit at the San Fernando General Hospital in 1966, which would eradicate the disease 30 years later. In 1974, Dr Poon-King and Dr Rasheed Rahaman conducted valuable research on paraquat (gramoxone) poisoning and developed a special treatment for it that would ultimately increase patients’ survival rates to 75%. Additionally, Dr Poon-King diagnosed the first patient in a 1977 outbreak of yellow fever in Trinidad.

In recognition of his sterling contribution to medicine, Dr Poon-King received the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 1975. He was lauded by the Caribbean Health Research Council as the “Medical Researcher of the Century”. He passed away on Thursday 30th June, 2016 at the age of 88.

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