KEYWORDS: 

CARDIOLOGY: the study of disorders of the heart

 

CLASSICS: the study of the classical subjects of western civilisation, such as Latin and Greek language, literature, and history

 

ENDOCRINOLOGY: the branch of biology dealing with the functions, processes, and disorders of glands and hormones

 

MULTIPARITY: the condition of having more than one child

 

NEPHRITIS: inflammation of the kidneys caused by infection

 

PARAQUAT: also known as gramoxone, a weed-killer commonly ingested to commit suicide

 

PATHOLOGY: the scientific study of the origins, processes, causes, and effects of the disease

 

STREPTOCOCCI: a group of bacteria that causes infection of the throat, skin, heart, and/or kidneys

 


INTERESTING FACT:

When told that their son had difficulty learning the alphabet, his mother advised that he should be promoted and his father responded that, one day, his little Ming Whi would become a doctor.

Theodosius Poon-King (4th Jan 1928- 30th Jun 2016)

Caribbean Icons in STI Vol 2

Dr Theodosius Poon-King is credited for his groundbreaking work on diabetes, the eradication of acute nephritis and the reduction of the high incidence of rheumatic fever in Trinidad. He received several honours for his world-famous research, including Trinidad and Tobago’s Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 1975.

Theodosius Poon-King was born on 4th January, 1928 in Biche, Trinidad. He attended Biche Canadian Mission School and Arouca Boys’ RC School and then St. Mary’s College, where he excelled in languages and history. In his first year, he studied by lamplight before electricity came to his village. His dedication paid off when he won a House Scholarship in 1942, the Jerningham Book Prize in Classics in 1945 and the Trinidad Open Scholarship in Classics in 1946.

He entered medical school at University College Dublin (now known as the National University of Ireland) and graduated with first class honours in 1953, winning three gold medals. Poon-King later completed a bachelor’s degree in pathology and physiology in 1955. He did postgraduate training in cardiology at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, USA, working with the research group in the Arteriosclerosis Unit of the Massachusetts General Hospital that identified four new risk factors for coronary heart disease. He continued his postgraduate training in endocrinology as House Physician at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London where he developed a passion for research.

In 1958, he took up the post of Specialist Physician at the San Fernando General Hospital. He discovered that scorpion stings caused inflammation of the heart muscle and published the report in the British Medical Journal. In 1960, he undertook an extensive study on diabetes in Trinidad, which revealed a very high incidence of the disease in the population and noted heredity, obesity and multiparity as key risk factors. These findings were reported in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, in 1968.

Dr Poon-King established the Streptococcal Disease Unit at the San Fernando General Hospital in 1966, to investigate and control the epidemics of acute nephritis and the high incidence of rheumatic fever in south Trinidad. With his co-researchers, he discovered four new types of streptococci during epidemics from 1965 to 1971, and published many papers on streptococcal diseases. Today, the Unit’s research and control measures have virtually eliminated these diseases from south Trinidad.

In 1974, Dr Poon-King pioneered research on paraquat poisoning with Dr Rasheed Rahaman and Dr Edward Addo and in 1986, published a new treatment regime in The Lancet. He also studied yellow fever and identified the first person with the virus in an outbreak in 1977.

Dr Theodosius Poon-King retains his humility, saying that he has always seen research as a part of his work in medicine. To young persons, he offers four watchwords – “self-discipline, enthusiasm, willpower and hard work,” noting that, “to become successful, one should always develop a passion to work.”