BUTTONHOLE SURGERY: a procedure making a small cut of approximately 2.5cm in diameter (1 inch) to remove kidney stones or to examine the kidney


KIDNEY: one of a pair of organs that filters waste from the blood and produces urine


KIDNEY STONE: small solid masses of minerals and acid salts that collect in the kidney and obstruct the passage of urine


UROLOGY: the study of the organs of the urinary tract and male reproductive system



Dr. Sawh is known as the “bow tie doctor” because he prefers them to traditional long ties.

Lall Sawh (Date of Birth: 1st Jun 1951)

Caribbean Icons in STI Vol 2

Dr Lall Sawh is a urologist who is well known throughout the Caribbean and the world for his research and surgical innovations. He introduced to Trinidad and Tobago “buttonhole surgery”, a procedure by which a small cut is made when performing kidney surgery. He was also the first doctor in the Caribbean to perform a kidney transplant from a live person.

Lall Ramnath Sawh was born on 1st June, 1951 in Couva, Trinidad. His parents were humble shopkeepers and he helped them sell produce at their shop and in the market. Despite his time-consuming home duties, Sawh still managed to focus on his schoolwork. Without the money to buy copybooks, he went to school and took notes on brown paper bags. He excelled in his examinations and obtained a place at Naparima College where he became Head Boy at the tender age of 16.

His performance at secondary school earned him a place at the School of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica. With financial help, he was able to complete his studies at the top of the class. He was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship and ventured to Scotland in 1977 to train as a surgeon at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The gifted surgeon became interested in urology and his outstanding work led to a fellowship in 1985 at the esteemed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA.

Returning to serve his homeland after completing his medical studies, Sawh was one of only three urologists in Trinidad and Tobago. Through research and experimentation, he introduced to the Caribbean many new surgical procedures such as “buttonhole surgery” and kidney transplantation. He was the first person in Trinidad and Tobago to perform a bloodless type of surgery called renal hypothermic surgery, where the kidney’s temperature is lowered to eliminate bleeding. Dr Sawh also introduced the lithotripter, a device for removing kidney stones without surgery. He also made history as the first surgeon in the Caribbean to construct a penis for a boy who was born without one.

In 1993, Dr Sawh was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for his medical work. Only 43 at that time, he made history as the youngest ever awardee in the field of medicine.

Dr Lall Sawh currently lectures part-time at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, St. Augustine, and is one of its examiners. When his is not working, he enjoys playing lawn tennis. He advises students that, “Study starts with a disciplined approach to everything and a commitment to serving your fellowman.” He adds, “Aim to be at the top of your profession ad dedicate your life to that.”