Prof Courtenay Bartholomew… – Trinidad Guardian

A gi­ant in the med­ical field has passed.

Prof Courte­nay Bartholomew died on Fri­day night at age 89.

Bartholomew was a physi­cian, sci­en­tist and au­thor who im­pact­ed the med­ical field ex­tend­ing be­yond T&T’s shores as he di­ag­nosed the first case of Aids in the Eng­lish-speak­ing Caribbean in 1983.

His death comes dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic which has en­gulfed the world in sick­ness and death. The cur­rent pan­dem­ic comes 40 years af­ter he was bat­tling an­oth­er pan­dem­ic—the Aids pan­dem­ic which left the world sim­i­lar­ly ter­ri­fied.

While alive, his peers de­scribed him as “self­less”, a “trail­blaz­er” and a “pi­o­neer” for his con­tri­bu­tions to the med­ical field.

In death, sim­i­lar com­men­da­tions from dif­fer­ent sec­tors con­tin­ue to de­scribe his mo­men­tous life.

The T&T Med­ical As­so­ci­a­tion (T&TMA) in a state­ment said “Pro­fes­sor Bartholomew was a pi­o­neer in med­i­cine, not just for T&T but for the en­tire re­gion, and a pil­lar in our fra­ter­ni­ty for those who worked with him and es­pe­cial­ly an in­spi­ra­tion to many of us who had the for­tu­nate op­por­tu­ni­ty to in­ter­act with him as a stu­dent. He will be sad­ly missed by the T&TMA and we ex­press our heart­felt con­do­lences to his fam­i­ly.”

Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh in a state­ment of­fered his con­do­lences to Bartholomew’s fam­i­ly.

He spoke about his “trail­blaz­ing” re­search and “dis­tin­guished” ca­reer.

“In the ear­ly days of the HIV/Aids epi­dem­ic, Pro­fes­sor Bartholomew found­ed the Med­ical Re­search Foun­da­tion of Trinidad and To­ba­go (MRFTT), which is cur­rent­ly the largest HIV/Aids clin­ic in the coun­try. The long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Min­istry of Health and MRFTT con­tin­ues to this day. This part­ner­ship has re­dound­ed to the suc­cess­ful treat­ment of thou­sands of pa­tients, bring­ing T&T with­in range of the achieve­ment of the UN­AIDS 90-90-90 HIV treat­ment tar­get.”

He said Bartholomew’s pass­ing has cre­at­ed an in­dis­putable void in the med­ical field, and his lead­er­ship and in­sight will be great­ly missed.

For­mer pres­i­dent of the St Mary’s Col­lege Past Stu­dent Union, Nestor Lam­bert said Bartholomew, who at­tend­ed the col­lege, has a great lega­cy that will live on as he was a “role mod­el” not on­ly for St Mary’s Col­lege stu­dents but al­so for the coun­try as a whole.

Lam­bert said Bartholomew was in­duct­ed in­to the St Mary’s Col­lege Hall of Fame in 2003 for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to the med­ical field and the Caribbean re­gion and be­yond.

For­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Dr Tim Gopeesingh said he was “filled with grief” at his death.

“I first met Pro­fes­sor Bartholomew at the POS Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal in 1973, as a young stu­dent, trainee, and in­tern in my fi­nal year of Med­ical School (UWI), where he was a lec­tur­er in In­ter­nal Med­i­cine. He was the per­fect ex­am­ple of what a doc­tor should be— high­ly skilled, bril­liant, very knowl­edge­able, thor­ough, and in-depth with every med­ical case.”

He de­scribed Bartholomew as a “gi­ant of a man” high­ly dec­o­rat­ed and win­ning glob­al re­spect and ac­claim, for his trail­blaz­ing, un­matched work in T&T’s and the re­gion’s over­all med­ical de­vel­op­ment, and es­pe­cial­ly in In­ter­nal Med­i­cine.

Guardian Me­dia reached out to his daugh­ter Dr Maria Bartholomew who de­clined to com­ment as she said the fam­i­ly was in mourn­ing. How­ev­er, she did con­firm that he died at 7 pm on Fri­day.


*Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of High­er Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy (Ni­herst) web­site, Bartholomew di­ag­nosed the first case of Aids in the Eng­lish-speak­ing Caribbean in 1983.

*He was founder and di­rec­tor of the Med­ical Re­search Foun­da­tion of T&T (MRFTT), he led HIV vac­cine tri­als and re­search on can­cer and retro­virus­es with US in­sti­tu­tions.

*A mem­ber of the World AIDS Foun­da­tion Sci­en­tif­ic Ad­vi­so­ry Com­mit­tee, he pro­mot­ed pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion on Aids. He was al­so an in­ter­na­tion­al bioethics ad­vis­er.

*Bartholomew was first re­put­ed for his re­search on in­ter­nal dis­eases. He re­searched scor­pi­on sting ven­om and acute pan­cre­ati­tis (in­flam­ma­tion of the pan­creas). He com­plet­ed one of the world’s largest coun­try sur­veys on He­pati­tis A and B in T&T (1982).

*He was the first lo­cal physi­cian to re­ceive mem­ber­ship of the Roy­al Col­lege of Physi­cians, Lon­don with­out ex­am­i­na­tion.

*Bartholomew worked be­fore gain­ing ac­cep­tance to the Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Dublin (UCD), Ire­land in 1954. He in­terned at St Vin­cent Hos­pi­tal and grad­u­at­ed in 1960 with an in­ter­nal med­i­cine spe­cial­i­sa­tion.

*He re­ceived a spe­cial­i­ty de­gree in gas­troen­terol­o­gy (1964) and a doc­tor­ate in med­i­cine from the Na­tion­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Ire­land (1965).

*Re­turn­ing to Trinidad, he be­came the first UWI lec­tur­er in Med­i­cine (1967) and lat­er the first Pro­fes­sor of Med­i­cine (1977). As the Hon­orary Con­sul­tant, In­ter­nal Med­i­cine and Gas­troen­terol­o­gy at Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal (a post he held for 20 years), he pi­o­neered new ap­proach­es to di­ag­nos­ing bow­el dis­eases. He was 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.

*For his out­stand­ing achieve­ments, he re­ceived UCD’s high­est ho­n­our of Hon­orary Fel­low­ship of the Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine (2004) and the In­ter­na­tion­al Hu­man Retro­vi­rol­o­gy So­ci­ety Award (1991).

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