Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, Sickle Cell Disease Specialist, Dies at 76

In his hometown of Ghana, Dr. Ohene-Frempong has established a pilot program to provide sickle cell screening for newborns in the southern city of Kumasi. This is the first such program in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to identifying children with illness, the program also refers them to specialist clinics that offer treatments such as antibiotics to prevent infection, routine immunizations, and a drug, hydroxyurea, that can reduces the risk of complications from sickle cell disease.

Kwaku Ohene-Fremong was born on 13 March 1946, in Kukurantumi, eastern Ghana, to Kwasi Adde Ohene and Adwoa Idi Boafu. His father was a cocoa farmer and a prominent member of a royal family.

Kwaku attended a boarding school, Prempeh College, then went to Yale University, where he majored in biology and was captain of the track and field team, setting indoor and outdoor records in cross-country events. high fence. While still a student, he met Janet Williams, who was attending Cornell University. They married on June 6, 1970, a week after both graduated.

Dr. Ohene-Frempong said in a 2019 interview that he first discovered sickle cell disease when he and some friends attended a lecture on the disease at Yale. While listening to him speak, he suddenly realized this disease: This disease runs in his family but has not been diagnosed. One of his cousins ​​developed these symptoms and died at the age of 14.

“He was in a lot of pain,” he said of his cousin. “His eyes are very yellow and he is very thin.”

Dr. Ohene-Frempong went on to attend medical school at Yale, then went to New York Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan for a residency. He studied pediatric hematology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia before transferring to Tulane University School of Medicine, where he was an associate professor of pediatrics.

During his six years at Tulane, he founded the Tulane Sickle Cell Center in South Louisiana, a medical care facility, and helped the state department of health develop a newborn screening program for the disease. .

In 1986, Dr. Ohene-Frempong returned to Children’s Hospital and remained there for 30 years before leaving to work full-time in Ghana, at the Kumasi Sickle Cell Disease Research and Treatment Center. He remained there when he returned to Philadelphia for cancer treatment.

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