2020 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 17:00 to Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 17:00
Great Hall, University of Ghana


Members of the University community and the general public are invited to the 2020 Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial Lectures.

Details of the Lecture are as follows:

Theme: The Heart – The Most Fascinating Organ of the Body


Speaker: Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng – Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation


Date: 18th and 19th March, 2020

Time: 5:00 pm (Guests to be seated by 4:30pm)

Venue: Great Hall, University of Ghana, Legon


All are cordially invited


Day One

Title: The heart: what it is, how it works, when it fails



For centuries, the human heart seemed beyond human understanding. Every aspect of the human heart elicits fascination. Thus, every age, every culture, every civilization and every religion has developed theories and beliefs about it, which overlap, support, and sometimes undermine one another.

The heart is celebrated as the home of faith, love and courage, the seat of the soul. No other organ has inspired so many poets, writers, painters, and religious thinkers, and references to it abound in advertising, cultural kitsch, song lyrics, and everyday language and imagery.

The heart is a hollow muscular organ slightly bigger than a clenched fist. The adult human heart weighs between 200 and 425 grams. It is located between the lungs in the middle of the chest, behind and slightly to the left of the breastbone.

From the moment it begins beating until the moment it stops, the human heart works tirelessly. It beats 60-72 times per minute in an adult at rest but can accelerate to 160-180 beats per minute during exercise, anxiety or fear. In a day the heart beats 100,000 times.

In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than three billion (3,000,000,000) times without ever pausing to rest.

Work performed by this amazing muscular pump is equivalent to a human being lifting 6kg of weight to a height of 1.5 m every minute.

The heart propels 5 liters of blood through the circulation every minute. If all the blood vessels in the body could be lined up, the distance covered will be about 90,000km, which is more than twice the distance round the world at the equator.

The heart pumps 7000litres of blood through this labyrinth every day. At that rate it could fill a 10km long goods train with blood in 60 years. It generates enough power to drive a lorry round the world in 4 years.

In Lecture One, I will discuss the development of the heart, what it is, how it works and when it fails.


Day Two

Title: Heart surgery: yesterday, today and tomorrow



For a long time the heart was considered outside the limit of Surgery. In 1881 Theodore Billroth, one of the leading surgeon in the world had remarked that: "any surgeon who dared to operate on the heart would lose the respect of his fellow surgeons".

In 1896, the usually perceptive British historian Stephen Paget wrote: "Surgery of the heart has probably reached the limits set by nature to all surgery; no new method, and no new discovery can overcome the natural difficulties that attend a wound of the heart".

However, things started changing in the late 19th Century. Through the work of brave surgeons and other health workers who risked their careers and reputation and their patients who risked their health and lives, heart surgery developed at a fast pace and has advanced to a stage where even the complex procedures do not make news any more.

Development of products and processes in related fields aided the rapid progress in heart surgery. These include development of intubation anesthesia and modern anaesthetic drugs that made positive pressure ventilation possible. The development and introduction of synthetic, monofilament, non-absorbable sutures such as prolene in the 1960s made vascular anastomoses on both small vessels such as coronary arteries and large vessels including the aorta possible.

The discovery of the immuno-suppressive drug Cyclosporin dramatically improved survival after heart transplantation.

All these have facilitated significant advances in cardiac surgery as we know today.

Heart surgery has become very routine. There has been advances in equipment, such as the use of robotics and development of assist devices for the failing heart as well as improvement in techniques such as minimally or non-invasive management of valve replacement, aortic aneurysms, coronary artery disease and congenital heart repair.

In spite of all these developments, there will continue to be coronary bypass and valve surgery, arrhythmia ablation, heart failure procedures, and endovascular treatment of aneurysms as well as repair of congenital heart disease.

What will be debatable is who do perform the different procedures. The lines of division amongst cardiac surgeons, interventional cardiologists and interventional radiologist are blurring.

The important question in medium to short term will be about the timing of service-line integration and who will do what procedures to which patients. This calls for a close look at the concept of the heart team that calls for complete and close collaboration among clinical cardiologist, interventional cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists and cardiac surgeons, the nursing team to achieve the best results patients.

In the area of transplantation the question will be whether devices can be developed and miniaturized that will replace the function of the heart on long term basis or whether gene editing and gene manipulation and introduction of human genetic material into suitable animals, such as pigs, will allow those animals’ to produce transgenic hearts that can be transplanted into human with any rejection reaction.


Profile of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng

Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School in 1975 with MB, ChB degrees. He won the Easmon Prize in Surgery. After housemanship at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital he served as a Medical Officer at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, where he was also a demonstrator in Gross Anatomy at the School of Medical Sciences from 1977-1978.

He had his post-graduate studies at the Hannover Medical University, Hannover, Germany and qualified as general, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon. He subsequently worked as a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and was one of the pioneers of the heart transplantation programme in Hannover, where he also taught both undergraduate and postgraduate Thorax, Cardio-thoracic and Vascular Surgery.

He performed the first of scores of heart transplantations in 1985. At the time he was recognized worldwide as the first black person to have performed a heart transplant. He performed the first Heart-Lung Transplant in Hannover in November 1988.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng returned home in 1989 to establish the National Cardiothoracic Centre and the Ghana Heart Foundation. He joined the University of Ghana Medical School in the year 2000 and was promoted Associate Professor of Surgery the same year and a Full Professor in 2002.

Prof Frimpong-Boateng is past CEO of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, past President of the Ghana Red Cross Society and past Chairman of the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC). He established the National Cardiothoracic Centre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and was its founding Director. Currently he is the President of the Ghana Heart Foundation. Professor Frimpong-Boateng was also the Head of Surgery at the University of Ghana Medical School. He is a patron of SMIDO (Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization) and patron of the Ghana Old Footballers Association

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng has received several local and international awards in recognition of his medical work and service to humanity. In 1999 he was the Ghana Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Marketing Man of the year and, a recipient of the Millennium Excellence Award. In 2005 the Millennium Excellence Foundation awarded him as Personality of the Decade.

He is the Secretary of the Centre for Technology-Driven Economic Development (CTED), which received the 2003 special award from the Ghana Chartered Institute of Marketing.

On 10th September 2004 he was a recipient of an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc.) Degree from the University of Education, Winneba.

He also received an honorary Doctor of Laws (DLL) degree from the University of Ghana Legon, on 23rd March 2016.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was made honorary member of the German Surgical Society in May 2011. He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2002; also, a fellow of the Ghana Medical association.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was decorated with a national award: COMPANION OF THE ORDER OF THE VOLTA in 2006

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng was the winner of the 2012 edition of the prestigious African Heroes Award, presented by Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, USA, on February 12, 2012.

He was appointed Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation by H.E President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in February 2017.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng has authored two books entitled, DEEP DOWN MY HEART: A history of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Ghana and TAMING A MONSTER: Managing Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and has contributed chapters to two other books. He has several scientific publications and conference abstracts to his credit.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng is married to Agnes and they have five children. A hobby pianist, his other hobbies are farming and engineering.