Celebrating a renowned cardiologist
By Nzeribe Ihekwaba
We must start this testimonial with a teachable conclusion: All that Christian Onyekpandu Anah treasures today is the serenity of his privacy; the humility of rendering service to God and humanity; and a heavy dose of prescribing unto others as he cherishes being done to him. That is the entire story of a man who is celebrating his anniversary; a journey that started from his ancestral Ihiagwa neighborhood, where his umbilical cord found natal rest in today’s Imo State in colonial Eastern Nigeria.
The celebrant feels fulfilled today, July 24, as he turns 80. That he feels accomplished in his journey – considering the many milestones that have accompanied it – is obviously a testament of hard work and the buoyant influence of divine intervention. He enjoys every moment when chance and occasion allows him to reminisce about life and the good old days. It is like sitting on a recliner of eventide as one unties the labyrinth of those eight decades of plans and opportunities so much as to make life a wonderful melody of memories that one would gladly enjoy to the heart’s content.
Remarkably given to unobtrusive disposition, this man’s signature is to refuse the recompense and interest in the material desires of the cut-throat or the mindless acquisitions that have set many into the wrong path of history. The man is a rare gem. In all interactions, he frequently prefers self-sacrifice to the obsequiousness of public acclamation that I suspect he may even find this intervention painful to bear! But what is good has to be acknowledged.
Anah is one of the pioneers of the practice of respiratory medicine in Nigeria, having been involved in both clinical and research related training and work in tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases while in the United Kingdom, as far back as the early 1960s. One of his early studies in respiratory diseases then involved the significance of pleural fluid eosinophilia in Oxford, England, and it explored the pathogenesis of the association of lobar pneumonia and jaundice in the tropics. He has since led several other studies in pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma prophylaxis as well as cardiovascular diseases and CSF electrolytes in cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) secondary to hypertension in the tropical clime.
Ever since, he has provided care and succor to countless ones seeking relief in Africa’s most populous nation. Interestingly, he had first trained as a medical officer at University College, Ibadan (as it was then known and affiliated with the University of London, in the United Kingdom) and graduated with distinction in 1961.
As a cardiologist and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London, United Kingdom, he has been in practice without blemish; and has successfully trained many doctors and other healthcare professionals at the universities of Benin and Port Harcourt, as well as in countless others where he had visiting privileges or was an external examiner. Many of his past students have gone on to become professors of medicine and executives in both the public and private sectors. Some have even veered off to become ranking political leaders such as state governors while others presently occupy top management positions in different countries. But Anah refuses to seek self-honor for such feat, preferring instead to pray that success ought to begat more success, for the good of the society.
An Umuahian as alumnae of the once prestigious high school known as Government College, Umuahia (1954 graduating set) like to be called, he constantly bemoans the quality and standards of today’s educational institutions in Nigeria and insists that alma mater societies owe a duty to partner with their friends, private sector organizations and governmental agencies to rehabilitate these once thriving models of excellence and youth empowerment.
Anah has published extensively in reputable academic journals and his research work has covered the entire gamut of his specialization areas. A man of sharp intellect, he has called in a lot of favors whenever the poor needs assistance in an area outside of his practice sphere. His joy is to see happiness on the faces of those he comes into contact once they find the help they seek.
He enjoys the sacrifice of rendering service to the underserved and unserved communities. A professional to the core, he prefers to tap the bowels of new technology for emerging healthcare delivery procedures. At every opportunity of his travels and as a member of several international professional organizations, he seeks out practitioners of similar persuasion to exchange ideas and understand the framework of leading medical techniques. He believes that what one does in such a didactic environment helps to sustain the community of tomorrow, one that is safe and healthy.
About two decades ago, I met Anah for the first time in his Port Harcourt home, courtesy of his first daughter. It was an interesting meeting, the type that many pray for and for which others find challenging at the threshold of its consummation: when one must face reality of an impending rejection or acceptance of one of the greatest decisions of life. It was one of those moments that requires the boldness of the talented and the clearness of mind that is decidedly matter-of-fact in its mission. And as they say, the rest is now history as to how our relationship has blossomed ever since.
It is not difficult to understand why Christian Onyekpandu Anah turned out a great and enjoyable father-in-law. His life of philanthropy and fair-mindedness is infectious and is writ large in his daily routine. A man of great attractions, he specially enjoys the company of his heartthrob, Abigail, the only one of over three scores. It is indeed impossible for one not to notice that they were made for each other and are a happy company. They love traveling and have been on many trips together to several countries as they watch the sunset of life unfurl. This couple is a beauty to behold as they use their treasured time and occasions to reminisce about the good old days; aknack that I find fulfilling and look forward to in my own pace.
I salute Anah for attaining this milestone. 80 years is a glorious time to give thanks to God. It is a beautiful moment to look back and savor the opportunities that have begat success. Eighty is the age of wisdom for those who have found the strength and the charming sense of grace to reach. It is the age when even wrinkles of the past rigor have a magical glow. Christian Anah deserves his moment. Happy birthday, the dearest grandpa of my children.
*Ihekwaba lives in Florida, U.S.A.