Charles “Charlie” Odamtten Easmon was born on 22 September 1913, in Adawso in the Gold Coast, to Kate Odamtten and Victor Farrell Easmon. Victor Easmon was an accountant and the son of Dr. John Farrell Easmon and Carolyn Augustt, a descendant of the Richter family from Osu, Accra. Dr. J. F. Easmon was a Sierra Leonean of African American and Irish descent; J. F. Easmon was also the first West African Chief Medical Officer. Carolyn Augustt, who was described as a “mulatress”, was a mixed-race descendant of a Ga-Danish family. Carolyn Augustt was from Osu Trom Mom in Accra.
Victor Easmon died in Jos, Nigeria, and Charles Odamtten Easmon was raised by his mother, although he still kept close personal ties with the Easmon family in Sierra Leone. Easmon’s mother, Kate, was from a prominent Osu family. His grandmother (maternally) was a Lokko and his uncle Solomon Edmund Odamtten was active in national politics.
Charles Odamtten “Charlie” Easmon was enrolled at Osu St. Thomas School in 1918 and he later attended the Osu Presbyterian Boys’ Boarding School, also known as Osu Salem or Salem, in 1928. After winning a scholarship, Easmon attended the prestigious Achimota School alongside future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah. While at school, Easmon was known for his drawings, and his teachers believed he would become an artist. A gifted athlete and a member of the Student Christian Movement while at Achimota School, Easmon on completing his secondary education earned a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He qualified as MB.ChB. in 1940 and also earned a certificate in tropical hygiene and medicine. In 1946, he married Genevieve Dove, the daughter of Francis “Frans” Thomas Dove, a Sierra Leonean barrister, at Holy Trinity Church in Accra.
In 1946, Easmon returned to Edinburgh with the intention of qualifying as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He was the first Ghanaian to be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh following the completion of his medical course. Upon his return to the Gold Coast, Easmon worked at Korle Bu Hospital in Accra, and was eventually put in charge of the hospital. In June 1959, Easmon left Ghana for the United States for five-month fellowship offered by the State Department in order to create understanding between Ghana and the United States. Easmon was assigned at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and was elected as a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons.
Appointment as Chief Medical Officer and Professor at UGMS
In 1960, Kwame Nkrumah appointed Easmon as the Chief Medical Officer of Ghana and Easmon assumed this role in September 1962. Easmon served with distinction in this position, but was reassigned to an academic post as the first Dean and Professor of surgery at the newly established University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS). Although he was initially reluctant to take on an academic post, he served with distinction in this role.
Professor Charles Odamtten Easmon was an active member and founder of the Osu Medical Association, which was founded to serve the people of Osu in Accra, Ghana. Easmon was also elected as a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and he designed the logo of the Ghana Medical Association.
He retired entirely from his medical profession in July 1993. His lucrative private practice and free treatment of patients had made him a household name throughout Ghana. He frequently travelled on trips to Europe with his wife, and was known for his active involvement in social and civic activities.
Charles Easmon died on 19 May 1994, at the age of 80. He was survived by his wife, Genevieve, and his children – Linda Y. Nkemdirim (née Easmon), Kathleen and Charles F. Easmon, Charlotte M. Holdbrook (née Easmon), Dr. Johnnie Easmon and Susan M. Easmon.
Legacy and accomplishments
Professor Charles Odamtten Easmon achieved a number of firsts in his lifetime. To name a few, he was the first Ghanaian to qualify as a surgeon; the first Ghanaian to obtain a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh; the first Ghanaian to obtain a Fellowship of a College in any branch of medicine; the first Ghanaian to be appointed Surgical Specialist; the first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Surgeon of Ghana; the first Ghanaian to be appointed Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health; the first president of the Ghana Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health; the first President of the Ghana Medical Association; the first Dean of the Ghana Medical School; the first Professor of Surgery of the University of Ghana Medical School; the first Ghanaian to be president of the West African College of Surgeons; the first Ghanaian to be elected a Fellow of the International College of Surgeons; the first Chairman of the Ghana Medical and Dental Council; the first Chairman of the Council for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine.
The College of Health Sciences dedicated its building to the memory of Easmon in 2012, with a bust of him being unveiled. The University of Ghana Medical School also presents the Charles Easmon Prize in Surgery to the best medical student in surgery.