Institution University of Ibadan
Name Fabian Udekwu
|Spouse(s) Anna Brita Bystrom|
Born 1928 , Enugwu Agidi, Anambra State, Nigeria
Known for First open heart surgery in West Africa
Alma mater Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Institutions University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria Nsukka
Died November 17, 2006, Uppsala, Sweden
Occupation Cardiothoracic surgeon
Fabian Anene Ositadimma Udekwu (1928 – 17 November 2006) was a medical doctor, cardiac surgeon, distinguished professor of surgery at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, and a pioneer of open heart surgery in Africa.
Prof. Udekwu was born in Enugu-Agidi, Anambra State, Nigeria. He attended St. Charles Teachers Training College Onitsha where he was retained as a faculty member after graduation in 1947, teaching mathematics and geography. He did his London Matriculation Exams by correspondence and after having been able to save enough money he proceeded in 1950 to the United States for further studies. He did his pre medical studies in biology, chemistry and physics in Los Angeles. Subsequently he attended the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, graduating as a medical doctor in 1957 and specialising in general cardiac and thoracic surgery in 1964. He did his surgical training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Fabian Udekwu was the first fully certified cardiothoracic surgeon in Nigeria. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the International College of Surgeons and the West African College of Surgeons. Udekwu was a founding member and fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science.
Udekwu returned to Nigeria in 1965 as paediatric thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon at the University College Hospital of the University of Ibadan. He fled from Ibadan to Biafra at the outbreak of hostilities that marked the beginning of the Nigeria-Biafra war. From 1967, he served as a military surgeon and head of the Biafran teaching hospital in various locations including Enugu and Emekukwu during the war. He was also the secretary to the Biafran Relief and Rehabilitation Association during the war. Later Udekwu was distinguished professor and head of department of surgery of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and was the administrative head of the Enugu campus of the university. Udekwu is credited with building up the department of surgery of the University of Nigeria. After several unsuccessful attempts at sourcing funding to establish a modern surgical department from many organisations in the United States, United Kingdom, Scandinavia and through church aid, he was able to scrape together funding from the Enugu campus aided by the contributions of individual Nigerians to build the operating theater and buy the equipment needed to establish facilities for open heart surgery in Nigeria. He was one of the pioneers that established cardiac surgery in Nigeria. Professor Udekwu led the team of surgeons that performed the first successful open heart surgery in Nigeria in 1974 which was the first of its kind in black Africa. Also in the team of surgeons that performed this landmark operation were Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, Professors Anyanwu C.H., Nwafor D.C., the anaesthetist Dr. Shreeniwas Jawalekar and others. This was followed by a series of six further open heart surgeries under Udekwu at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu (UNTH) between 1974 and 1980.
Udekwu was an avid sportsman, playing football and tennis throughout his life. He was a member of the Enugu Sports Club. He also played music as a hobby attaining notability as the organist and choirmaster at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Enugu. On 28 April 1956 Udekwu was married to Miss Anna Brita Bystrom. The marriage was blessed with ten children.