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Of Parasites, Intelligence and Doctors

Of Parasites, Intelligence and Doctors

  • October 26, 2021

The Doctor’s Day is celebrated on the 30th of March in the United States to honor its doctors. Recognizing the important role doctors play in every society, other countries have chosen different days to highlight its own doctors. For example, India celebrates its doctors on the 1st of July, and Cuba on the 3rd of December. Ghana, like many other countries, does not have a day to celebrate its doctors and I am definitely not craving for one. Maybe Ghanaian doctors are not worth celebrating, perhaps being attacked is more deserving for who knows what! maybe for a poor work done, maybe a mindset programmed to view everything native as inferior or maybe having a poor understanding of how the health system in Ghana works but being too dishonorably ignorant to accept it.

The idea of doctor’s day arose from the need to honor what doctors do for humanity. It is the hard work, commitment, dedication and patience that helps us sustain life on earth and doctors command their pride of place in this feat. This year, Doctor’s Day should be special if for nothing at all, because on a daily basis, doctors place the life of millions of people ahead of theirs as they tackled the deadly Covid-19 pandemic head-on. Doctors are arguably the best or among the best soldiers in the world and merit celebrating in my opinion.

The origin of the highly Doctor’s Day celebration is traced back to 30th March, 1933 where its first observance was in the area of Winder, Georgia, initiated by Eudora Brown Almond, a prominent doctor herself who wanted to honor and recognize the contribution doctors make in people’s lives. She decided to celebrate the day by sending greeting cards to all the doctors she knew and place flowers on the grave of the deceased doctors. The flowers she placed on the graves were red carnations and that tradition is still on-going. The reason behind choosing 30th March particularly was because that was the day when Dr. Crawford W. Long used an ether anesthetic for the first-time during surgery in 1842. This was the first step in making possible painless surgery. The day got the official holiday status in the year 1991 in the USA.

The amount of time a doctor simply spends in a lifetime behind patients and the guts it takes to do surgery is something scary and unimaginable to many normal human beings. Not that many people can withstand the sight of blood but doctors brace through them to perform countless hours in surgery. Doctors must be our superheroes without capes who not only relieve physical pain but also help us project mental assistance to issues that really matter. Their resilience, patience, guts, sympathy, dedication, craft, and many other qualities should put them on a high pedestal in every society.

Doctors are also in the forefront of research to help not only to treat patients better but also understand certain events and occurrences better. One fascinating research by Prof Randy Thornhill of Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, USA on the prevalence of parasites and the worldwide distribution of cognitive ability or intelligence is worth highlighting.

The study measured intelligence quotient (IQ), using three established standards, and compared with the parasite densities across nations and across all the 50 states of the United States of America. Each of the three measures of IQ showed a strong negative relationship with infectious disease prevalence across the States and countries of the world. What this basically means is that the higher the parasites density and stress of infections in a particular geographical area, the lower the IQ of its inhabitants.

This observation is explained by the fact that about 87% of the available energy is spent on developing the brain in the newborn. This energy requirement for brain development goes down to 65% by three months of age and to 44% at age 5 years. Apart from the brain, the immune system, probably the largest system also requires a lot of energy to produce and maintain. It therefore stands to reason that the limited energy must be traded off between these competing interests. In other words, for one to build the immunity against parasites and infectious disease, there is the need to re-channel energy that would have gone into developing one’s cognitive function or intelligence. It therefore follows that the more the infectious agents you are exposed to, the more the energy channeled to deal with it and the less the energy available to build up the intelligence. Thank God for doctors for this wonderful exposé.

Reviewing this staggering finding by a doctor has helped me to understand among other things why I shouldn’t lose sleep over the sudden unproved attacks on doctors in Ghana. Especially at a time where the world is celebrating its own. Doctors like Ogyaadu and his team are performing novel surgeries in Ghana worth celebrating but some Ghanaians would choose to vilify their own doctors working under difficult circumstances. I seriously put the blame squarely on our parasite and infectious density and I encourage doctors to channel every effort to help reduce the density of these parasite.

I celebrate Dr’s Christaian Owoo and Oliver-Commey for spearheading the fight against Covid-19. I celebrate Drs Lily Wu, Emmanuel Amoah, Ernest Yorke,Teddy Tottimeh and thousand others who strive on a daily basis to better the lot of Ghanians. A special one to Dr Divine Banyubala of Ghana Medical and Dental Council for your passion in busting the baby selling syndicate. Of course, I celebrate Dr Lawrence Sereboe of National Cardiothoracic Centre and Dr Akoto of 37 Military Hospital. We must soldier own to deliver our best in a broken system.

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A member of Paediatric Society of Ghana

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