Lives of the fellows

Theodore Idibiye Francis

b.9 August 1933 d.16 March 1992
FAS(1976) MRCS LRCP(1959) MB BS Lond(1959)DTM&H(1962) MRCPE(1962) MRCP(1962) FRCPE(1972) FRCP(1975)

Theodore Idibiye Francis, professor of medicine and head of the department of medicine, University of Ibadan, from 1974-77, was widely respected as a physician, clinical hepatologist, scholar, teacher and administrator.

He was born in Nembe (now Rivers State), Nigeria, where his father Theophilus Ayaebaekimiebi Francis was an accounts clerk. He was educated at St Cyprian’s School, Port Harcourt, and Government College, Umuahia. Following four years at University College, Ibadan, he came to London and studied at Guy’s Hospital medical school, graduating in 1959. After house posts at St Olave’s Hospital and the Mile End Hospital, he was appointed medical registrar to the Walton Hospital, Liverpool.

In 1963 he returned to Nigeria, being appointed senior registrar at University College Hospital, Ibadan. From 1964-68 he was lecturer in the department of medicine at the University of Ibadan, then senior lecturer 1968-72, followed by his professorship in 1972. He was elected foundation fellow (in physic) of the Nigerian Postgraduate Medical College in 1970, a foundation fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science in 1976 and the first provost of the College of Health Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, in 1978.

He was the first vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, in 1981 - which he developed into an excellent technological institution within a period of seven years. He served as external examiner in medicine to the University of Chana, Lagos, West Indies, and also to Obafemi Awolowo University.

Francis was a member of the West African Society of Gastroenterology, the American Society of Gastroenterology, the American Society for the Study of the Liver, the International Association for the Study of the Liver and the Nigerian Society of Endoscopy. He travelled widely over five continents and published some hundred papers in learned journals.

Theodore Idibiye Francis was undoubtedly the leading West African clinical liver disease expert. He had very wide clinical experience and made valuable research contributions on the epidemiology, pathology and experimental studies of hepatitis B and other viral infections. He was indeed a master of his specialty, belonging to that generation of doctors obsessed by a desire always to seek further knowledge. He was a man of immense courtesy and humility and did not attempt to dominate the scene but when he spoke others listened, for what he had to say was never trivial.

As a teacher he was an artist in communication, an approachable and kindly ‘boss’ always prepared to listen and always ready to give valuable professional help to his juniors. His quiet manner carried authority and won respect and loyalty. He treated his patients as friends, to whom he was always sympathetic and considerate.

As an administrator he was superb, excelling in committee work since he seemed to possess endless patience. If necessary, he would express his displeasure forcibly but courteously and, having done that, the matter was closed without rancour. He was always reasonable, quick to the see the other side of an argument and ready to give ungrudging credit were merited.

Alexander Brown [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.69], the first professor of medicine at the University of Ibadan and head of the department of medicine for 21 years, described Francis - then a young man - as ‘... of pleasant disposition and unassuming character, tending to be shy rather than aggressive, and diligent and hard working.’

Francis valued true friendship and delighted in his membership of the House of Lords, Nigeria - an organization that started as an association of young men initially committed to hard work coupled with reasonable relaxation and to the welfare of the family and the wider community. On the 14 April 1990 he was installed, with grandeur and pomp, as Chief Ogiriki in the King Ockiya . . . Group of Houses of Nembe.

He was a devout Christian and a member of All Souls Church, Bodija. Perhaps his disarming humility and limitless capacity to tolerate the exuberance and foibles of others accounted for the deep affection in which he was held. Theodore Idibiye Francis was married three times and had eight children. His eldest child, Bomo, followed him into the medical profession.

B.O.Osuntokun

[Memorial Service Address, Univ.of Ibadan]

(Volume IX, page 181)

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