Reaction from Prominent Nigerian Virologist/Educator to Death of One Health Leader, virologist Dr. Graham Kemp


By Oyewale Tomori, DVM, PhD

      Redeemer's University, Redemption Camp,

      Km. 46 Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State

      P. O. Box 7914, Ikeja, Lagos State

      TEL: 234 1-7931780,


The news of Graham's death is another of the shocks, that we are not unfamiliar with in Nigeria.

I have just finished a book by Professor Lucas, formerly of the Preventive and Social Medicine, in Ibadan.  Tom [*Thomas P. Monath, MD] may remember him. The title of his book: “IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES.”  There is no better description for the times of Graham Kemp, Vernon Lee, Dorothy Moore and Tom Monath at the Ibadan Virus Laboratory.  Between the four, people like us became the virologist that we became.  Long before the concept of "One Health", was coined, the Ibadan Virus Lab team, looked at man, animal, insects and studied all their interrelations.  From  Kotonkan virus, to Mokola virus and on to Yellow Fever virus, the team worked elucidating the connections and providing solutions for their control.

I still remember the day in March 1970, as if it was yesterday.  Graham Kemp came along with a team from the Rockefeller Lab in Ibadan, to our Veterinary School in Zaria.  The team was returning from investigating the 1969 Lassa fever outbreak.  Graham challenged us to show interest in virology, urging some of us to join the Ibadan team, after our graduation.  Two of us, half heartedly and with minimal seriousness, volunteered to join the Ibadan team.   We were sure that by the time Graham returned to his Ibadan base, he would have forgotten those of us who volunteered in jest!  But he did not.  A year later, and close to our graduation, he wrote to remind us of our promise.  That was how I began an exciting career in virology.



Graham was a great teacher who taught by example.  With his size and courage, the Nigerian cows cowed before him.  It was always a pleasure to see him restrain a cow with his boots and collect a gallon of blood with the needle held between his right thumb and index finger.  I still remember his signature and initials "GEK" on the numerous mouse cards detailing the daily mortality of mice succumbing to intracerebral inoculations with Kotonkan, Mokola and Dugbe viruses. 

I learnt a lot from Graham and together with the teachings I got from Vernon, Dorothy and Tom, I became the virologist I am today.  The only regret is that I have not shown the totality of all that I learnt from Graham et.  al.   One attribute that was common to all of the 4 was the openness and genuineness to build national capacity

He will always remain the gentle, caring, loving and devoted teacher.  We have a saying in Nigeria, that you do not say you saw an elephant in flash!  So much for the indelible impression and contribution of Graham Elmore Kemp to arbovirus studies in Nigeria.

To Peggy, the children and grandchildren, you can all be proud, as we are here in Nigeria, of the contributions of Graham to the study of virology in Nigeria.

*Dr. Monath is an eminent medical virologist/physician and a member of the One Health Initiative website team.

See obituary posted October 30, 2010 on this One Health Initiative website News (please scroll down)