Dr Orrin Barrow

Home of Fred the Snake (and Dr. Peter)

Very sad to hear of Orrin Barrow’s passing. He was the grandfather and godfather of Gastroenterology medicine in the West Indies. We met in the late 1960’s when he came to St Thomas’s Hospital in London for a year of post-graduate training. I was a registrar with Brian Creamer, who inspired us both to specialize in GI. It was about 30 years before our paths crossed again, literally, at a big GI conference. He kindly invited me to participate in several West Indian GI Society meetings, which he initiated and fathered with skill and excellent humor. Through him we were able to meet his young protégé, Naydene Williams, who studied with us in Charleston, and has made great contributions in Kingston Public Hospital ever since.

Orrin was a giant of a man. No one who met him will ever forget him; I certainly will not. – Peter Cotton, June 10th 2013

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Kenrick Orrin Evan Barrow called Orrin by family and friends, was born in Georgetown, British Guaina, on November 27, 1938. He was the only son and the eldest of the four children of Phillip Gladstone Barrow and his wife Ella Adolphine.

Phillip Gladstone was a British Guiana Scholar and studied medicine at The University of Edinburgh. He subsequently took the diploma of Master of Public Health at Harvard University. At the time I knew him, he was the Medical Officer of Health for the city of Georgetown and was called irreverently “Happy B” by his son.

Ella B, his wife, was by profession a pharmacist but there is no evidence that she practiced her profession after the birth of her first born. Orrin’s father was of quiet disposition and had a great sense of humour while his mother was a staunch methodist and became deeply involved in the Caribbean Conference of the Methodist Church holding high office as a lay person. Ella B was widely known in several islands in the Eastern Caribbean because of her work in the church.

Orrin’s birth and infant nurture was normal and in due course he entered Queens College for his high school education. The most notable thing about his sojourn there is the great interest he developed in music and by age 18 years he had obtained the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music.

Science subjects were also studied and he graduated with marks high enough for him to be accepted for admission to Edinburgh, Howard and New York Universities and was considered for a place at the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) provided he passed the required written examination and interview.

Orrin recalls that among the interviewers were Sir Roy Augier and Professor Walter Harper of the Anatomy department. When asked why he wished to study medicine, he replied that he did not wish to do so and would prefer to study music. In spite of this, he was offered a place at the UCWI and accepted it as it enabled him to begin his studies that same year.

He joined the first MB class in 1957 and as he had studied the same subjects to the higher school certificate level, he devoted himself to music and passed the examination without additional study. Preparation for the second MB examination was a course of study over two years. Although these subjects were new to him, he pursued his musical interest with unabated zeal. In fact, he became proficient on the double bass steel pan and the bongo drums and together with like-minded students formed a group (Off Beats) playing Latin-American rhythms. The group became quite popular and played for dances and parties – some at north coast hotels. It is a matter of record that he was able to earn enough to purchase a Vauxhall having to raid the parental purse.

The effects on his studies meant that at examinations he did not achieve the desired results and he spent an additional year improving his knowledge of biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. His progress in the clinical phase of his studies was greatly influenced by a particular case he was involved with soon after his entry to the hospital. He was convinced that the approach of his seniors to the problem was not the correct one and by his research he was able to convince the staff to adopt a different strategy. That patient is alive and well today. This case so excited and challenged him that he began a relentless pursuit of all aspects of internal medicine. At every opportunity, he attended the medical wards realizing correctly that the skills of clinical examination would be applicable to all branches of medicine.

He graduated in 1964 obtaining honours and first place in every phase of the examination. For his effort, he was also awarded the University of London Gold Medal.

His first four appointments were six months each in Surgery, Medicine, Casualty and Pathology. These were followed by one year as a junior registrar in Medicine. Always diligent in ensuring that the results of investigations would be available the next day, his performance during that year was of the highest calibre. Little did I know that he had another reason to visit the laboratories frequently – he had become enamoured of one of the secretaries in the Microbiology Department, a certain Miss Pauline Hayle. They got married shortly before he left for the United Kingdom for postgraduate studies.

In one calendar year, he obtained membership Diplomas of the Edinburgh and London Royal Colleges of Physicians. It was at this time too that he decided that Gastroenterology would be his particular field of study.

He returned to Jamaica and was appointed Senior Registrar in Medicine and one year later was appointed Lecturer in Medicine and Consultant Physician to the University Hospital of the West Indies. He resigned his university appointment as Lecturer in 1973 but remained a sessional consultant physician at the hospital. After 19 years in private consulting practice, he rejoined the Faculty as a senior Lecturer in Medicine until his retirement. In 2003, he was seconded by the University to act as the Chief Executive Officer of the University Hospital of the West Indies for several months and this was extended until his retirement.

Orrin and Pauline have three children, Philip who like his father and grandfather studied medicine, Paige, a Chef and Peter, an Advertising and Marketing Executive. It must also be recorded that in 1970 he became a freemason and has obtained high honours in many orders of Freemasonry. Many honours have been bestowed on him, Fellowship of the Edinburgh and London Royal Colleges, Fellowship of the American College of Physicians and Fellowship of the American College of Gastroenterologists. He was the founding President of the Association of West Indian Gastroenterologists, has been chairman of the Medical Council of Jamaica and is past president of the Medical Association of Jamaica – a position he filled with distinction for three years.

He was External Physician to the late President of the Republic of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, accompanying him to many countries worldwide. He is also physician to the Most Honourable PJ Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica. For his services to Guyana, he has been honoured with that country’s third largest decoration – the Cacique Crown of Honour.

From all that has been said, it is clear that Orrin Barrow is no ordinary man. Whatever institution he is associated with becomes the beneficiary of his high intellect and organizing skills. We commend him for his commitment to the training of younger minds, his devotion to the practice of the art and science of medicine and his refusal to accept mediocrity and ineptitude.

Thank you Orrin for your many years of service to The University of the West Indies and the University Hospital of the West Indies, to the people of Jamaica and to the people of the wider Caribbean.

May you be granted many years to bask in the glory of your achievements.

Donald Christian
Department of Medicine
The University of the West Indies
Kingston 7, Jamaica, West Indies