Pioneer of Pharmacy in Liberia Dies

The late Moses A. Annan (left) with a colleague at a pharmacy seminar in Liberia in the 1980s

Monrovia – Former chairman of the Pharmacy Board of Liberia, Moses Annan, who pioneered the field of pharmacy in Liberia, has died. He was 95.

Report by James Harding Giahyue, Contributor

The Ghanaian Naturalized-Liberian died on Thursday surrounded by family and friends at the 37 Military Hospital where he worked as a young man, according to his grandson Winslow Annan, Jr.

“Grandpa, may your soul rest in peace,” wrote Winslow on Facebook, announcing his death. “We will meet again in paradise. I am always going to live by our two [formulae]: ‘Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,’” he added with a reference to the Bible in Matthew 10:16.

Mr. Annan was a founding member of the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia, helped create the School of Pharmacy of the University of Liberia, and assisted in the formation of the Pharmacy Board of Liberia (now Liberia Pharmacy Board) and became its first chairman. He was also instrumental in the establishment of West Africa Pharmaceutical Council, today known as the West Africa Postgraduate College of Pharmacy that trains and regulates the practice of pharmacy in the sub-region.

“Today we lost a great son of Ghana, Liberia and Africa as a whole,” said his son Mitchell Annan via mobile chat from the United States. “My father was a father to all he met. He did not care about how much you had or how old were you. He only wanted to impart knowledge, to inspire.”

A screenshot of a Facebook post of the grandson of the late Moses Annan, confirming his death

The Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Pharmacy Board Menmon Dunah said Annan will always be remembered for the development and advancement of pharmacy in Liberia.

“The pharmaceutical profession has lost a very noble and energetic man,” remarked Dunah, who did not know Annan in person but said he heard of his works. “He was a visionary for the profession. He established the Pharmaceutical Association of Liberia giving license to pharmacists to practice the profession,” he added.

“We want to register our deepest condolences to the Annan family, the nation and the health sector as a whole for the loss of such a great and noble man.”

Registered pharmacist Luke Bawo of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s Information Systems, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation said he was “saddened” with the news of Annan’s passing. Bawo said Annan mentored him and other pharmacists while they schooled in the 1990s.

“Annan at the time was a voice of reason when the profession was relatively new in the country and other allied health professions were only just beginning to understand the role of pharmacists in the healthcare team,” Bawo added.

Annan’s contribution to pharmacy in Liberia did not go unnoticed while he was still alive. In 1998 the School of Pharmacy awarded him a certificate of honor for his services, and he served on its advisory board up to his retirement in the early 2000s.

Annan was also highly recognized in the United Kingdom, where he studied between 1953 and 1959. He was an associate of the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene London and also an Associate of the Royal Society of Health London. He even had a privileged honor of meeting Sir. Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, on his (Annan) clinical at a London Hospital.

Early Life

Born Moses Ayi Annan on June 4, 1923 to the union of Peter Okai Annan and Georgina Lamptey, Annan began his primary education at the Presbyterian Boarding School in Teshie, Accra in 1940. In 1943 his completed his secondary school at the defunct African College also in Accra in 1943.

The same year 20-year-old Annan was enlisted into the Gold Coast Royal Force (now Ghana Army). He was attached to the 37 Military Hospital Training Wing, where he completed his training in anatomy, physiology, first aid and basic military training.

After his training with the military hospital, he was assigned with the dermatological, medical and surgical wards, and thereafter to the special treatment department of the hospital.

He was honorably discharged from the army in 1947 at 24 as an intelligent, loyal and honest paramedic.

Life in Liberia

Annan came to Liberia in 1947 upon completion of his military services in the Ghanaian army. How did he come to Liberia? Annan was invited by President William V.S. Tubman after Annan, a member of a Ghanaian band, mesmerized the President on a visit to The Gambia that same year. Annan was a saxophonist with the band. He did not only have passion for medicine. He had a penchant for music, entrepreneurship and sports, too. As a young man, he even had a short spell as an amateur boxer and played for a local football club in Ghana called the Bolton Wanderers and was a founding member of Accra Hearts of Oak.

When he arrived in Liberia, he took to the Weasua diamond mine in Grand Cape Mount County. While there he also catered to injured miners, charging between USD10 and USD12 (those days the USD was the only Liberian currency). That brought him a lot of money, which he used to start a night club on Carey Street then infamously called “Wall Street” for its hosting of thieves and prostitutes.

A couple of years later, Annan was employed as a laboratory technician with the United States Public Health Diagnostic Laboratory. He excelled to the head technician in charge of bacteriology. He began lecturing bacteriology at the University of Liberia.

He returned to Ghana in 1952 and traveled to the United Kingdom the next year to further his education. While in the U.K., he enrolled at the Birmingham College of Technology, Aston College in Birmingham (now Aston University) and Chambers College in London. He had to tell a lie at one point that he was an Ashanti prince in order to enroll. The college did not want to enroll students who had to work to pay their tuition. His father was a blacksmith.

A certificate given to Annan by the School of Pharmacy in 1998 for his contribution to the field in Liberia

Annan returned to Liberia in 1958 naturalized and was registered as a pharmacist by the Liberia Medical Board. By 1960, he established the City Drug Store, which he later named the A and A Medicine Store on Camp Johnson Road in Monrovia with branches other parts of the country.

In addition to all these ties, it was his relationship with Mary Maurice that deepened his relationship with Liberia. She was a cosmetology teacher with the Ministry of Education. She predeceased him in 1997. They had one child, Mitchell. Annan had had another son in Liberia, Winslow Sr., who also predeceased him in 2009. He also had a daughter in Ghana, Salomy.

On his wedding to Mary in 1962 at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church, President Tubman gave the newlyweds a   presidential treat by allowing his motorcade to ride in their matrimonial convoy. He often said Mary “won the golden trouble”.

Following the civil war in 1990, Annan fled Liberia for Ghana and returned in 1991 when the war subsided. He would leave whenever a war broke out and come back when it subsided. On his last return to Liberia in 2004, he told his family and neighbors in Tweh-Johnsonville— along the James Spriggs Payne Airfield, where he had moved his family since 1989— “I have come back to work.” He was 81 then.

Between the 1990s and the early 2000s, Annan opened a laboratory at his Tweh-Johnsonville home, producing all sorts of pharmaceuticals, including S.S. Ointment and Fungicidal, two of his best products he sold to pharmacies and drug stores across the country.

Annan was a devoted Christian, having been baptized at the Western Methodist Church before his first birthday on May 12, 1924. He was a member of the Eliza Turner A.M.E. in Monrovia, honored as Special Father of the Year 1992/1993. He had volunteered as chemistry teacher at Monrovia College, a high school run by the A.M.E. Church, in the 1960s.