“To be great, a surgeon must have a fierce determination to be the leader in his field. He must have a driving ego, a hunger beyond money. He must have a passion for perfectionism. He is like the actor who wants his name in lights.” And so was the life of Dr. Phillip Thompson, a 1975 graduate of The University of the West Indies Faculty of Medical Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. Dr. Thompson wasted no time in returning to the West Indies from Scotland in 1983, then becoming the preeminent General Surgeon in the Bahamas in the later years of the 20th Century.
It was the era of Open surgery. Dr. Phil Thompson stood supreme, both in skill and stature. He had a well-recognized incision, from stem to stern. Big surgeon, Big Cut. He was known for his speed and competence. It was the time of the drug trade and gang wars, and trauma was rampant in our Caribbean communities – it was the glory days of the trauma surgeon. Phil was a master. He saved lives. Plenty. He headed the Department of Surgery at the premier tertiary facility in Nassau, the Princess Margaret Hospital, for some 10 years before transferring to be Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Rand Memorial Hospital on the Island of Grand Bahama where he subsequently retired. He mentored and taught many. A stickler for excellence in clinical acumen and patient care, he was known for putting the fear of God in his House staff and medical students. Post retirement, Dr. Thompson continued his private practice and rekindled his love for Caribbean medicine. Attending the annual Caribbean of Surgeons meetings revived the friendship of his surgical colleagues. Nostalgia can be more painful than a surgeon’s knife.
Phil was a renaissance man. A graduate of The Government High School (a classical British Grammar school), Phil was multi-talented – a poet, singer and entertainer. One can say that he dabbled in sports as well. He carried these talents with him to Jamaica and he lit up the Mona campus. He toured Jamaica with the Early Inner Circle Group which had several recordings. For Phil, affectionately known as “Slimey”, to comment that he was one of the most popular students on campus was an understatement. But above all, Phil was most renowned for his talents and creativity in the Bahamas’s National culture – Junkanoo. Phil was co-leader of the country’s foremost Saxon’s Superstar Junkanoo group. He was a morning fixture on both Boxing Day and New Year’s Day; his individual costumes championed many annual parades. We would be remiss not to add that on many occasions he lent a helping hand to other Junkanoo groups.
His patients, colleagues and students would probably agree that their best memory of Dr. Phil Thompson was his charismatic personality; he will remain forever in the hearts of those who met and knew him as the caring and proficient physician who enjoyed the finer things in life. The Caribbean College of Surgeons salutes this Caribbean surgical giant and cultural icon. In his later years, he found peace and spirituality, awakening the world with his WhatsApp morning blessings, without fail. We will miss him.
Dr. Robin Roberts. MBBS, FRCSC, MBA, OBE