Prof David Picou’s funeral on Thursday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prof David Picou

Friends, relatives and colleagues will say goodbye to Prof David Picou on Thursday as his funeral will take place at 10 am.

His widow Prof Zulaika Ali, 75, said the funeral will be held at the St Mary’s RC church on George Cabral Street, St James.

Picou, 97, had a week-long decline in his heath before dying on May 4 at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC), which he oversaw as project manager and chairman of the Mount Hope Medical Complex Task Force between 1978 and 1987.

For his long and meritorious service in medicine, he was awarded the Chaconia Gold Medal in 2006 and also won an award at the Caribbean Institute for Health Research Award in 2019.

Picou also lectured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National Institutes of Health, was the first Caribbean national and graduate appointed to the post of director of the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica, and was the first director of research of the Caribbean Health Research Council among many other achievements.

However, the doctor’s most substantive and revered work was in malnutrition when he led the development of clinical guidelines for the treatment of severely malnourished children in resource-poor countries over 60 years ago. This work was adopted by the World Health Organization and others used worldwide to save the lives of millions of babies, young children and adults.

Ali said this was her husband’s proudest work. She said he was a curious man, which was a driving factor in his many achievements over his 70-year career.

“His motivation was curiosity about why things happen. Always curious and wanting to find out the reason, hence his seminal work on trying to find the reason for malnutrition, which was very common in the 50s and 60s in Jamaica.”

“It was curiosity and the need to understand.”

Apart from his research, Ali said her husband had a free spirit, evidenced by his love for carnival, dancing and going on cruises.

She said he played mas until 2015 when at the age of 88, his health no longer permitted him to. She said their last cruise was in 2019.

Picou and his wife were also close with the late president George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards.

Ramjohn-Richards said Picou was close with her husband since he was at UWI and remembers playing carnival with him and Ali.

However, her fondest memories with Picou were of his culinary skills, describing him as one of the best cooks of Chinese food.

“I looked forward to whenever he invited us. He cooked the most delicious dishes. If you didn’t go quickly, you might get none!” she said.

Having lost her husband of almost 50 years in 2018, Ramjohn-Richards empathised with her former work colleague and friend, saying she will have some work to do to come to terms with the loss.

A Health Ministry release on Monday described Picou as a remarkable human being and celebrated hero.

“As we say goodbye to one of our own, we mourn this brilliant academic scholar, engaging intellectual and passionate leader, we give thanks for his legacy that will continue through his life’s work to save the lives of the most vulnerable in society. Professor Picou has proven to be a true leader by his example, his discipline and his unrelenting drive to make a positive difference,” it said.