Things that matter: Letter from Jamaica – Land of Wood & Water

Between 1962, entering the University of the West Indies at Mona and last week, arriving for the UWI Medical Alumni Reunion, I’ve landed in this fabulous Land of Wood and Water 163 times. (I’m obsessional – I count things!) And each and every time I come I have the same thrill of arrival, with the lyrics and tune of Jamaica Farewell ringing in my ears. The combination of beauty and emotion is always overwhelming, and the reconnections with scores of friends is, for me, a command performance.

Alumni Associations have a number of goals and objectives. First, there’s the general goal of connectivity, keeping alumni in touch with the programmes and activities of their university. But the other major goals are to provide financial support to the University and its building needs and programmes, in other words GIVING BACK; to assist the University in kind, such as contribution of teaching or consulting on programmes – academic or non-academic; assisting students with financial needs, or establishing incentives and prizes for outstanding achievements; and fostering fellowship among alumni themselves. This is a splendid goal in itself, but shouldn’t mask the major goal of GIVING BACK.

The first UWI Medical Alumni chapter was started in Barbados with a meeting on March 25th, 1984, led by Dr. Jeff Massay, cardiologist. The first Reunion of all chapters was held in Jamaica in November, 1998, just a few weeks after Hurricane Gilbert damaged a great part of the Mona Campus. Reunions have also been held in Barbados (twice), Trinidad and Tobago (once), and St. Kitts. This Reunion was No. 12.

The post Gilbert Reunion of 1988 brought out the best in alumni, with major contributions to the Medical Faculty in Jamaica. This was followed the next time in Barbados, with generous alumni such as my classmate the late Dr. Erling Harry of St. Vincent, a cardiologist practising in the USA, starting the pledges going at the dinner by giving US$10 000 to the cause. Since then The 1948 Society was formed to allow alumni in the USA to be more generous by taking  advantage of tax incentives there. This sub-group was named for the first students entering UWI in 1948 – a group that included our own public health hero Dr. Ken Standard and Dr. Lance Bannister. And between the Alumni Association and the 1948 Society, many students have benefited from scholarships to a total value of several hundred thousand dollars, donations have been given to upgrade the Medical Library at Mona, to establish a Surgical Skills Laboratory, to support residency training in the USA, to support the Secretariat of the Association at Mona, to encourage students with stethoscopes, prizes, and financial assistance at times of need, and so on. We also published the beautiful book celebrating UWI at 50 years in 1998, with amazing photos and text – and it’s still available. Read more

Source: Barbados Advocate