During Mary Anne Chambers’ three-year term (2000-2003) as a Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) member and vice-chair, the chief of staff and surgery was Dr. Naresh Mohan. Dr. Rosemary Moodie headed the paediatrics department and Dr. Kenneth Sealey was head of psychiatry.
In addition to being leaders in their respective fields, they all have something else in common.
They are University of the West Indies (UWI) graduates and part of a stellar group of alumni serving with distinction in myriad professions across Canada.
Dr. Mohan is still there while another UWI graduate – Dr. Karen Chang – is in charge of paediatrics.
“They are contributing immensely to the quality of life we enjoy in Canada,” said Chambers, who was one of six vice-chancellor award recipients at the UWI Toronto’s fourth annual fundraiser last Saturday night. “I have always felt immense pride in the celebration of excellence that shines the spotlight on the strength of the Caribbean diaspora.”
Chambers shared the spotlight with fellow Jamaican-born Dr. Upton Allen, who is the Hospital for Sick Children (HSC) division head of infectious diseases. A 1981 UWI graduate, he gives back to his Caribbean alma mater by training medical students and doctors and was a visiting professor and external examiner for paediatric degree candidates.
Dr. Allen said he was extremely honoured to be recognized in the presence of UWI chancellor, Sir George Alleyne, who was his professor.
“Clinical medicine was my best subject and this was largely due to the teaching and role modelling of this brilliant young professor of medicine at the time,” said Allen, who co-chairs the Caribbean Paediatric Cancer & Blood Program aimed at improving clinical outcomes and the quality of life for children who are suffering from cancer and serious blood disorders.
Other vice-chancellor award winners were Brigitte Shim, Nicholas Brathwaite Jr., Douglas Orane and Dr. Jamal Deen.
An Order of Canada recipient, Jamaican-born Shim is a tenured professor at the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design, where she has taught since 1988 and an engaged faculty member leading several design and research studios. She has also been a Yale, Harvard and Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne visiting professor.
A University of Waterloo graduate, Brathwaite – the son of former Grenadian Prime Minister and UWI graduate Nicholas Brathwaite – is a pioneer in the development of low-cost cell phones and a co-founder of Riverwood Capital, which is one of the top private equity investment firms in the technology industry.
Orane is the non-executive chair of Grace Kennedy Ltd. and a 2008 UWI honorary doctorate recipient, while Dr. Deen is a professor and senior Canada Research Chair in Information Technology at McMaster University and director of the Micro and Nano Systems Laboratory.
UWI vice-chancellor Dr. Nigel Harris, who left Guyana in 1965 to study at Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania before taking up residency at the UWI Mona campus in Jamaica, presented the awards.
“The recipients have all lived exceptional lives both in terms of their own achievements and the contributions made to their communities,” said Dr. Harris, a former dean and senior vice-president for academic affairs at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. “This is important to our university because our main business is honing lives of young and not so young people so that they may achieve not only self-fulfilment, but be contributors in every way to the growth, development and well-being of the communities in which they live. We recognize our awardees as persons who can serve as role models for our students.”
The University of Toronto was the recipient of the chancellor award for the excellent services it has provided to generations of students, including Caribbean nationals and partnerships with UWI over the years.
“The recognition of our collaboration in the form of tonight’s award, frankly for us, is a shared success,” said U of T’s vice-president of university relations, Judith Wolfson. “It is something that celebrates and it is to be celebrated as the links between the University of Toronto and the University of the West Indies are so durable.”
Student exchanges between the two universities have been operational since 1994.
“This is not a one-way street,” said Wolfson. “As much as students from UWI learn from us at the U of T, our students learn from going to UWI.”
Luminary Awards were presented to former world undisputed heavyweight boxing champion, Lennox Lewis and cardiovascular surgeon and India Heritage Foundation president, Dr. Budhendranauth Doobay, who founded the Voice of the Vedas Cultural Sabha Inc. in Richmond Hill in 1977. He also oversaw the creation of a dialysis clinic in Guyana and built a Museum of Hindu Civilization and World Peace and a memorial for fallen Canadian soldiers.
Last Saturday night’s sold-out fundraiser and a similar event in New York held over the last 16 years are the major sources of funding for scholarships. Close to 100 Caribbean students have benefitted from scholarships derived from funds raised from the Toronto gala in the last three years.
“In a sense, the Caribbean is an incubator for amazing minds and brains,” said event patron and Ryerson University chancellor emeritus, Dr. Raymond Chang. “It’s humbling and joyful to know that a spark lit in Toronto four years ago is helping to ignite and unleash brainpower in the Caribbean.”
The high esteem in which this fundraiser is held by the UWI was reflected in the presence of several of the university’s leaders. They included Mona and St. Augustine campuses principals, Dr. Gordon Shirley and Dr. Clem Sankat, respectively; open campus pro vice chancellor and principal, Dr. Hazel Simmons-McDonald; Cave Hill campus deputy principal, Dr. Udine Barriteau and former University of Alberta professor, Dr. Andy Knight, who is the director of the UWI Institute of International Relations at the St. Augustine campus.
Counting among its graduates 14 heads of government, one Nobel laureate and many distinguished leaders and professionals, the university has contributed the most to the intellectual, cultural, social and economic development of the English-speaking Caribbean in the latter half of the 20th century.
The UWI was established in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) in a special relationship with the University of London. The university has provided approximately 5,000 scholarships since it opened 65 years ago with 23 male and 10 female students who began their academic journey in wooden huts in Jamaica that once housed war refugees from Gibraltar and Malta.