St. George’s Graduation Commencement Address 2006 Dr Richard EW Halliwell

My warmest congratulations to each and every one of you!

This day marks the culmination of aspirations and dreams that all of you have had for many, many years. And I am sure that the path for some of you has not been an easy one. It is also the culmination of the dreams and aspirations that parents, family, loved ones and other supporters have had for you. Their support, given unstintingly and often involving considerable sacrifice has been crucial to your success. So on this very special day, we pay tribute both to you, who mastered all of the knowledge and clinical skills required of you, and also to those whose help and support has been so crucial to your success.

Some years ago, you made the decision to join the St George’s family. Your graduation today is not the end of that relationship, but it marks a new beginning as an alumnus. The St George’s family is noted for a very special spirit and esprit de corps. All of you went through the trauma of hurricane Ivan, that could well have seriously disrupted your studies. But your administration worked night and day to make alternative arrangements. In my case, as a visiting Professor, I had to trade the beach of Grande Anse for the cornfields of Manhattan Kansas. And however high my regard is for that august institution, and for the generosity and welcome that its staff extended to all, for someone coming from Scotland in November, it just wasn’t quite the same thing! But the spirit of camaraderie that was evidenced by displaced students and staff alike was nothing short of remarkable. There was an absolute commitment and determination to overcome the serious setback. And, of course, you succeeded. The true spirit of St George’s was never more evident than at that traumatic time. I urge you to continue to embrace this spirit in the years ahead. Keep in touch with your classmates, with other alumni and with the administration. In so doing you will help to maintain something very special for future generations of students.

Medicine and veterinary medicine have much in common – indeed some maintain that there is but one medicine, only with different branches for different mammalian species. Both professions, of course, are held in the highest esteem by society as embodying the finest characteristics as caring professions. But gratifying though that is, it places upon each and everyone of you an awesome responsibility – that of upholding the traditions of integrity and of high ethical standards that have made our two professions such pinnacles amongst society. The future will not always be easy. There will be difficult times when you will be faced with difficult decisions. But when struggling over which course of action you should take, be guided by the reasons that made you aspire to your career – which I am sure was desire at all times to do your very best to improve the health and welfare of the patients committed to your care – be they animals or human beings.

And then both professions are devoted primarily – either directly or indirectly, at the betterment of human health. The veterinary profession, of course, is charged with ensuring the safety and quality of foods of animal origin. But the very substantial health benefits that pet animal ownership conveys on their owners are less well-recognized. These benefits translate into substantially lower incidences of many common ailments, with cost savings in health care, and improved contributions to national gross domestic products that are measured in the billions. Then the stress relieving effects of pet ownership have been shown to very significantly lower the morbidity and mortality in patients with coronary artery disease, and pet-facilitated therapy is increasingly employed to enhance the quality of life for sufferers of chronic diseases. Yes, people can become allergic to their pets, but genetic engineering has now enabled the removal of the gene encoding for the major cat allergen from that species. There is also evidence that exposure of potentially atopic children to pets early in their life, lessens the likelihood of the development of severe allergies to other environmental allergens later in life.

And the study of comparative medicine can unlock secrets surrounding puzzling diseases that affect both man and animals. For example, both suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. There are anecdotal reports that this disease may be transmitted from dog to man, or vice versa. Yes, the reports are indeed anecdotal, but how many anecdotes are required – all suggesting the same thing, before a call for in depth investigations is answered.

In fact the value of the study of comparative medicine has been well-known for many years. A prime example was the remarkable observation of Edward Jenner in 1790, that people who contracted cow pox from milking cattle were apparently immune to small pox. This provided the basis for the vaccine that enabled the eradication of this appalling disease from the planet. But sadly not all zoonotic diseases are of such direct benefit to mankind. Indeed the past two decades has witnessed the emergence of serious diseases that continue to challenge both our professions.

Firstly, I mention that peculiarly British creation – bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE or mad cow disease. This has the potential to cause the invariably fatal new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in people. Although thus far less than 200 people have succumbed to the disease world-wide, the variable, and very long incubation period of the different genotypes makes it impossible to predict the ultimate impact with any certainty. The disease has been exported from the UK to many countries, and entered the USA via Canada. But is unclear how the calf born last year in Texas acquired the infection. Not only does BSE have implications for human health, but the economic ramifications for the US have been profound, with losses of export markets in Asia worth $10 billion annually.

Then there was the saga of SARS, or severe acute respiratory disease. The infection was caused by a coronavirus that it was believed had mutated from that carried by civet cats and/or raccoon dogs. But the true reservoir has now been shown to be the Chinese horseshoe bat. This disease caused close to 1000 deaths worldwide, with most concentrated in Asia, but with a significant outbreak in Canada. The disease has been eradicated from the human population, but whether or not it will re-emerge remains to be seen.

But the impact of SARS pales into insignificance when one considers the possible impact of the avian influenza strain H5N1. This virus appears to be endemic in a number of Asian countries, and shows highly variable biological activity in different species. Thus some duck species can act as carriers, whereas in swans and apparently also in cats, it is usually fatal. Deaths in humans are currently numbered in the low hundreds, but the reported mortality rate is alarmingly high at 50%. However one must emphasize that the disease surveillance in some Asian countries is such that one has little idea of its true incidence, and of how many mild or subclinical cases may have occurred. Thus far, it does not spread readily between humans, but it only requires a single point mutation to enable it to achieve rapid spread. When one realises that the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed some 50 millions world-wide originated in the same way from a mutation of an avian disease, the possibilities of a pandemic are truly alarming. They are even more so when one realises that the 1918 epidemic had a mortality rate of only 2%.

Yes, new diseases are indeed emerging at an alarming rate, and it is quite certain that they will continue to do so. Of these new diseases, it is estimated that 75% have zoonotic potential. So it was never more important that our two professions work together as one. Only by an ever closer partnership can we face and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. It was also never more important that public investment in health research is increased. And this investment should not be limited to expenditure in any one country, for disease knows no boundaries.

Your graduation today is not, of course, the end of learning – it is merely the beginning of a new phase of learning. Learning in our professions continues until the day we die, or we leave the profession. You are all fortunate enough to be faced with a plethora of opportunities in the years ahead. There are many branches, many specialties of medicine and veterinary medicine open to you. But do not readily discard the very important role that the general veterinary practitioner has, or that the family doctor has. These are indeed the backbones of our respective professions. And do please consider the possibilities of a research career. But remember also that many of the most important original observations have been made from practice. So, irrespective of whether you are in basic or clinical research, or in whatever type of medicine or veterinary medicine you end up, you all have both the ability and the potential to advance knowledge. So maintain and develop your problem-solving skills. Approach your cases with an open mind. Foster and develop your spirit of enquiry. Discuss your cases with your peers and colleagues. Develop the concept of self assessment, learn from your experiences, from your mistakes, and document your observations.

And amongst you, it is certain that there are future leaders of your respective professions – leaders who will play a role in your professional organisations, and who will influence government in shaping the health care policies of the future.

So, let me conclude by emphasizing that you are all today on the threshold of exciting careers – of careers that offer you an unparalleled and unique breadth of challenges and opportunities. You have been well-prepared for them.

Enjoy your careers, rise to the challenges, seize the opportunities, and may I wish each and everyone of you more than your share of good luck.

Published on 08/08/2006

Commencement Ceremony Celebrates “One Medicine” for the 21st Century

St. George’s University’s School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine held its Annual Commencement Ceremony on June 17, 2006, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City – a first at this grand NYC landmark. More than 450 medical students and 65 vet students proudly received their diplomas in front of an audience of more than 4,000 family members, friends, faculty, and administration.

Commencement Radio City Music HallChancellor Charles R. Modica congratulated the graduates for their hard work and determination and urged them to make a positive difference in the world as they continue their medical careers. “Your hard work has earned you a degree that is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a journey of service,” Chancellor Modica said. “In your professional and personal lives I urge you to choose wisely and, like this evening’s special honorees, always remember your duty to others.”
He also proudly welcomed them as SGU alumnus, welcoming them to the community of over 6,400 graduates working all over the world.

The commencement address was delivered by Richard Halliwell, MA VetMB, PhD, MRCVS. Dr. Halliwell not only congratulated the graduates, he paid tribute to the family and friends of the graduates who supported them all along. He also honored the students and the SGU administration for their spirit and determination in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. “There was an absolute commitment and determination to overcome the serious setback,” he said. “And, of course, you succeeded. The true spirit of St. George’s was never more evident than at that traumatic time.”

To view Dr. Halliwell’s speech in its entirety, please click here.

Commencement Students WalkingDr. Halliwell urged the graduates, medical and vet, to work together as one during their careers, drawing many parallels between medicine and veterinary medicine. He cited the emergence of SARS, mad cow disease, and avian flu as just a few of the fields necessary for cooperation between doctors and veterinarians. Stressing the importance of cooperation and working towards the One Medicine concept, he said that “the past two decades have witnessed the emergence of serious diseases that continue to challenge both our professions” and that “…both professions are devoted primarily – either directly or indirectly, at the betterment of human health.”

Following Dr. Halliwell’s address, Chancellor Modica presented a Distinguished Service Award to Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior for his commitment and work on behalf of SGU. Lord Soulsby’s career in veterinary medicine is a notable one – from teaching at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine to serving as president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – and a whole host of distinguished academic and legislative endeavors and honors in between. He serves on the Board of Trustees of WINDREF (UK) and has been a friend of SGU for many years. Lord Soulsby gave the inaugural address for the first class of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. His help and support has been invaluable for the University. He is a true friend, and we are grateful for his friendship.

Charles Modica Speaking at CommencementThe Chancellor also presented Dr. Orazio Giliberti (SGUSOM ’83) and Dr. Cheryl Fite (SGUSVM ’03) with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. The award is given annually to SGU graduates who have performed exemplary service to their communities since they graduated.

Honor cords were worn by students who are members of an honor society – Iota Epsilon Alpha in the School of Medicine and Phi Zeta in the School of Veterinary Medicine – and they signify excellence in academics during their years as medical students.

After the students stated their academic oaths and the degrees were conferred by Chancellor Modica, the new doctors filed out of Radio City Music Hall with hopes and aspirations of a bright future in medicine.

Published on 08/08/2006

St. George’s University’s First Annual Gold Humanism Honor Society Awards Ceremony

St. George’s University held its first Gold Humanism Honor Society Awards Ceremony on June 16, 2006, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel in New York City. Thirteen SGU medical students received the award, recognizing their humanistic and altruistic efforts during medical education.

Dr. C.V. Rao, Dean of Students at SGU

Dr. C.V. Rao,
Dean of Students at SGU

The honorees and their families and friends were welcomed to the awards ceremony by Dr. John J. Cush, an SGU graduate and a member of the SGU Board of Trustees, who helped promote SGU’s development of a local chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Dr. C.V. Rao, Dean of Students at SGU, addressed the students and congratulated them on their philanthropic achievements and desire to “go the extra mile”. The keynote speakers that evening were Sandra O. Gold, EdD, and Arnold P. Gold, MD, the founders of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. School of Medicine Dean, Dr. Stephen Weitzman, also congratulated the honorees and encouraged them to continue their extraordinary efforts in helping others as they become doctors.

This year’s honorees are:

    • Megan Auchenbach
    • Greg Cugini
    • Rahim Govani
    • Ashika Jain
    • Linda Jasperse
    • Noreen Kamalwe
    • Michael Markos
    • Peter Prieto
    • Anita Sircar
    • Salima Thobani
    • Sanjay Upadhyay
    • Stanley Wu
    • Jennifer Wu

The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) was established in 2002 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to foster and acknowledge humanism among medical students. The GHHS has been established at 47 US medical schools and three international medical schools since its inception. St. George’s University became one of the three in 2005.

The award is given to medical students who demonstrate humanistic characteristics during their time in medical school, including positive mentoring skills, community service, compassion, sensitivity, collaboration, and observance of professional ethics. The students must be dependable and trustworthy, exhibit exemplary patient care, and show devotion to the community and the underprivileged.

“This award is a terrific way to reward, in a non-monetary and non-academic way, the efforts of those students who have given their personal time, money, resources and efforts to benefit others while in Grenada, St. Vincent’s, or during their clinical rotations,” said Dr. Cush. “Our 13 students found the time and the will to work to benefit others as they maintained their academic excellence. We want them to know they are appreciated and that SGU is a university that places a premium on humanism in medicine seriously and we want to foster these ideals in our students.”

Students were nominated for the award by their peers, faculty, or by themselves. The list was then presented to an awards committee made up of a diverse group of SGUSOM faculty and administrators.

Published on 06/26/2006


24th Biennial Caribbean Veterinary Medical Association (CbVMA) Conference to Be Held in Grenada

Veterinary Medicine: What is the Future? Is the title of the 24th Biennial Caribbean Veterinary Medical Association (CbVMA) Conference being hosted by St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine and the Grenada Veterinary Medical Association in Grenada from November 8-10, 2006.

This conference brings together veterinarians and scientists from all parts of the Caribbean, Canada, the US, and the UK to address the veterinary issues that affect the Caribbean region, including aquatic and fish medicine, avian medicine, anesthesiology, dentistry, infectious diseases, and public health. The meeting serves as a forum and an opportunity for regional veterinarians to network, share ideas, and build on the common goal of gaining exposure to veterinary medicine in the Caribbean region, while enjoying the unique and beautiful location of Grenada.

The format for the conference is broken out into three parts: a. invited plenary speakers will give lectures on their areas of veterinary expertise; b. scientists, faculty members, and researchers will present papers either orally or on posters; and c. four hands-on wet labs will take place in the areas of fish medicine, avian medicine, anesthesiology, and dentistry.

The invited plenary speakers are world-renowned experts in veterinary medicine. This year’s speakers and their topics are:

Dr. Richard Halliwell, Professor Emeritus, Veterinary Clinical Studies, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, UK will address the conference theme, “Veterinary Medicine: What is the Future?”

Dr. Tom Nemetz, Dentistry, South Athens Animal Clinic, Athens, Georgia will address the topic of dentistry and will lead a dentistry wet lab.

Dr. Scott Echols, Director of Avian Medical and Surgical Services at the Westgate Pet and Bird Hospital in Austin, Texas will talk on avian medicine and will lead an avian wet lab.

Dr. Gerald Johnson, Faculty of Atlantic Veterinary College of the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada will address fish medicine and will lead a fish medicine wet lab.

Dr. William Novak, Chief Medical Officer of Banfield, The Pet Hospital will hold a talk and wet lab on the topic of anesthesiology.

St. George’s University will host a reception for delegates on True Blue campus during the conference. The wet labs will also be held at SGU, while the plenary speakers’ lectures and the paper presentations will take place at the Grand Beach Hotel. Approximately 120 people are expected to participate.

“St. George’s University is honored to co-host this prestigious conference,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, Dean of Graduate Studies at SGU. “The conference enhances professional collaboration and camaraderie among veterinary experts in our region. It is also a positive way to bring veterinarians to our campus and show them who we are and show off our campus.”

Published on 06/08/2006

The Winner of the First Annual St. George’s University Knowledge Bowl

The all-girls ensemble from St. Joseph’s Convent (SJC) in St. George’s emerged as the Champion of the first annual SGU Knowledge Bowl. They walked away with the Challenge Trophy after defeating Hillsborough Secondary School from the Sister Isle, Carriacou.

The final match was held on SGU’s True Blue Campus on March 18 – and what a match it was! The audience was perched on the edges of their seats, as questions and answers were thrown back and forth. The final score: 45-28.

The response was phenomenal, with an in-studio audience of more than 600 at the Bell and Bourne Lecture Halls and many more watching the live television broadcast and listening to live broadcasts on two radio stations in the North of Grenada and on the Sister Isle of Carriacou.

The Quiz Competition, designed to stimulate and provide an avenue for healthy academic exchange, was organized and sponsored by SGU and Grenada Cablevision Community Channel 6, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The competition was launched on January 12th and the matches aired on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8PM on Community Channel 6.

Fourth and fifth term students from 18 of Grenada’s 22 secondary schools faced off in this exciting contest to test their knowledge, prepare for regional exams, win prizes, and have fun.

The material for the quiz questions came from the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council (CSEC) syllabi in the areas of science, information technology, the arts, and humanities. Students also had to have general knowledge of geography, Spanish, food and nutrition, culture, sport, and current affairs. All fourth and fifth term students have to take an external exam as set forth by the CSEC at the end of the year. The quiz competition directly reflected what the students need to study and know for the exam so its purpose was two-fold. It helped not only the participants study for the exam, but also the students watching the competition.

The five winning SJC team members were awarded individual laptop computers and $500(US) starter bank accounts, while their school received $10,000(US). The second place Hillsborough team also got bank accounts, while their school was presented with $5,000 (US).

Each team consisted of five players, two back-ups, and a coach (teacher). The moderator for the competition was Tyrone Buckmire, project manager of Grenada Ecotourism Enterprises. Mr. Buckmire, who has been involved in social work since 1988 works with NGOs in the areas of education, youth development, child rights, and environmental conservation. He has represented Grenada and the Caribbean at various international meetings, conferences, and internships.

The SGU Knowledge Bowl initiative was spearheaded by Colin Dowe, Assistant Dean of Enrolment Planning, Caribbean Admissions at SGU. “This was a very exciting quiz competition,” Mr. Dowe said. “We are overwhelmed by the success of the Quiz and the accolades.”

With Season 1 wrapped up, corporate sponsors and supporters are already signing up for Season 2 next year. Having been infected by a Quiz bug, SGU has committed to a minimum of five more years. Stay tuned…

Published on 03/23/2006

President of American Veterinary Medical Association(AVMA) Delivers Keynote Address at School of Veterinary Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony

Dr. Henry E. Childers, President of AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the American Animal Hospital Association, welcomed a new class of veterinary students to St. George’s University during his Keynote Address at the White Coat Ceremony on January 17, 2006.

52 new veterinary medical students – 17 men and 35 women from seven countries were welcomed to SGU at the 13th White Coat Ceremony of the School of Veterinary Medicine. To an audience of family, friends, and faculty members, the vet students pledged their commitment to the field of veterinary medicine.

Dr. Childers emphasized that the veterinary profession was a diverse one, having more than 30 areas of specialization, and encouraged the students to choose wisely and set about to make a difference relating to public health and public practice.

Chancellor Charles R. Modica also welcomed the students to SGU and encouraged them to succeed in their goals. Margaret A. Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning, addressed the vet students and advised them to hold onto this moment of the beginning, to make this day’s experience part of their permanent store of memories, so that when the everyday frustrations and bumps of reality sets in, they can each dig down into their store of memories and remember what it was they set out to do.

A small animal practitioner in Cranston, Rhode Island, Dr. Childers is also an assistant clinical professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and is only the second veterinarian to serve as both president of AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association.

After earning his veterinary degree from Auburn University, Dr. Childers served two years in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps before acquiring the Cranston Animal Hospital in 1957. He became a Diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), where he served as a member of their Council of Regents and was chairman of their Continuing Education Committee.

Throughout his career Dr. Childers has been active in organized veterinary medicine. He has served on various councils, boards, and foundations in the veterinary medicine field, and has received numerous honors.

Published on 02/08/2006

Noted Bioethicist Welcomes the Class of 2010 at the White Coat Ceremony

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, an internationally renowned bioethicist and breast oncologist was the Keynote White Coat Speaker who addressed the incoming class with inspiration and pragmatic suggestions for a life in the service of medicine. The School of Medicine welcomed a new class of medical students on January 16th at the White Coat Ceremony. The new students, 355 from 30 different countries (185 men and 170 women) gathered on at the Trade Center in Grand Anse dressed in white coats, marking their official entry into the medical profession.

Chancellor Charles R. Modica greeted the new students and welcomed them to SGU and to medicine. He stressed that their experience in medical school will be as good as they want it to be – or as bad as they allow it to be. He encouraged them to make the right choices. Dr. Allen Pensick, Provost of SGU, echoed the Chancellor’s sentiments and welcomed the new students on this joyous occasion.
Four Students Receiving White Coats 2006
Dr. Emanuel told the students, parents, faculty and administration in the audience that no matter how well-intentioned, hardworking, or knowledgeable doctors are, they will, inevitably make mistakes. It is important to integrate these mistakes, know what they mean, and learn from them. How a doctor assimilates a mistake will determine, to a large extent, the level of commitment to the medical profession. He gave examples from his own medical career to illustrate how rewarding the practice of medicine can be.

Dr. Emanuel has had a very distinguished career in medicine. After earning his undergraduate degree from Amherst College, he received an MSc from Oxford University in Biochemistry. He received an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in political philosophy from Harvard University. He was a fellow in the Program in Ethics and the Professions at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Dr. Emanuel did his internship and residency in internal medicine at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital and his oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He then joined the faculty at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and was an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

He has published widely on the ethics of clinical research, advanced care directives, end of life care issues, euthanasia, health care reform, the ethics of managed care, and the physician-patient relationship in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, JAMA, and many other medical journals. He has published books, has received numerous rewards, and serves on various commissions and organizations. Dr. Emanuel has been a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the Brin Professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School.

Published on 02/08/2006

University of the West Indies’s (UWI) Vice Chancellor Visits St. George’s University

Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), made his first official visit to St. George’s University last week, a significant step in cultivating a stronger alliance between the two institutions.

Professor Harris’ tour of campus, led by Mr. Paddy Ross, SGU’s Dean Emeritus of Caribbean and UK Clinical Studies, took place on Tuesday, November 8th. Professor Harris was impressed by the commitment manifested in SGU’s campus, “You have a beautiful campus,” he said. “The buildings compliment the environment to create an appealing ambience – one conducive to work and study.”

Professor Harris was in Grenada attending the Eighth Annual UWI Medical Alumni Association International Medical Conference held at the Grenada Beach Resort, a conference in which St. George’s was invited to participate. The title of the conference was “UWI and Medical Education for the Caribbean and the World in the 21st Century.” Visiting SGU’s True Blue campus was one of his priorities on this trip to Grenada.

One of the discussion topics during Professor Harris’ visit was a possible collaboration between SGU and UWI for the postgraduate training of medical graduates. This collaborative effort would increase the possiblities of partnership in the necessary development of medical education in the region. It further enhances the growing spirit of cooperation in the Caribbean region amongst dedicated medical education professionals interested in high academic standards. Since 1999 there have been several visits from UWI officials and numerous instances of collaborative efforts, including visits from UWI researchers to participate in research presentations organized by WINDREF.

UWI operates in 15 countries in the Caribbean region, including Grenada. Each year the conferences are held on a different island. Although Grenada would have been chosen to host the conference before Hurricanes Ivan and Emily, Professor Harris stated that it was particularly apt for the conference to be held in Grenada this year, “We felt certain we would want to come to Grenada and lend our support. After all Grenada is part of our UWI family.”

Published on 11/14/2005

23rd Annual Conference on West Indian Literature

Grenadian poet and novelist Dr. Merle Collins, called the foremost writer of her country, read to a packed audience last week in the University’s Caribbean House, opening the 23rd Annual Conference in West Indian Literature with selections from her most recent collection of poetry, Lady in a Boat, including “Se Mwé Nutmeg.”

Each spring university and college professors and writers from the region join together to celebrate the literature of the West Indies. “We talk about who we are, what our literature is about, and why it is important,” said Antonia MacDonald-Smythe, Associate Dean for the School of Arts and Sciences at St. George’s and an attendee of the conference since 1992. “It’s a time to discuss what is important to us, to read literature to others, and to present papers we have worked on.”

The West Indian Literature Conference started 23 years ago at the University of the West Indies and grew over the next few years to include the University of Guyana, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Miami, and other Caribbean universities and colleges. Every fourth year the conference is held in an international location.

At last year’s conference Dr. MacDonald-Smythe accepted the proposal to hold the 1994 forum at St. George’s University – for the first time. “I thought it would be a great idea to have it at St. George’s,” Dr. MacDonald-Smythe said. “It’s never been here and it is good for us to be a part of this experience. A lot of people don’t know too much about St. George’s and what we have to offer and this provided a great arena to help them understand what we’re all about.”

“The students also need to be aware of the importance of literature,” she said. “And holding a conference of this nature at St. George’s was very significant.”

This year’s conference was a huge success. More than 40 papers were presented from participants representing universities as far away as Italy and as close as Trinidad and featured Grenadian and regional writers. The evening of readings also included Grenadian poets and short story writers Judy Benoit, Shirley Brathwaite, Shakeera James, Esther O’Neale, Sheldon Scott, Patrica Walcott, Joan Anim-Addo, along with Caribbean poets Jennifer Rahim, Christian Campbell, Mark McWatt, and Eddie Baugh. Oonya Kempadoo, the Guyanese novelist, who resides in Grenada, read from the novel that she is currently working on.

The master of ceremony for the program was Grenadian sociologist and painter Oliver Benoit. Currently on exhibition at Marryshow House, Mr. Benoit’s works were on display in Caribbean House during the conference, and his art was featured during the evening of reading. Providing a showcase for Grenadian visual arts, his presence at the Conference provided an exciting creative engagement between the Caribbean artist and Caribbean writers.

Prolific writer and esteemed scholar Dr. Merle Collins was the featured writer and special guest for the Evening of Reading. Dr. Collins is the daughter of Grenadian parents who returned to their homeland shortly after her birth. Raised in this beautiful tropical setting, Dr. Collins is excited about the educational opportunities that St. George’s University undergraduate and graduate programs bring to island residents.

Dr. Collins is currently a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland, where she teaches Creative Writing and Caribbean Literature. But it was her position as director of the study abroad programs at UMD that brought her back to St. George’s, seeking information on the programs at the University. When Dr. Collins graduated from her alma mater, the University of the West Indies, back in 1972, St. George’s University was a not yet envisioned dream of University Chancellor Charles Modica. Now Grenadian students have an option of pursuing university education at home.

“I came to St. George’s University for the study abroad program because it had the full English program and it was taught in Grenada,” Dr. Collins said. “It was my interest in literature and my love of Grenada [that brought her to St. George’s University].” Stressing the importance of a university education and all that the presence of St. George’s University means to her native island, she enthusiastically stated, “The School of Arts and Sciences at St. George’s has a good library and great facilities. There is a tremendous potential for the new school.”

“St. George’s University has its place in the Caribbean. The medical school is well established and the School of Arts and Sciences has a good foundation and is sure to develop leaps and bounds in the next few years,” Dr. Collins commented. “As time goes on the Arts and Sciences program will find its niche, just like the medical program did.”

“It was great that the West Indian Literature Conference was held at here,” Dr. Collins said. “The Grenadian community was able to see the opportunities St. George’s has to offer.” She also stressed the importance of the Caribbean universities working together. “It is wonderful that the Conference was a joint effort between the University of the West Indies and St. George’s University,” she said. “There’s room for both in the region and cooperation is very important.”

Published on 03/26/2004

UWI and St. George’s University Co-host the 23rd Annual Conference on West Indian Literature

St. George’s University will join The Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica in hosting the 23rd Annual Conference on West Indian Literature from Tuesday, March 9th through Thursday, March 11th, 2004. The conference will convene in the Great Hall of the Caribbean House, offering the perfect venue on the True Blue point jutting into the Caribbean Sea. With over forty papers being presented, the Conference participants represent universities located as far off as Italy and as close as Trinidad.

An evening of poetry reading will set the tone for the Conference. Dr. Merle Collins, Grenadian poet and novelist, has been invited to be the featured writer. Other Grenadian writers and regional writers have been invited to read their works. The evening’s events will be chaired by the Grenadian sociologist and painter, Mr. Oliver Benoit.

Currently on exhibition at Marryshow House, Mr. Benoit’s works will be on display in Caribbean House during the conference, and his art will be featured during the evening of poetry reading. Providing a showcase for Grenadian visual arts, his presence at the Conference will provide an exciting creative engagement between the Caribbean artist and Caribbean writers.

Held each spring, this conference is supported by the Departments of English of regional universities. The universities making up this consortium include the founding member, the University of the West Indies (UWI), the University of Puerto Rico, University of Miami, University of Guyana, St. George’s University, the College of the Bahamas and other regional community colleges.

It is with great anticipation that we look forward to this year’s conference which represents a collaborative effort between the Department of Literatures in English, Mona Campus, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and St. George’s University.

Published on 02/27/2004