Sixty years ago,in 1957, the graduating class of the University College of the West Indies (UCWI) included a young man who would top his class of medical students, winning a coveted medal, and go on to become the full-fledged University of the West Indies (UWI)’s fifth Chancellor; appointed in 2003 and now retiring.
George Alleyne, the eminent medic who became known as a regional and global leader in the battle against non-communicable diseases, is Sir George to some, but still Champ to many. Apparently the ‘Champ’ dates back to schooldays in Barbados, when it acknowledged that he was good at everything. Certainly it was firmly in place when he came to the UCWI in 1951.
A recent tribute from the UWI sums up his career:
He served as lecturer and Department Chair at his alma mater – The University of the West Indies – nurturing students for the future and conducting research relevant to the area which he would eventually champion (pun intended) combatting the chronic non-communicable diseases, until 1981 when he took up the post of Chief of the Unit of Research at the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO). At PAHO, Sir George served with distinction, enthusiasm and commitment, leading the charge for equity in global healthcare. Following his retirement from PAHO as Executive Director in 2003, he was appointed the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV / AIDS in the Caribbean and has also led a regional and global campaign to combat chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). His has been a career-long quest at the level of practitioner and policymaker to assure health reform for the several groups of stakeholders who have had the good fortune to fall within his purview. In 1990, he was made Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to medicine and in 2001 the Caribbean honoured him with the conferral of the Order of the Caribbean Community.
We interviewed Sir George about his time at UCWI and his trajectory after, and you can check that out at https://www.uwitv.org/intv/interview-sir-george-alleyne.
But our favourite recollections of Sir George are his enthusiastic visits to the UWI Museum, which he publicly commended to students and visitors at the 2015 graduation ceremonies at Mona. And our favourite image dates back to his days at the UCWI, when his energy and interest literally shine out as he lounged with fellow students of several cohorts at Gibraltar Hall – the earliest UCWI hall of residence – in a photo captured by the late Dr Owen Minott, one of the UCWI pioneers.