Medical professionals and other health research personnel came together at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Thursday (February 8) for the launch of the Regional Centre for Research Excellence.
The Centre is a collaborative effort of the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR); the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry at the UWI; and Fox Chase Cancer Centre, based in the United States.
The group of institutions received a grant of US$250,000 from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington DC, for the establishment of the research centre.
Speaking at the event, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the UWI, Dr. Tomlin Paul, indicated that the Centre will begin locally as a Network of individuals carrying out significant work, and at some time in the near future, an actual centre for research will be built.
He noted that key partner, Fox Chase, already operates a state-of-the-art facility that specialises in research and clinical work related to cancer and non-communicable diseases, so the partnership is indeed an exciting one that is expected to bear much fruit in the realm of research.
“The work that will be carried out by the research network is expected to be significant in relation to not only treatment and management of cancers and non-communicable diseases but also in regard to quality of life and longevity of individuals with particular illnesses,” said Dr. Paul.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry (DCHP), Dr. Wendel Abel, said the research centre will be significant for several reasons, with two key factors being: (a) a component of the project will focus specifically on community engagement; and (b) some local members of his Department will be directly involved in achieving the key goals of the project.
He added that the outcomes will leverage the university into further cutting-edge research, point the way to solutions and impact decision-making.
Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor, Graduate Studies and Research at the UWI, Dale Webber, pointed out that the network and future research centre fit perfectly into the strategic direction of the UWI.
“It will not only allow us greater alignment with individuals of like mind who do significant work in the area of medical research but it also gives us the opportunity to contribute to increasing the development goals of the Caribbean,” explained Professor Webber.
Key partner in the project, the CAIHR (formerly Tropical Medicine Research Institute), was established in 1999 with an objective to increase the output of research in major areas affecting the health of people across the region, and also to increase the number of trained research scientists working in the regional health industry.
The Fox Chase Cancer Centre was represented by Deputy Director, Chief Academic and Administrative Officer, Dr. J. Robert Beck, who also expressed optimism regarding the future of the research centre.
“It is exciting for us at the Cancer Centre to be able to lend our support to this particular project, which will be doing some great work. We have a body of significant work that has been done in the field of scientific research – cancers, genetics and genomics and HPV studies, among others,” Dr. Beck explained.
Fox Chase Cancer Centre is located in the Fox Chase area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States.