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Trinidad & Tobago’s first Aquatic Veterinarian receives regional award

For Release Upon Receipt - March 31, 2021

St. Augustine

“This award is undoubtedly a tremendous honour for which I am immensely grateful. It is the result of years of dedicated, unwavering hard work in a still little recognised field in our region.” This is how Dr. Ayanna Phillips Savage describes being named a recipient of an Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Excellence Award for Science and Technology.

Dr. Phillips Savage is a Lecturer in Marine Mammal Medicine/Aquatic Animal Health and the Coordinator of the Aquahealth/Aquatic Animal Health Unit and the Aquatic Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the St. Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI). She is the first and only aquatic veterinarian in Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Savage recalls when she was in her senior year of Veterinary School at The UWI St. Augustine and presented her aquatic animal-based research project which, despite being the top scoring project of that year, was met with some scepticism as the field of Aquatic Animal Medicine was not yet recognised across the Caribbean. Today, Aquatic Animal Medicine is well recognised globally, having been introduced to the curricula of several of the top veterinary programmes in North America and Europe. Her role as the Coordinator of and Lecturer at the Aquatic Animal Health Unit of The UWI St. Augustine, having also designed and established the Unit, is testament to how far the field has developed.

The Aquatic Animal Medicine Unit seeks to sensitize and educate the Caribbean region about the importance of the health, management and conservation of aquatic ecosystems, and the impact of aquatic ecosystem health on human health. Dr. Savage described some of her current work as being focused on identifying, documenting and educating on diseases of economic and public health significance in aquatic species across Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region.

At the Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory, studies are ongoing on the diseases of marine and freshwater fish and shellfish as well as the diseases of sea turtles and marine mammals and the potential impact of these on public health. Her dedication continues with her work in the rehabilitation of endangered and protected sea turtles. Dr. Savage is responsible for the work of the Trinidad and Tobago Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a network of 100+ volunteers from many varying professional spheres who work together to respond to marine mammal strandings when they occur in Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Savage intends to continue promoting and advocating for the inclusion of aquatic animal health regulatory guidelines in the business of aquaculture in Trinidad and Tobago; studying aquatic diseases that have economic and/or public health implications in an attempt to safeguard the livelihoods of those who interact with the aquatic ecosystems; and championing the cause of Caribbean aquatic ecosystem conservation so that our protected and endangered aquatic wildlife are preserved for generations to come. 

Dr. Karla Georges, Director of the School of Veterinary Medicine, sees this Caribbean award as recognition of the wealth of talent at the School, as well as the relevance and impactful output of the work that they produce. “Our School, though very small, is making a giant contribution to the region, and this recognition by our Caribbean peers is an immense booster for the morale of the School, staff and students, faculty and The UWI family”

The Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Excellence Awards is the only programme in the Caribbean which seeks out and rewards outstanding nominees in Arts & Letters, Public & Civic Contributions, Science & Technology, and Entrepreneurship. It has been in existence since 2005 and has named, inclusive of the current inductees, 49 Laureates from throughout the region.



Note to the Editor:

Photo Caption: Dr. Ayanna Phillips Savage  

About The UWI

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region.

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Open Campus, and 10 global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world.

Ranked among the top universities in the world, by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education, The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists. In 2020, it earned ‘Triple 1st’ rankings—topping the Caribbean; and in the top in the tables for Latin America and the Caribbean, and global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old).  The UWI is also featured among the top universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

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