February 2019

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In many cultures throughout the world the New Year is seen as a time of rebirth and renewal – a new beginning. As individuals, as a campus community and as a society, we have a fresh opportunity for development, for reflecting on, resetting and achieving our goals, and for redoubling our determination to overcome the inevitable obstacles. As such, while it may be just a fad for many, the age-old tradition of making New Year resolutions can be an effective means to strategically make the course corrections required to make for a more meaningful life. Like with everything else, it is what you make of it.

We have much to do in 2019. The challenges we face have been ventilated at length – economic development, innovation, more aggressive entrepreneurship, climate change, food security, crime, social development, gender discrimination and more. We have no shortage of issues. However, we can and must embrace the challenges that accompany these issues with powerful, positive energy. We can and must tackle our obstacles with audacity and a hopeful outlook.

One of our greatest assets in life is our health – physical, mental and emotional. All too often we measure success only in economic indicators. But as the late Arlen Specter, US Senator for the state of Pennsylvania, once said, “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset”. Few, if any, would contest this. We all have our experiences with the suffering, and ultimate demise caused by the ill-health of family, friends and acquaintances. For obvious reasons, the preservation of this capital asset is of significant importance at the community and national levels. It is a key factor in the development and sustenance by our citizens of a state with an acceptably high standard of living; at the same time, and as the Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Health has pointed out on many an occasion, an overburdened health system drains the national coffers of funds that could be allocated to other national development priorities. National health and wellness influence national success in the social and economic spheres. In that regard, it is the duty of the citizens of any country to take responsibility for their personal health and well-being, and for ensuring that the powers that be do their utmost in providing all the requisite services and support in providing for a healthy nation.

At the University of the West Indies we understand the importance of health, fitness and wellness. This understanding is reflected in our research, courses of study, and our activities on and off campus. As such, we have made these quality of life drivers the focus of this February 2019 issue of UWI Today.

In 2017, UWI’s Regional Headquarters launched the new Faculty of Sport – a dramatic manifestation of our commitment to sports and physical education and literacy. The Faculty is the first cross-campus Faculty led by a single Dean, Dr Akshai Mansingh, originally from the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Mona. The St Augustine Academy of the Faculty has Professor Emeritus Funso Aiyejina as its interim head. The Faculty will prepare Caribbean athletes and sports industry professionals to take part in a global industry that is estimated to be worth as much as US$700 billion a year in 2016. (Ref.:https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/in/pdf/2016/09/the-business-of-sports.pdf).

However, even as it focusses on the elite athletes among us, the Faculty will seek to exploit the opportunities for character-building and improving fitness as a health benefit for all. We have, at this campus, tossed around the idea of our role of infusing a strong physical literacy culture in our regional space. This goes beyond what we normally envisage as “physical education” through mastery of mind and body, effectively striving for each individual to optimise the development and use of every facet of their physical bodies. It would entail, for example, focussed attention from a very early age, on functions as basic as walking and sleeping. Physical literacy was briefly discussed in an earlier issue of UWI Today; we will be exploring the topic further at UWI.

In the areas of sport and fitness, this past January UWI St Augustine had the pleasure of hosting top-level cricket at both the local and international level. From January 5 to 27, teams from Trinidad and Tobago took part in the UWI-Unicom T20 Cricket Tournament. Almost simultaneously, from January 10 to 20, the Campus held the inaugural UWI World Universities T20 Tournament. This tournament brought together student cricketers from universities in the Caribbean, UK and US.

This incredible cricket event is the product of the work of UWI’s pioneers in the area of sports and fitness education. Starting in the 1990s, advocates and influencers such as VC Professor Sir Hilary Beckles rejuvenated the University’s cricketing legacy. At St Augustine, Dr Iva Gloudon, our former Director of Sport and Physical Education, was instrumental in the creation of UWI SPEC in 2003.

In this issue we also look at groundbreaking research into the prevalence of dementia in Trinidad and Tobago by a research team from the Faculty of Medical Sciences (FMS). The results are sobering. Their findings show that our rates are disproportionately high, affecting almost 1 in 4 people over the age of 70 and nearly half of those over the age of 85. This has major implications for our elderly, their loved ones and the health care system. The research was carried out in partnership with the University’s Health Economic Unit and the Ministry of Health. I applaud all participants in this impactful and collaborative exercise. The next step is to use the research to influence policy in this matter of vital national importance. I am pleased to see that this is underway.

Our Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Professor Terence Seemungal, continues to be one of our best ambassadors to the national community and an outspoken proponent for health and wellness. In December of 2018, he superbly represented the Campus at the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association’s (T&TMA) 24th Annual Medical Research Conference on the topic of mental health. Professor Seemungal not only spoke about the causes of mental illness and the University’s work both on and off campus in mental health research and treatment, but also made a call for greater empathy and support for those stricken with the condition.

Just as Professor Seemungal and other members of our campus community went out to spread their knowledge to the public, UWI also invited the public to the St Augustine Campus to engage in a conversation on health towards the end of 2018. Specifically, Professor Yuri Clement of the Pharmacology Unit at FMS gave his Professorial Inaugural Lecture on “Preserving Our Herbal Medicine Tradition” in November at the Teaching and Learning Complex. Professor Clement gave an engaging presentation about the need for herbal medicine to be backed by thorough scientific research. This can only serve to strengthen the practice of traditional medicine, a practice that is not at all unfamiliar to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

In closing, I would like to mention the wellness initiatives created specifically for the campus community. From January to April of this year, UWI SPEC will be hosting its “Wellness Initiative Programme”, a range of activities from Zumba, to aqua aerobics, to boot camp and more, for students, staff and their friends and family. In addition, we continue to offer a range of psychological support services to students who are often impacted by the pressures of academic life and young adulthood; such as the Counselling and Psychological Service (CAPS). Among these services is our “Healing Garden”, an initiative of the Health Services Unit working with the Eastern Horticultural Club that combines natural space and earthen design for therapeutic support.

I welcome the entire campus community to visit the Healing Garden, take a meditative break, and find the healing you need to make 2019 a happy, prosperous and productive year. Let’s resolve to improve our quality of life, starting from deep within.

Professor Brian Copeland
Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal


Campus Principal: Professor Brian Copeland
Director of Marketing and Communications (Ag): Mrs Wynell Gregorio
Editor : Joel Henry (Email:joelhenry@sta.uwi.edu)

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