Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr. Joy St. John received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, for her work in medicine and leadership in public health. A three-time graduate of UWI, Dr. St. John described this academic achievement as “the most special” during the graduation ceremony, which was held on Saturday 22nd October, 2022.
Under her leadership, Dr. St. John steered CARPHA’s effective coordination of the Caribbean region’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In delivering her speech at the Cave Hill graduation, Dr. St. John stated that health leaders, both the Ministers and Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) as well as Prime Ministers, executed a carefully strategised operation in fighting unseen forces. She told graduates that other regions in the Americas and around the world were paying attention to what the Caribbean said and did in public health and in the political realm. Dr. St. John declared, “Our tiny region earned respect for the way we fought back and tried to save lives”.
However, Dr. St. John was quick to add, “I am not saying that everything was perfect, but in comparison to how much better resourced countries and regions responded, the Caribbean used their resources most effectively to save lives and allow the Caribbean to bounce back towards economic activity so quickly they defied all predictions”.
Dr. St. John also applauded the “excellence of the national responses by the public health leadership, the Ministers, CMOs, public health nurses, environmental health officers and the clinical care heroes – the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and all other workers who fought hard to keep us well enough to be able to celebrate this graduation in person today”.
In recognizing how quickly the ways in which we work, live and play can change from the mundane to the unrecognisable, Dr. St. John appealed to graduates to “focus on the value of life and protecting people instead of things”. She emphasized the importance of innovation and encouraged graduates to “go forth and act, work, create, advocate and lead”.