"Success is 1% genius and 99%
Sir George Alleyne is a distinguished Barbadian scholar who made his country and the rest of the Caribbean proud. His favourite quotation is “success is 1% genius and 99% elbow grease.” This is undoubtedly the secret to his successful career. His contribution to the medical field in the region is punctuated with numerous “firsts”.
He was the first Caribbean person to be appointed director of Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). He was the first graduate of the University of the West Indies to hold the title of Chancellor; the first and only West Indian to be appointed the Sir Arthur Sims Commonwealth Travelling Professor. In recognition for his extensive services in Medicine, he was made Knight Bachelor by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. In 2001 he was awarded the Order of the Caribbean Community which is the highest honour that can be conferred on a Caribbean national for his contribution. Although retired, Sir George Alleyne continues to serve his people in his area of specialisation, Public Health, as a member of the Caribbean Health Task Force. He also heads a special team to combat HIV in the Caribbean.
George Alleyne was born on 7th October 1932 at Lucas Street, St Philip, Barbados. He grew up in a home which was disciplined by his father, an elementary school teacher. His mother was a homemaker. He was an average student at the Holy Trinity Boys’ School, but his diligence and discipline brought him success. He moved through the school system with apparent ease. He attended Harrison’s College, where he found he was not very good in art. He says he “couldn’t draw a circle to save his life” and when he had to choose between Art and Classics he was the “first to sign up for Classics to study Greek and Latin.”
He received the Barbadian Scholarship in 1951, but he decided to study at The University College of the West Indies, Mona Jamaica, despite having the opportunity to study anywhere in the world.
He graduated in 1957 as a gold medalist in medicine and interned at the Old General Hospital in Barbados. He then went to Britain for his postgraduate degree in internal medicine. He attended the University of London where he worked with Lord Rossenheim, whom he considered one of his mentors. His doctorate was completed in 1965 and he began lecturing at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
At this time, he also worked at the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit, doing research on Malnutrition with Dr. Harold Ford whom he regarded as the finest medical doctor and a great teacher. Over a decade of original research, he produced 144 publications in scientific journals which qualified him at the relatively young age of 40 to be appointed Professor of Medicine in 1972. Four years later he was promoted to the Chair of the Department of Medicine - the first UWI graduate to achieve this distinction. In this capacity he developed a formal postgraduate programme encouraging medical research and raised funds for a new medical sciences building. His greatest joy was teaching young persons and the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment having enriched the minds of his students.
From 1981 to 1990, he held several posts at PAHO. He became its Director in 1995, the first Caribbean person to hold this title. He served with enthusiasm, integrity and great distinction as he fought for equity in healthcare worldwide. Sir George has served on various committees including the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the World Health Organization Tropical Research Programme and the Institute of Medicine Committee on Scientific Investigation in Developing Countries. He has given numerous speeches, addresses and presentations which deal with issues such as equity in health, health and development, problems in health care in the Caribbean and the basis for international cooperation in health to aid in promoting awareness throughout the Caribbean.
He received numerous awards including the Pelican Award from UWI and the Centenary Medal in Jamaica. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, England in 1973 and Honorary Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He also holds honorary academic awards such as the Honoris Causa from various universities including the University of the West Indies.
Sir George retired in 2003, but is still quite actively serving the region. He is the current Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, he serves on the Task Force on Health Care in the Caribbean and is as well, a Special Envoy to combat HIV in the Caribbean. In his free time, he enjoys gardening and reading.
Sir George’s motivation for success is simple “hard work and discipline.” His says that he allowed his life to progress without planning, and he grasped the opportunities as they came along. He credits one of his mentors who advised, “Do not make plans, do what you have to do and do it well, giving your best and everything will be OK.”
This Icon is also featured in the Video Documentary and Caribbean Icons in Science, Technology and Innovation Volume I :
Interview with George Alleyne
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1966) Cardiac function in severely malnourished Jamaican children. Clin. Sci. 30, 553-562.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1966) Plasma and blood volumes in severely malnourished Jamaican children. Arch. Dis. Childh. 41, 313-315.
Waterlow, J.C., Alleyne, G.A.O., Chan, H., Garrow, J.S., Hay, A.M., James, P., Picou, D. and Stephen, J.M.L. (1966) Observations on the mechanisms of adaptation to low protein intakes. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición, XVI, 175-200.
Alleyne, G.A.O., Viteri, F. and Alvarado, J. (1970) Indices of body composition in infantile malnutrition. Total body potassium and urinary creatinine. Amer. J. Clin. Nutr. 23, 875-878.
Alleyne, G.A.O. and Picou, D. (1971) Malnutrition in children: some biochemical facts. Brit. J. Hosp. Med. 8, 613-624.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1975) Mineral Metabolism. In: “Protein Calorie Malnutrition,” 201-212 ed. R.E. Olson, The Nutrition Foundation.
Alleyne, G.A.O., Hay, A., Picou, D., Stanfield, J.P. and Whitehead, R.G. (1976) Protein Energy Malnutrition. Edward Arnold, London
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1980) Medical Research in the Caribbean. West Ind. Med. J. 29, 3-14.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1983) What is the role of institutions within the developing world? In: “New Developments in Tropical Medicine II” eds. T.W. Simpson, G.T. Strickland and M.A. Mercer. National Council for International Health.
Alleyne, G.A.O. and Luelmo (1983) Research and protocol development in acute respiratory infections. Pediat. Res. 17, 1071-1073.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1987) Renal disease in Africa and the Caribbean. Transplantation Proceedings 19 Suppl 2, 9-14.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1989) The Importance of Health in Development: A Caribbean Perspective. Caribbean Affairs 2, 111-114.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1991) Toward a taxonomy of technical cooperation in health. Bull. PanAm. Health Organ. 25(4): 356-366.
Alleyne, G.A.O. and Sealey, K.A. (1992) Whither Caribbean Health. Publication of the West Indies Commission.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1995) Prospects and challenges for health in the Americas. Bull. PanAm Health Organ. 29(3): 103-105.
Alleyne, G.A.O. (1996) Health and national security. Bull. PanAm Health Organ. 30(2): 158-163.
Harrison’s College, Barbados
University College of the West Indies, Mona Jamaica – Bachelor of Medicine 1957
University of London – Doctorate in Medicine 1965
Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, England (1973)
Honorary Fellow of the American College of Physicians (1975)
Honorary Member, Inter-American Association of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (AIDIS) Lima, Peru (1998)
Foreign Associate Membership, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (2001)
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