October 7, 1932
On December 15, 2003, representatives of the University of the West Indies met at the university's Cave Hill Campus in Barbados to witness the formal installation of the first Barbadian to become chancellor of the University of the West Indies, and the first chancellor of that school to be installed at a campus other than the original Mona Campus of the university in Jamaica. In an impressive and emotional ceremony, Sir George Alleyne also became the first chancellor to have received his university education at the institution.
George Allenmore Oganen Alleyne was born at Saint Philip, Barbados. The son of a schoolteacher, in 1943 his early academic promise was rewarded with a Primary First Grade Scholarship to Harrison College. He graduated from Harrison College in 1950 with the Barbados Scholarship in the Classics. Ignoring conventional wisdom, which led Island scholars to study at universities in the United Kingdom, Alleyne entered the fledgling University College of the West Indies.
Alleyne was among the earliest students who enrolled for medical training at what was then a two-year-old single-campus university at Mona, Jamaica. Medicine was one of the university's earliest faculties. Public health had been one of the major concerns of those responsible for establishing the university, so public and community health received special emphasis.
Alleyne excelled in these areas. He was the outstanding student in the class of 1957 and was awarded, among other prizes, the University Gold Medal. The school of medicine recruited him to conduct research and train new students.
Alleyne's research into such health problems as malnutrition in children established him as an internationally respected expert in the field, especially during the time when he was a member of the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit. During his career, he published more than one hundred scientific papers. In 1976, he was one of the coauthors of the Protein Energy Malnutrition, which remains a standard text on the subject.
His research extended to renal function and disease. When the British Medical Research Council relinquished the Tropical Metabolism Unit, which was then fully integrated into the Faculty of Medicine, Alleyne was appointed professor within that department. He led a research team that published some forty papers in international journals, mostly on renal biochemistry.
His work began to receive favorable notice in both the region and the hemisphere. He was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1973 and in 1975 he was admitted to the American College of Physicians. He first became a member of the Advisory Committee on Medical Research of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), then its chairman, and later director of medical research. In 1995, Alleyne became director of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau and later director of PAHO itself. He was the first representative of the Anglophone Caribbean to be elected to such a position and his re-election, by acclamation in 1998, was without precedent, as directors of PAHO are generally chosen by the formal process of nomination, campaigning, and voting.
In 1990, he was made Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to medicine. Honorary doctorates and similar honors have been conferred on him by universities throughout the Americas, as well as from the University of the West Indies. In 2001, Alleyne received the Order of the Caribbean Community. In 2002 the Pan American Health Organization published a selection of his speeches.
After retiring as director of PAHO in February 2003, he was appointed United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS for the Caribbean Region. In July, he was appointed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to head a new commission to examine health issues, including HIV/AIDS, confronting the region. In October, he was appointed chancellor of the University of the West Indies, bringing to the position a gift for oratory and a lifetime of commitment to regional and hemispheric development. The medical challenges the Caribbean faced had changed significantly since he entered the University of the West Indies as a medical student. Whereas in the 1950s the major public health problem was malnutrition, it is now such diseases as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV/AIDS.
Alleyne, G. A. O., et al. Protein Energy Malnutrition. London: Edward Arnold, 1977.
Alleyne, George, Sir, and Karen Sealey. Whither Caribbean Health. Saint Michael, Barbados: West Indian Commission Secretariat, 1992.
Alleyne, Sir George. A Quest for Equity/En busca de la equidad: Selected Speeches of George Alleyne, 1995–2002. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, 2002.
Augier, F. R., ed. The University of the West Indies Fortieth Anniversary Lectures. 1990.
Health, Economic Growth, and Poverty Reduction: Report of Working Group 1 of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2002.
c. m. jacobs (2005)