Jamaican Minister of Health visits Univ. of Miami Health System

University of Miami Health System Discusses Collaboration with Jamaican Minister of Health

MIAMI – The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Dean Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., met with the minister of health and the chief medical officer of Jamaica to discuss the advancement of a relationship between the University of Miami and Jamaica that could improve public health in the Caribbean and provide important educational opportunities.

Christopher Tufton, D.B.A., the minister of health, said Jamaica is in the process of assessing its health care system, looking at infrastructure and training needs. “One of the key components of the way forward is going to have to be collaboration, because public health is everybody’s business,” Dr. Tufton said at the March 29 meeting. “One part of the world can’t be at risk and we’re not all at risk.”

From left, Dr. Chad R. Ritch, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, Dr. Christopher Tufton, and Dean Henri R. Ford. - Jamaican Minister of Health visits Univ. of Miami Health System

L-R: Dr. Chad R. Ritch, Dr. Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, Dr. Christopher Tufton, and Dean Henri R. Ford.

Dean Ford agreed that there is much to gain from collaboration. “It is very much a part of the vision of this University that we will be the hemispheric, the relevant, the excellent and exemplary university – this is all part of what (University of Miami) President Julio Frenk has outlined as his vision,” Dean Ford said. “What does it mean to be hemispheric and exemplary and relevant?  I look at my sister nations in Central America and the Caribbean and say if we’re going to be hemispheric we need to be addressing the vexing problems that they face and partner with them to figure out how we can help solve some of those challenges.

“Excellence is what we do,” he said. “It’s about making excellence accessible to all.”

This is an opportune time for these discussions, Dr. Tufton said, because Jamaica “is at a special point in its development and evolution. We’re making some progress on the economic front, we’re maturing as a democracy. We are a regional hub for the rest of the Caribbean, so others depend on us. People from the smaller islands travel in to us.”

Chad R. Ritch, M.D., M.B.A., assistant professor of urology and associate co-director of UHealth International, is helping lead the discussions with Jamaica. In addition to caring for patients needing high-level, acute care, and helping the country increase its own ability to provide health care, UM is exploring a possible educational exchange.

“Because of where we are and our Caribbean community, this seems like an extension,” said Dr. Ritch, who is from Jamaica. “Many people in our local Caribbean community still have family back home – this could be a resource for them to help their family members get care.”

Prostate cancer screening is a top priority because the region has a particularly high rate of prostate cancer. The Jamaican officials met with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Stephen D. Nimer during their visit.

“It is wonderful that we have the opportunity to create these kinds of collaborations, to have an exchange of ideas and an exchange of faculty and students, and to really enable our patients to get excellent care,” said Chief Medical Officer Jacquiline Bisasor-Mckenzie, M.D. “My specialization is emergency medicine, and therefore I have a perspective of what we need that we are not able to offer.”

Dean Ford told his guests that talks will definitely continue, as the Miller School and Jamaica work on a meaningful plan for the future. “This is the opportunity for us to do something significant,” he said. “If we can do something that’s going to be impactful and will bring enduring success, then it will have been worth it all.”

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