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The UWI mourns the passing of one of its first students, Dame Dr. Ruby Lake Richards

The late Dame Ruby Lake-Richards

The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. August 4, 2023—The University of the West Indies community is mourning the loss of one of its first students, Dame Dr. Ruby Lake Richards who passed away earlier this week at age 101. 

Dame Ruby was one of two remaining members of the first cohort of 33 medical students who attended The UWI (then University College of the West Indies). She was also the first female, UWI graduate from Antigua and Barbuda and was honoured with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from The UWI Five Islands Campus.

Dame Ruby was regarded as one of Antigua and Barbuda’s outstanding medical professionals. She started her journey in 1948, pursuing medicine at the University College of the West Indies. Of that inaugural class, she was one of ten women enrolled. She earned her medical degree in 1954 and then moved on to an internship at the Holberton Hospital in St. John’s, Antigua. Next, she alternated between the Carty’s Hill Clinic in Glanvilles—where she worked as a parish doctor—and her private practice, which she opened in the city.

In 1967, she migrated to Canada with her husband Sir Novelle Hamilton Richards, who was appointed by the Governments of the Eastern Caribbean to be the first Diplomatic Trade Commissioner to Canada. She pursued her postgraduate study in Canada and completed her specialisation in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Mc Gill University. In 1977, she received her Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

She also worked at the Reddy Memorial Hospital and the Montreal Children’s Hospital in Canada before completing her residency in child and adolescent psychiatry at McGill University. At McGill, she was employed as a lecturer assigned to the Department of Psychiatry, which she combined, with her role as a Psychiatrist at the Douglas Mental Health University for nearly 40 years. She retired in 2015 at the age of 93. 

In 2021, at a special convocation hosted by The UWI Five Islands Campus, she was conferred an honorary degree, the first Honorary Doctorate given by the Campus. Later that year, she was also honoured by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda with the ‘Dame Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of the Nation (DGCN)’ for her outstanding contribution in the field of medicine.

Extending his sympathy, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, “This is a deep loss for our community. Dame Ruby was a cherished icon who lived a life of service here in the Caribbean and internationally, an attribute of a true UWI graduate. The University and region are at a loss from her passing. Our only solace is that we were able to bestow her flowers and celebrate her while she was alive.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal, Professor Justin Robinson, in expressing his condolences on behalf of the Five Islands Campus said, “The passing of the last of our first group of students from Antigua and Barbuda at The UWI represents a moment of major significance for the university. Our opening batsmen and women started our tradition of excellence and blazed a trail for all to follow.  As we celebrate our 75th anniversary and look forward to a century of excellence, we pause to celebrate the life of Dame Dr. Ruby Lake-Richards, one of UWI’s finest alumna.”

The University of the West Indies extends its deepest condolences to the family of Dame Dr. Ruby Lake-Richards.


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