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UWI Vice-Chancellor offers sympathies on the sudden passing of alumna Carissa Etienne

Dr. Carissa Etienne received the Chancellor’s Award from Dr. Maurice D. Smith, The UWI Registrar/Chief Administrative Officer at The UWI Toronto Benefit Awards held in June 2022 at The Ritz-Carlton in Toronto, Canada. 

The UWI Regional Headquarters, Jamaica W.I. Friday, December 1, 2023—On Dr. Carissa Etienne’s ascension as Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in September 2021, her alma mater, The University of the West Indies (UWI) hailed it as “a proud moment for the Caribbean and for our University.” 

Now in this moment of deep sadness on her sudden passing, the University joins with the international community in memorializing this Caribbean national who has been at the helm of the world’s oldest and foremost public health organisation.

A graduate of The UWI, Mona Campus, Dr. Etienne began her directorship in February 2013, following in the illustrious footsteps of Chancellor Emeritus of The UWI, Sir George Alleyne of Barbados. Later in 2016, the Council and Senate of the University were pleased to recommend the award of the honorary degree of Doctor of Science to her, presented at the graduation ceremony hosted at The UWI, Cave Hill Campus that year. Last year, Dr. Etienne received the Chancellor’s Award presented to PAHO at the 13th Annual UWI Toronto Benefit Awards held on June 25, 2022, under the theme: “One Caribbean …. Global Impact”.

Dr. Etienne received both her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from The UWI Mona Campus. She held senior positions at PAHO and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and during her tenures, led the efforts to renew primary health care and to strengthen health systems based on primary health care, promoting integration and improved functioning of health systems. Notably, at PAHO she adeptly steered the region’s responses to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Zika and chikungunya epidemics.

Offering heartfelt sympathies on behalf of the University, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, 

“Carissa Etienne was not simply a friend of this University. We claimed her as a daughter of this noble institution and took pride in every step of her distinguished career as a health professional. We, her family here at The UWI, mourn her unexpected transition, and this her latest step which takes her now into the spiritual dimension. We offer our most sincere condolences on her passing.” 

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