St. George’s: helping the region’s health

Based at St George’s University in Grenada, the Windref Foundation is pioneering research into endemic tropical disease

The Grenadian and US flags fly in front of the Windref Research Institute. Photograph courtesy SGU

Over 15 years ago, St George’s University (SGU) in Grenada set up the Windward Islands Research & Education Foundation (Windref) as a natural outgrowth of SGU’s mission, and established programmes that sought to improve the welfare of developing nations like Grenada.

SGU, in the southwest of the island, has faculty and students from more than 140 countries, so it represents a diverse community of disparate cultural and educational backgrounds, and is committed to a globally focused education. SGU aims to prepare highly competent students for the practice of medicine and veterinary medicine, while also seeking methods to improve the healthcare systems of the Caribbean community.

Established in 1994, the Windref centre was an opportunity to assemble local and international scientists to focus on the crippling epidemics widespread across the region. The challenge remains to this day, to create solutions for the endemic diseases that persist. The constant warm temperature of the Caribbean creates breeding grounds for animal- and human-disease-carrying vessels.

At present, Windref teams are involved in research on various communicable and non-communicable diseases that affect local people. Research into rheumatic fever and dengue, which are common throughout Grenada, are two of the projects that are being supported by scholarships and donors. The study explores the effects of various primary healthcare methods, surveillance operations, prevention strategies and preparation challenges.

To carry out these projects, internationally recognised scholars and regional scientists create teams of scientists and students who participate in collaborative global research in areas such as medical and veterinary public health, marine and terrestrial biology, and ecology.

Since the research centre is open to student participation, Windref is a useful avenue for prospective students seeking to continue their education at a postgraduate level. SGU staff come from around the world, creating an intellectually and culturally stimulating environment for the university community. SGU students are also encouraged to spare some of their time and knowledge to help improve the health and wellness of the local community.

In addition to the Windref research benefiting the Eastern Caribbean population, these programmes have expanded to other tropical areas such as Guyana, South America and Morocco. Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) in Guyana and HIV/AIDS in Botswana are other global projects currently being researched by the Windref team.

For more information: www.sgu.edu