World-renowned Barbadian transplant specialist Dr Velma Scantlebury-White is looking to give back to her homeland.
Though officially retired, she has been in talks with officials at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) about utilising her invaluable experience which could see more benefits particularly for kidney disease patients – from public education and helping devise protocols, to advising on surgeries and using her connections.
Scantlebury-White, who originated from Goodland, St Michael, before her family moved to New York City in 1969 when she was a teenager, became the first black female transplantation surgeon in the United States in 1989.
She has performed more than 2 000 transplants, primarily for kidneys. One of her more familiar patients was the late former West Indies and Barbados cricketer Rawle Brancker.
Barbados’ Consul General in New York, Mackie Holder, said she was due to arrive in Barbados this week for a holiday, but would pick up conversations started on Zoom this year and meet with QEH officials, representatives of the Forlam Foundation, the charity devoted to fighting chronic diseases, and others.
“Discussions will be on matters related to transplantation, including the need to sensitise the public about the benefits of transplants, as well as enhancing education about healthy choices and diets,” he stated.
He said Scantlebury-White was excited about the latest development, as it will realise a life-long dream to to get involved in a programme in Barbados.
From as far back as 2007, he said, she was engaged in talks with then Minister of Health Dr Jerome Walcott, who in turn put forward plans for a framework of governing legislation intending to cover live and after-life organ donations. She has received numerous honours acknowledging her stellar career, including the Gold Crown Of Merit by the Government of Barbados in 2003.
Last October, she was inducted as a Delaware History Maker, the first African American female to receive the honour. It recognises “individuals who have made extraordinary and lasting contributions to the quality of life” in Delaware and beyond. US President Joe Biden is also a member of this select group.
Her journey from a poor Barbadian girl to history maker is captured in her autobiography, Beyond Every Wall: Becoming The First Black Female Transplant Surgeon. (PR/BW)