Education
JM | Oct 7, 2021

UWI receives US$120k gift from one of its first medical graduates, Dr Michael Woo-Ming

/ Our Today

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The months of August and September marked the annual Global Giving campaign of The University of the West Indies (The UWI). As the 2021 edition of the crowdfunding campaign drew to a close, The UWI received a generous gift of US$120,000 from alumnus and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Michael Woo-Ming. 

A member of the first class of medical students enrolled in 1948 (at what was then the University College of the West Indies), Woo-Ming went on to become the first professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at The UWI, Mona Campus. During his training years, he was himself the beneficiary of philanthropic financial assistance. Today, the member of the 1948 medical class pays it forward, becoming the benefactor of an endowment fund that will stimulate research activity in cardiothoracic surgery in Jamaica. 

After graduating in 1954 with his MBBS degree, Woo-Ming spent four more years at the Mona Campus, rotating through different specialties which helped his decision to become a surgeon. He needed financial assistance to further his studies in the United Kingdom and it was a Leverhulme Fellowship that enabled him to stay for four additional years in London to be trained in the newly developing procedure known as open heart surgery, before returning to Mona. 

Dr. Michael Woo-Ming (centre row, sixth from the left) among the members of The UWI’s First Medical Class in 1948, Gibraltar Hall (formerly army barracks, which were used as part of the medical school buildings), Mona Campus.

Then began the challenging task of financing this very expensive, complex surgical procedure and training a large team of doctors, nurses and technicians to save the life of the first open heart surgery patient.

With committed team effort and annual donations arranged by organisations such as the Lions Club and the Heart Foundation, Woo-Ming and his team would go on to provide world-class open heart surgical services to Jamaica for a decade from 1967 to 1977 after which he migrated from Jamaica for the United States. 

“The entire period from 1948 to 1977, including my studies at The UWI and pioneering open heart surgery at Mona is an indelible part my life’s history.”

Dr Michael Woo-Ming, cardiothoracic surgeon

Commenting on his Global Giving donation to the Mona Campus, Woo-Ming said: “The entire period from 1948 to 1977, including my studies at The UWI and pioneering open heart surgery at Mona is an indelible part my life’s history. This endowment fund to stimulate research activity in cardiothoracic surgery is one way of memorialising my experience and contributing to the continued improvement of the open heart surgical services offered to the people of Jamaica and the rest of the world.”

He echoes the UWI Global Giving call for alumni and friends to contribute to scholarships and bursaries to ensure access for the best and brightest students who risk retreating from higher education because of financial challenges.

Elizabeth Buchanan Hind, executive director of the Institutional Advancement Division and UWI Global Giving Chair, was grateful for every contribution made throughout the eight-week campaign.

“The UWI, our young students and the region at large are beholden to Dr Woo-Ming, Ms Bridget Freeman and all our Global Giving benefactors. Our 2021 bid has raised an outstanding US$650,000 toward scholarships and bursaries. I sincerely thank every friend, alumni and partner who, through the campaign, has supported our budding Caribbean researchers and problem solvers. Your gift, of every size, demonstrates a personal commitment to your role in that proverbial ‘village’ and together we are securing the future of our region. Let us continue to give to support the work of our regional university and encourage others within our networks to do the same.”

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