January 22, 2010

UWI prof. receives Martin Luther King Legacy Award

University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice Chancellor, Prof. E. Nigel Harris, has earned the prestigious “Martin Luther King Legacy Award for International Service” from the Washington-based Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural & Minority Medicine.{{more}}

This year’s awardees awardees also included His Excellency Cyrille Oguin, Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the USA, who also received a Martin Luther King Jr., Legacy Award for International Service; Sally Quinn, Washington Post Journalist, recipient of the Dr. Dorothy I. Height Leadership Award and US Congressman Hon. Elijah Cummings. The awards were presented on Sunday, January 17, 2010, at “An International Salute to the Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” – a breakfast celebration hosted by the Committee at the Willard International Hotel in Washington “as a way of sharing Dr. King’s historical work at home and abroad”.

Since 1992 the Institute has annually “recognized the distinguished leadership and contributions of individuals who have positively impacted the global community”, presenting them with the “Martin Luther King Jr., Legacy Award” in honour of the celebrated pioneer leader of the African-American civil rights movement. The Institute also presents the King Equity Leadership Award and the “Dorothy L. Height Leadership Award”, named for the Chair & President Emeritus, National Council of Negro Women, Inc.

Prof. Harris said that he felt privileged to receive an award that recognizes Martin Luther King’s international contributions and the inspiration he has provided to people all over the world. Noting that the lessons of the United States civil rights struggle have inspired oppressed people the world over, Prof. Harris said that “a direct causative line may be drawn between Dr. King’s ideas and activities and the achievement of self determination in countries like Rhodesia Namibia, and most remarkable, given the power and brutality of the then government, South Africa.

He said that “today, people in Burma (Mayamar), Iran, the Middle East and in many other parts of the world, continue to show us, in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, that no power on earth can resist a determined people struggling for justice and assertion of their dignity and rights.”

Guyana-born, Prof. Harris, Vice Chancellor of UWI since 2004, and a former Dean and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs of the Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, USA (1996-2004), holds a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, USA and the post-grad degree, Doctor of Medicine (DM) from the University of the West Indies, Mona.

He is internationally known for his work as a Rheumatologist in the 1980’s when, working with Doctors Aziz Gharvi and Graham Hughes in London, he helped define a disorder they called Antiphospholipid Syndrome and the test for its diagnosis – the anticardiolipin test. For this work, they were awarded the Ciba Greigy prize by the International League Against Rheumatism (ILAR).

In 1993, as Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Louisville Kentucky, Prof. Harris launched the Antiphospholipid Standardization Laboratory which leads worldwide efforts in standardization of the anticardiolipin test. The standard sample for doing this test has been distributed to over 500 laboratories worldwide and is often known as “the Harris standards”.

Prof. Harris joins a distinguished group of previous winners of the International Service Award, including: US Congressman, John Lewis; Sen. Bob Dole, former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell; Kofi Anan, former Secretary General, United Nations, and a host of ambassadors from the US, France, Africa, Great Britain and Germany. He has received many honours and awards including the Centennial Award for Contributions to Medicine by the National Medical Association of America in 1995 and a distinguished alumnus award from Harvard University in 2009.