COB professor earns prestigious stem cell research scholarship
Published: Aug 21, 2013
A Bahamian professor at The College of The Bahamas has earned a prestigious scholarship that will allow her to broaden her training and international networks in cutting-edge stem cell research.
Dr. Kenya Ward, assistant professor in the School of Chemistry, Environmental and Life Sciences at The College, will be among other researchers and scholars participating in the 2013 Frontiers in Stem Cells and Regeneration Advanced Training Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Boston, Massachusetts, September 29 to October 5. She will complete an advanced course called Frontiers in Stem Cells and Regeneration.
“This opportunity will allow me to network and collaborate with international scientists/researchers in an attempt to advance basic science [particularly medical and life sciences] research in The Bahamas. Hence, the outcome can only be favorable for the country and the College as it advances to university status with a capacity to facilitate such research,” said Dr. Ward.
The scholarship was awarded on the heels of the Government of The Bahamas passing a groundbreaking bill to legislate stem cell treatments in The Bahamas.The Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill, 2013 seeks to create a legal environment and foster innovation in order to encourage the advancement of medical cures and regenerative medicine.
Dr. Ward values the restorative power of stem cell therapies.
“As a scientist, I can tell you that stem cell therapy can improve the quality of life for persons with certain conditions. It can help persons who are suffering from heart disease, type one diabetes, multiple sclerosis and leukemia. It can be a form of therapy for these individuals. Unfortunately, the average person does not have the scientific knowledge to know what are stem cells, what can be done with them, and because a lot of attention is placed on the cons, rather than the pros, people are reluctant,” she said.
A graduate of the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science Research, Dr. Ward is a researcher who has also conducted studies on the role of fats in the progression of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. She urged her colleagues to embrace opportunities to advance their knowledge of the issues surrounding stem cell research and conversations with international experts.
“We must equip ourselves to engage in conversation with these individuals, and [become] knowledgeable about what it is that they are presenting to us. We have the ability to actually analyze what they are putting forth and we have the ability to not only understand, but to confront any issues that seem to be contrary. Not only that, but we have the ability to say no, we are not going to compromise,” said Dr. Ward.
“For me personally, I would never want my country to be exploited by international personnel seeking after the almighty dollar. For me, let me get the knowledge,” she said.
She also referred to the advisory role that The College of The Bahamas can undertake with the government and its capacity to educate the wider Bahamian public on national issues.
“There are enough of us here that the government can readily utilize us to educate the people. We can take what seems so extreme in terms of scientific terminology, and present it in the simplest form for the lay person to understand,” she said.
A more robust research agenda and the knowledge and experience of scientists like Dr. Ward will be an imperative in the operations of the coming University of The Bahamas.