Jamaican Pioneer in Cancer Research Gets Gold Musgrave Medal


One of Jamaica’s esteemed pioneers in biochemistry and cancer research, Dr. Professor Franklyn Prendergast has been awarded the Gold Musgrave Medal for distinguished eminence in the field of medicine by the Institute of Jamaica.
The award was presented to Professor Prendergast at a ceremony held on Thursday (May 6) at the institute’s East Street lecture hall. Bringing greetings at the event, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson said Professor Prendergast’s achievements had been as a result of dedication, preservation and God-given intellect. She said he had “benefited from a formal school system which stimulated a young mind to become inquisitive, proactive and equipped him to become a problem solver”.
Mrs. Henry-Wilson further stated that Jamaica was a country in need of home grown problem solvers as the nation tackled first world socio-economic issues within the confines of a third world economy. “We need to continue to produce financiers, entrepreneurs, thinkers, artists, dancers, sportsmen and women and scientists who through their efforts continue to uplift our people,” she said.
The Education Minister noted that her Ministry had begun the process to make the field of scientific research attractive, as this career path was not seen as such in Jamaica today. “It is my hope that the recognition of our local scientists and medical pioneers, will serve as an inspiration to our many science students and enthusiasts to further their work and research and to stimulate enthusiasm among our children and our scholars to emulate Professor Prendergasts’s achievements. This can only augur well for our people and our nation”.
Mrs. Henry-Wilson also highlighted the achievements of other Jamaican scientists including microbiologist, Professor Louis Grant; Dr. T.P. Lecky who is credited for one of the world’s first scientifically engineered breeds of tropical cattle and Professor Gerald Lalor, whose research on the colouring principles of logwood led to the development of an industry based on a simple cost-effective method of extracting haemotoxylin, a substance used in the diagnosis of cancer.
Born in Linstead, St. Catherine and a past student of Calabar High School, Professor Prendergast is a former Rhodes Scholar and is recognized as an outstanding authority in the field of cancer research. In 1989, the established teacher and researcher was appointed Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Research Centre in Rochester, Minnesota.
He has published 150 research papers based on findings from research in the dynamics and function of proteins, the biochemistry and biophysics of bioluminescence, bio-imaging and computational biology. Professor Prendergast’s extensive involvement in numerous professional organizations and societies in North America include, The National Academy of Sciences, The National Cancer Advisory Board and the American Chemical Society. For the past 14 years, he also served on the Board of Scientific Advisors for the National Cancer Institute.
In his acceptance speech, Professor Prendergast told the distinguished gathering, “My own career, I have devoted to Mayo (Medical School) and it is now time for Mayo to take its place in the world, not just as a famous medical institution, but for what it represents as the bastion of medicine. I have spent a lot of my time devoted to that institution, and now it is time that I devote myself to a far greater purpose and that is what I intend to do.and therefore it is on that basis that I accept this medal – not for what I have done, but for what I must do”.
Other noted Musgrave gold medalists include artist Cecil Baugh (1984), folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley (1976); and Professor Rex Nettleford (1981).
The first gold medal was awarded to Edna Manley in 1941, for her contribution to the promotion of Art and Literature. In 1989, the Musgrave Medal was introduced as a memorial to founder of the Institute, Sir Anthony Musgrave. There have been 413 awardees of Musgrave medals including gold, silver and bronze. Medals are awarded to selected persons for achievements in the fields of literature, art and science.

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