The Committee of Higher Education in the Colonies in 1945 recommended the establishment of a University in the West Indies and Jamaica was chosen as the site. It was decided that the first faculty should be that of medicine as there was a shortage of medical personnel in the region.
The University College of the West Indies (UCWI), affiliated to London University was established in October 1948 , with an enrollment of medical students. A hospital was deemed necessary to support the training of medical and other health care professionals hence in 1949 the foundation stone for the University College Hospital of the West Indies (UCHWI), was laid by the Earl of Athlone, husband of Princess Alice, the first Chancellor of the UCWI. The first Matron, Mrs. Margaret Moodie nee Foster-Smith, was appointed in 1948 to establish the Preliminary Training School (PTS), for nurses and assist with the establishment of the Hospital. Between 1949 and 1952 all medical and nursing students received their clinical experience at the Kingston Public Hospital, (KPH).
The University Hospital of the West Indies formerly University College Hospital of the West Indies, the first teaching hospital in the region, is situated on the lands adjacent to the Mona campus of University of the West Indies, formerly the University College of the West Indies. The training of Registered Nurses commenced on January 4, 1949. This clinical laboratory for the training of medical, nursing and other health care professionals, received its first patient in September 1952.
The Hospital, with an initial capacity of 200 beds, consisting of Medical, Surgical and Paediatric wards, and a Main Operating Theatre, Casualty and Out Patient Department, was formally opened by Sir Hugh Foot, Governor of Jamaica on January 15, 1953. On January 18, 1953, Sir Winston Churchill, toured the Hospital and unveiled a plaque acknowledging the contribution made by the government of the United Kingdom to the institution.
In 1967 the University College of the West Indies obtained its charter and was granted full university status. The name of the Hospital was changed to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). The Hospital is identified as a centre of excellence for teaching, research and patient care from its inauguration. A Board of Management comprising of eighteen (18), appointed members provides oversight in the management of the Hospital.
To ensure that the Hospital provides a high standard of care and services, many departments, research units and casualty services were established. These included the Tropical Medical Research Unit established in 1956 and a School of Midwifery in 1957.. Medicine, Surgery, Paediatric, Radiology and Anaesthetic Departments were subsequently established. Between 1961 and 1963, the hospital opened five new operating theatres, a 75-bedded Paediatric block and a 40-bassinet nursery, which was attached to an expanded Obstetrics and Gynaecology unit. A four storey block was opened with specialist beds for Orthopaedics, Otolaryngology (Ear Nose & Throat), and Ophthalmology with Dermatology and Psychiatric patients sharing the top floor. A 16-bedded Observation Unit was also established.
The University Hospital of the West Indies is an internationally recognized academic institution with 579 beds which continues to facilitate the clinical training of health care professionals. This type A regional referral hospital has over time expanded its services to meet the health needs of the region. Cutting edge technology is used in the provision of services thus ensuring excellence in teaching, research and patient care.