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Cardiovascular Research Program Begins in June through the VIDOH and University of Miami

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion (center) talks about the Cardiovascular Research Empowerment Workforce program with Dr.Tai Hunte-Ceasar, Dr. Sonjia Kenya, and Dr. Janice Valmont, who will run the program. (Screenshot from Facebook live stream)

Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach, with administrators from the V.I. Health Department and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, announced Monday a new cardiovascular research program for Virgin Islands students starting in June.

“Today, we are proud to announce the partnership with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, which alongside the administration will rebuild and empower the territory’s healthcare workforce. This is a critical arena — cardiovascular research. We know heart disease, cardiovascular incidents, are the primary cause of death in the territory,” Roach said.

The University of Miami is a top school for research programs, Roach said. He pointed out that by providing education on the island via the new medical school of the Virgin Islands, students will be more likely to remain in the territory to live and work.

Dr. Sonjia Kenya created the program after working with Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar, who was in training at Miller Medical Center more than 20 years ago. She said she has been keeping in touch with the territory’s medical director and growing the program since then.

Hunte-Ceasar said her goal is training more healthcare providers. The Education Department will also participate in the program, she added.

The five-year program is seeking 50 Virgin Islanders, who will learn how to collect and research data and then “seek more funding to take care of the people who live here,” she said. Applicants can either be high school graduates or college students.

Kenya agreed with her mentee and said that in the long run, the goal is “more homegrown health providers.”

Those who are interested in participating in the program can find more information and how to apply at www.med.miami.edu.

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion agreed with Roach that heart disease is the number one killer of Virgin Islanders and said this is a critical time to launch the program.

 She touted the program to engage youth to stay and treat patients at home.

University of the Virgin Islands President David Hall pointed out that Hunte-Ceasar, as the dean of the V.I Medical School, can “address this critical health challenge” and by encouraging students, can “transform the way we live.”

Roach ended the press conference saying that applications for the program will be accepted from now until the end of February. The program in Miami will take place from June 17 to Aug. 9.

He also said “students will be compensated” for their participation in the program but did not say how.

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