Please think back to your University days… it was not until 1979 that you joined UWI. Did you ever imagine in those years that you would be at the forefront of a prestigious University in your country of birth?
Professor Hilary Beckles: Absolutely not. First of all I emigrated from Barbados when I was thirteen years old. I was a kid in high school when I joined my parents who had left for England in search of work in 1959. I completed high school in Birmingham and attended the University of Hull. It is an excellent University, a wonderful place for a young person to study. It has an academic culture that pulled me, and there were not many distractions in the city. It was not my intention to be a university administrator. My original plan was idealistic. I went to University to study philosophy and political science. I was stimulated as a teenager by philosophical thought. I imagined myself engaged in a life long philosophical experience, building a career around writing and maybe teaching. Within the first term I shifted my attention to the economic sciences. I was under domestic pressure; what would I do with a degree in philosophy? I chose to study Economic History; what in effect was economics applied to the historical process. These days, the subject is called Development Economics.
An economic historian would examine the growth path of countries whose economies have succeeded and those who have failed, and seek to understand why. For example, why did Japan become Asia’s first industrial nation and not India! Likewise why England and not Ireland? Why Germany and not Portugal? These were the kinds of questions we would ask. We would look at the economic history of each country and find the rules and principles and underlying issues that either propelled development or held back development. As a teenager I was very concerned about understanding economic inequality in the world; particularly the extensive poverty in Africa and the countries with recent colonial legacies. As a West Indian person of African descent, I wanted to explain the challenges facing Africa, the Caribbean, and the countries of Latin America. This was a time when many of these countries were moving towards independence. New nations were forming all over the world and I wanted to know something about the chances for these countries to be successful. Those were the issues that fascinated me.”
Go back in time back to Ireland; did you ever imagine you would one day create your own fertility center?
Anna Hosford: “ No not really, especially not during my general training. At that time, my father was an entrepreneur, so I had the business acumen or risk taking side to my personality. I did nursing, and I knew I wanted to travel the world. So I moved to San Francisco, where I was working with this agency and they asked ¨do you want to work in the fertility clinic?¨ The whole system was on the “hush hush,” because back in Ireland there was the power of the Catholic Church, which looked downward on fertility. In those four years, I did an array of different types of nursing. After working in the clinic, I learned a lot and I found my niche. I found that in fertility, you give to help people, you give them hope, you help them realize their dreams because helping couples in infertility is the second most stressful diagnosis after HIV in the world. After four years, I went back home to Ireland. After working in San Francisco, I learned that I wanted to run a clinic the way I wanted to. While working I saw some corrections that needed to be made.
I went to Dublin, started a clinic and after 3 years of work, things did not work out with the stakeholders. Luckily during those three years period, I met Dr. Skinner, the co-founder of this clinic and we learned that we had the same ethos. We also shared the same level of standards in regards to the same level of patient care. We had the same type of visions, in working in medicine some of the clinics, things were run differently. In medicine the type of people you work with and the type of people you interact with are very important if you have high standards. So I left the Dublin clinic, came over here, and set up this clinic. In order to sustain a full time fertility clinic you need at least 750, 000 people to sustain operations. But in Barbados, it is not, it is only 250,000. We always knew we would have to bring people onto the island to make this work. We both had this vision, dream and clinic care. We knew if we built a clinic with very high standards, it would work. If you build it, they will come. We did not have to sell Barbados on this idea. We already had the name; people are not going to travel until fertility clinic is built. After that we approached the government. We need the support of Barbados in order to use the name of Barbados in order to succeed. And they supported us and they let us use the country’s name. Really they have been fantastic along the way in terms of grants and loans. Like any business, we start small and like we say in our business, “babies generate more babies.” So the more people you get pregnant the better and busier you get. We have part time staff coming over and after we grew, we put a full time staff in place. ”