Dec. 6, 2005– David Beale, executive director of the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation, presented health officials with a $75,000 state-of-the-art dental machine in the morning and a check for $150,000 in the afternoon at events held Tuesday at the Schneider Regional Medical Complex.
Beale explained the dental equipmentwhich will be available at the Health Departments dental clinics on St. Thomas and St. Croixwill allow dentists to take X-rays of a patient's entire skull to determine the underlying causes of root canals.
The $150,000 will go toward building an auditorium for the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, where medical conferences, lectures, and education seminars can be conducted and broadcast throughout the Caribbean and the mainland.
Renee Adams, administrator at the Kimelman Cancer Institute, said foundation moneyas well as other funds garnered from the communityhas allowed the cancer center's opening date to be scheduled for Jan. 17, 2006.
"We really have made a lot of progress," she said. "Just because you see the scaffolding on the outside, doesn't mean we haven't done anything on the inside."
The hospital also announced the receipt of a $124,000 grant awarded by Beale to start the Nurse Extern Program, which allows medical and nursing students at the University of the Virgin Islands to workand be compensatedat the medical center during the school year.
Beale said his organization been helping hospitals in the territory since 1991, after the foundation donated equipment to Schneider Regional to rebuild after Hurricane Hugo. Beale said the foundation was established 15 years ago, after the death of Claude A. Benjamin, a famous musician and St. Croix native.
"The old will dream dreams, and young will see visions. "Bennie" Benjamin saw both, and wanted healthcare in the V.I. to be better for the people. That's why he donated the small fortune he had into making this foundation possible," Beale said. He added that Benjamin's money has helped to provide over $2 million for medical scholarships, hospital equipment, facility improvements, and educational programming.
"This foundation is very special," Rodney Miller, the hospital's chief executive officer said. "There are not a lot of organizations who give to hospitals, who strive to improve the healthcare we offer to individuals in the territory." Miller added that in the past, the foundation also donated the money to build UVI's medical library, and "paved the way" for V.I. students to go to medical school and receive the training that allows them to come back to the territory and work.
As an example, a press release issued during the event showed that Dr. Colin O'Connell, a native Virgin Islander had joined the staff at the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute. Born in St. Thomas, O'Connell returns to the territory from California to be the new tumor registrar at the Institute. "That's exactly what I mean," Miller commented. "With people like this, there's no reason why the Virgin Islands can't work on being a model health care provider."
After Tuesday afternoon's event, however, Beale said there have been students who used the scholarship and still have not returned to the territory. "That's what's hurting us," he said. "It's important for them to come back, and it's really sad when they don't."
Beale said that's why the Foundation decided to help with the Nurse Extern Program, which is offered to sophomores and juniors at UVI. "We thought it would be more practical if the students were to work at the hospital while they're at schoolgive them a chance to get to know the doctors here, the surroundings, and familiarize themselves with some of the duties they would have to perform."
Beale explained the grant is for the next three years, with 12 students selected every year. "They have to submit an application to the University, a committee decides who gets in, and then we [the Foundation] will pay them to work," he said.
Angela Rennalls-Atkinson, the program's coordinator, said the program stemmed from a project put together by Alexandra Bradley, a former UVI student, during her senior year. Rennalls-Atkinson said she has always wanted to formalize the program, and hopes the initiative will prompt more local students to stay in the territory and work. "I really don't have to explain how much this would help with our nursing shortage," she said.
"Today is an outstanding day," Miller said. "There are going to be so many exciting things happeningand they will really make a difference in the quality of healthcare for residents in the V.I."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.