Comments of Dr. Thomas Shepherd, DHA, FACHE
on Announcement of Ross University Bahamas Campus
July 28, 2008
Right Honorable Prime Minister Ingraham,
On behalf of the Board of Directors of DeVry, Inc, the Board of Ross University, and the entire management team of Ross University I wish to thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to be here with us this afternoon.
I also wish to extend those same thanks to the many other government dignitaries who are present this afternoon, as well as leaders of the health and business community.
Before I begin my remarks I would like to take a moment to introduce a number of the Ross University management staff who are present this morning.
Dr.Nancy Perri, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dr. Mary Coleman, Dean Ross University Medical School
John St. James, Chief Financial Officer
Sandi Cutler, Vice President for Planning and Business Development
Dr. John Daley, Interim Administrator, Bahamas Campus
The first thing I want to do this morning, before I speak briefly about Ross University and the reasons for our decision to locate a branch campus here in Freeport is to take time to thank those people without whose unflagging support we would not be here today.
I want to follow the chronology of this process by starting with Hannes Babak, who made the initial call to DeVry’s CEO, Daniel Hamburger, that began this process, and who has been a steadfast help throughout this process. And then to Sir Jack Hayward and
Rick Hayward who got us started, who have extended generous hospitality to me and to many members of my staff on frequent occasions over the past year. From the outset they have done much to make us feel entirely welcome and at home.
Next I want to especially thank Sir Albert Miller who worked tirelessly to respond to our needs, to introduce us to the key members of the Government, and to insure that the Grand Bahama Port Authority was thoroughly responsive to the needs we had for information and support in our assessment and planning process. Without his efforts we would not be here today.
These thanks extend to Mr. Albert Gray, President of the Port Authority and his staff, who met with us many times, and who worked as a partner in helping find solutions to the many challenges that came up in the process.
And of course most recently Eric Christiansen, Chairman of the Port Group, who has been tremendous in his focus and effectiveness in getting all of the last minute tough issues clarified and quickly resolved.
In all of this we have been ably helped by our attorney Mr. Terence Gape.
Our close working relationship with the Grand Bahama Port Authority has been only half of this equation however. The other half has been the extremely professional and responsive way that the Government of the Bahamas has responded to our interest in establishing a branch campus on Grand Bahama.
The issues related to establishment of a branch campus, and to the proper accreditation and oversight of a medical school and health sciences university are very complex. Minister of Health Dr. Herbert Minnis and Minister of Education Carl Bethel have been extraordinarily well prepared and effective in their engagement of these issues. Their respective staffs have been well informed, and thoughtful in negotiating the appropriate structure of oversight for our programs that will insure enduring quality and success.
Mr. David Davis, Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister, has devoted significant time and effort to working through the many details necessary to address in the definition of a long-term agreement between Ross University and the Government of the Bahamas.
Lastly Senator Katherine Forbes-Smith has been invaluable in her support to insure clear communications and speedy resolution of issues as they arose.
Throughout this process there have been many others who have been helpful. Recognizing that the Prime Minister is on a limited schedule I will have to wait until a later date to enumerate those contributions.
Ross University is pleased to be here today. We are here today because of our outstanding success at providing quality medical education. That success is recognized by the marketplace of prospective medical and veterinary students which is why we face every semester far more highly qualified student applicants than we have openings to accommodate. It is evidenced by the 90+ percent pass rate our students achieve on complex licensing exams. This growth and our desire to respond to the dreams of so many fine young men and women is why we are here today.
Ross University was founded 30 years ago on the dream of providing qualified, and dedicated people an opportunity to become physicians. This was expanded to include veterinary doctors some years later.
We currently operate a medical school in Dominica and a veterinary school in St. Kitts. Our medical program is by far the largest provider of newly trained physicians to the United States. This year we graduated over 700 new doctors and almost 200 new veterinarians. Our .Out graduating class is also by far the most ethnically diverse graduating class of any medical school in America.
Ross University is part of DeVry, Inc. DeVry runs a number of major schools including DeVry University, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Keller School of Management, and Becker Review. It has revenues approaching $1 billion dollars a year, and its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Just over a year ago it became clear to Ross that we needed to establish a new branch campus somewhere in the Caribbean region to accommodate our current and anticipated growth. We began an exhaustive process of evaluating literally dozens of possibilities.
We quickly identified The Bahamas as a possible location.
In one of those wonderful coincidences it was just at that time that Hannes Babak called DeVry’s CEO to pitch Freeport/Grand Bahama as a possible location.
From the very start, almost a year ago, the Government and the Port Authority have been outstanding in their representation of this community. They have recognized the benefits that might accrue to the community by having a major university locate here, and they have been responsive to our needs.
But they have done more than this. They have also challenged us to be clear about the contributions and commitments we were prepared to make in return. First and foremost was a commitment to the highest standard of quality education. Secondly was commitment to provide meaningful and significant opportunities for employment to Bahamians. And lastly was a commitment to provide local scholarship opportunities.
All of these we have readily agreed to as part of our responsibility to the community.
But why did we select The Bahamas, and Grand Bahama in particular?
Now that our discussions and negotiations with the Government are complete we can say to the community what we have been saying to them in private. This has always been our first choice, our preferred choice.
We find in Grand Bahama not only a location that is convenient from a travel perspective, but an environment that reflects an incredible commitment to the creation of a wonderful place to live, to work, to relax, and to learn. We are frankly amazed at the incredible success and contribution of the Grand Bahama Port Authority in not only establishing Grand Bahama as it is today, but in the depth and quality of its vision for the future. We think that the brightest days for Grand Bahama lie ahead, and we are excited about being part of that future.
We find in the Government of The Bahamas a progressive leadership and a willingness to do the work, and tackle the tough issues necessary to secure a bright future in these challenging times. We are confident of their commitment to quality education and their willingness to support our success in that vision.
Locally in the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, the Rand Hospital, the business community, and many others we have been met with a wonderful “can do” spirit that builds our confidence, and provides us with the kinds of partners we will need to succeed.
Our vision for our Grand Bahama campus is simple. We plan for it to be a premiere location for health sciences education – equal to the best anywhere in the world. We plan to train not only doctors but eventually other health professions as well. Our goal is that one day it will be as large, or even larger than our Dominica campus. This means thousands of students and hundreds of local employees.
We will arrive at this one step at a time; each step taken in partnership with the local community, the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the Government of The Bahamas.
In this process we pledge to be good members of the community. To be a fair and generous employer. To be honest, above board, and professional in all of our business dealings. To provide opportunity equally and transparently to all. And to give back as much or more to the community as we receive.
There is much for us to learn about this community in order for us to succeed in this vision. I ask that every one of you here today help in this regard. We are open and eager for your input and your suggestions. If we make a misstep please bring it to our attention, so that it may be rectified and we may learn from the process. If there is something we can do to be helpful, do not hesitate to ask. We will respond where we are able, within the obvious constraints of our resources and capability.
We look forward to being an integral part of this community, a good citizen, and a part of Grand Bahama’s exciting new future.