Dr. McIntyre was Dean of the Ross Satellite Campus in St. Kitts prior to her new appointment

Dominican Pediatrician, Dr. Rhonda McIntyre, has been appointed Dean of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). This is undoubtedly good news for this medically accomplished daughter of the soil but it comes amidst growing uncertainty and concern about the return of RUSM to Dominica after its forced departure from the Hurricane Maria-ravaged island.

A source at Ross who spoke to DNO about this development, expressed concern that Dr. McIntyre’s appointment notwithstanding, staff had received no definite indication that the university will return to Dominica.

Prior to her elevation to that top position, Dr. McIntyre was the Dean of RUSM’s St. Kitts Satellite Campus, a product of Maria, which hit two weeks after the resumption of the university’s 2017 fall semester in Dominica. A few weeks later in October, more than 1300 members of the Ross campus community had to be evacuated to St. Kitts where the school resumed its medical sciences course of instruction on a cruise ship.

By January 15, 2018, Ross, acting on a statement which it had released shortly after the storm, temporarily relocated more than 1400 RUSM students, faculty and staff to Knoxville, Tennessee while, according to the release, “damage assessments and repairs continued on Dominica.”

Ross University students at a new location after Hurricane Maria

Prime Minister Skerrit had said in December 2017 that government hoped to get Ross back in May 2018 and that a committee had been appointed to study the Ross situation and to work with the school in its recommencement of classes

He said that government had extended a loan facility at the AID Bank to Dominican citizens who own properties in Picard, to rebuild and that about 80 percent of the homes for student accommodation that Ross University required, was available at the time.

But in March 2018, the University’s Dean and Chancellor William F. Owen Jr told colleagues in a release, that  although some progress had been made in restoring the Dominica campus, there was still a lot of work to be done.

At the time, Dean Owen stated that while Ross remained committed to restoring its Dominica campus, “we are closely monitoring Dominica’s recovery and other macro concerns that affect the ability to maintain an operational campus on the island.”

In June 2018, RUSM was still operating overseas but Parliamentary Representative for the Portsmouth Constituency, Ian Douglas, remained undaunted in his belief that the School would return to Dominica, hopefully, by “the January semester of 2019.”

Pointing to what he referred to as evidence on campus of  the “the construction of classrooms and buildings,” Douglas said he didn’t think that “the investors at Ross  would have commenced reconstruction of more climate resilient buildings if they had no intention of returning.”

He said there were things that government had to put in place and they were being worked on.

“Like the infrastructure, the roads, the road to and from Douglas Charles, the road to and from Picard to the hospital, the completion of the hospital and you know that the Chinese will be back on that in full gear, the security and the internet infrastructure around Picard for classrooms and classes for the students,” he explained.

RUSM’s operation in Tennessee and its Satellite Campus in St. Kitts are both temporary arrangements and unconfirmed reports have surfaced that Barbados and St. Lucia have been wooing Ross to move its operation to these countries with Barbados being cited as the probable choice.

Our source confirms that Ross staff have been told that the plan is to move the school’s operations to one location in January 2019 but as to what that location will be, “we have no idea at this point,” the source stated.

According to the source, while some repairs have been undertaken at the RUSM campus in Portsmouth, the current state of the campus does not represent the level of preparation that’s required for the school to resume its operation there. This has heightened anxiety among its Dominican staff as to what the School’s next move might be.

“If it’s not Dominica, wherever the university goes, that will be its permanent location,” the source stated.

It is left to be seen what implications, if any, the appointment of Dr. Rhonda McIntyre, a highly qualified and experienced Dominican, as the Dean of Ross University, may have regarding the institution’s decision to return its operation to the land of its birth.