Dr. Michael Pitts apologized for Minister of Health, Hon. Salvador Fernandez, who was unable to attend the opening due to another commitment. Pitts said that over the past 10 years several institutions had attempted to establish medical schools in Belize. In the past three years, three schools had pressed the government to locate in country. St. Matthews however, has been the only serious request. "We do not believe St. Matthews will create any problems for San Pedro. We look forward to seeing 450 students interacting with the community in San Pedro."
Seferino Paz, Jr., who has worked closely with the school and assisted with their move to Belize by establishing their temporary campus at Banyan Bay, commented that he felt the school is good for the island, that everyone will benefit.
Dr. Mary Beth Downs, Dean of Academic Affairs welcomed the guests and made an informational presentation. Dean Downs explained that students attending the university will complete a 2 year course consisting of 5 semesters. Upon completion they will transfer to universities in the United States or United Kingdom to complete their degree.
Dean of Clinical Sciences, Eric Thornton, remarked that San Pedro, like other islands, has a healthy rumor mill and he hoped to pass on information that would clarify the stories that were being circulated. Thornton said St. Matthews has no affiliation with any other school. It is an independent university. "There will be 23 students in the first class. A new class will commence three times a year, in September, January and May. We will add more faculty as the student body increases. People have been confused about what this school is about. We want to integrate with the country and the island. This will happen slowly. Our first class is small and we are expecting close to fifty (50) in the class beginning in January. You will have the opportunity to watch as we grow and see how it adds to your community and benefits it. We are looking forward to our students representing themselves well, interacting positively." Thornton thanked Paz and his staff for the excellent job they had done, completing the buildings in months.
Dean Downs spoke briefly on St. Matthews' mission. She said that most medical education is geared toward people with the highest grades and that they got the best placement, the best clinical positions. Some of those institutions have produced a person who was not as compassionate as you would like them to be. We will offer a first rate education and instill morals so our students will be just what a physician should be - a caring person.
Mr. Sanker, who headed the construction crews proudly told the guests that the task had been challenging, but they had produced a 90 day miracle. Everyone was invited to tour the impressive new buildings and enjoy the refreshments.