Column: Celebrating Dr Weldon’s Contributions

January 12, 2022 | 0 Comments

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

Like the vast majority of Bermudians, I was disappointed in hearing that Dr Carika Weldon had recently submitted her resignation, especially having experienced the pleasure of some limited collaboration with this unique young woman, prior to the pandemic.

My decade of experience as former Labour Relations Officer has made me aware that things are not always what they seem, given the complex nature of employment relations, even in normal times. That complexity is increased, given the unprecedented circumstances and the key nature of her role addressing the pandemic.

I’ve learned that this type of reality – ironically – offers more possibility of a win-win outcome in the resolution of disputes between parties.

Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory Bermuda July 15 2021 (7)

Carika’s role with COVID-19 testing has been a mostly transparent story, given the pandemic’s implications on society. Before highlighting my personal experience with her – pre-COVID – let’s review these past two years.

Dr Weldon had been working as a research specialist at the University of Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics, focused on mRNA research, when COVID reached Bermuda. Carika was contacted by Premier Burt and consequently she returned to assist in ramping up our locally-based testing capacity, leveraging the mitigation potential in addressing the pandemic.

There was some initial push-back regarding the role of Dr Weldon from various quarters, but that resistance was subsequently transcended.

It was eventually revealed publicly that Carika had volunteered her services for the first six months of her return to Bermuda. It is understandable that in the hyper-materialist culture that dominates societies across the globe, it would be difficult for many of us to fully understand that type of spirit.

It was aspects of Carika’s character that inspired those of us helping in her initiative in 2016. She had brought a group of her students from De Montford University in the UK to Bermuda for several days for tours around the local schools, geared to inspire a love for learning science. Assisting, as a former science teacher, I was impressed by Carika’s obvious deep passion for learning, substantial grasp of science and desire to leverage the potential of Bermuda’s youth.

While she repeated that tour format over the following few years, Carika also established the Bermuda Principles annual conference, having collaborated with a number of major stakeholders. The Bermuda Principles are international guidelines requiring transparency across the global science community with regards to DNA sequence data. A conference of global research leaders on the human genome that established the principles took place at Hamilton Princess in 1996.

Dr Weldon demonstrated extraordinary leadership by gaining the support of those pioneers of that 1996 milestone to fulfil a vision. This resulted in a cross generational group of global genetics researchers coming together for an annual conference in Bermuda. This outcome not only benefits on-going genetics research, but also nurtures local science education, at all levels.

Attending the closing banquet in February 2020 provided a perspective on Carika’s genius. She rushed around the ballroom of 150 mostly international attendees, multi-tasking as cook and bottle washer and serving as interpreter – simplifying the science for the audience. Those renowned scientists making presentations spent at least some time congratulating Carika’s amazing effort.

The evening was closed with a scenario which sums up Carika’s persona, when she led out the Gombeys. At least half of the audience – mostly from around the world – stood and joined in the truly Bermudian celebration of a job well done!

While the final outcome of this ongoing story is unsure, I don’t think we have to worry about Carika. Like the Gombeys, we can all celebrate her contribution to her island with an “ay ooh!”

- Glenn Fubler

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