PROFILE OF THE WEEK
By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Dr. Frank Anthony has had a passion for community service and outreach all his life. He was born in Enmore on the East Coast on Demerara, in Guyana. Enmore has a special place in the history of Guyana; it was there that five sugar workers were killed in 1948 while they were protesting for better working conditions.
The young Frank Anthony grew up in a community where the history of the struggle was ever-present. He embraced it and vowed to do his part one day to effect change in his community.
On June 1, 1979 Frank joined the Children’s Section of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP); he was eleven years old. The group was launched in Enmore by the late Guyanese President, Janet Jagan. In 1980, Frank was asked to introduce Dr. Cheddi Jagan at one of the Enmore Martyr’s observances that further strengthened the young man’s resolve to serve his country. A trip to Cuba in the previous year had broadened his outlook about life in another country.
Frank attended Enmore Primary School and wrote the Common Entrance Exam. He did well and was among five students that were selected to attend Queens College in Georgetown. That lifted the spirits of the community and paved the way for student achievement in the area.
Frank pays tribute to primary school teachers Derek Gulcharan and Mr. Gill who influenced their students in Science. At Queens College, there were Mr. Gopaul, and others, that cared for the students. Frank was in Science stream at Queens College and he did well at both the Ordinary and Advanced levels.
Apart from academia, Frank played an important role at Queens College in the politics of the day. Mr. Clarence Trotz, the Headmaster, was an excellent physics teacher. When he was transferred to St. Stanislaus it led the student body to protest. More protests happened when the history teacher, Bonita Harris, was transferred to the interior.
Frank played a role in helping to organize student opinion. He was a member of the student council that mobilized opinion about the condition of education in Guyana. This was a period of hardships in the country; teachers and supplies were scarce. Frank ran into trouble when he was in the Fifth Form. He had taken literature to class that were deemed as undesirable. As a result, he was suspended. But this did not stop him from being active in student politics and the national student movement.
By the time he was ready to leave Queens College Frank was well grounded in political activism. He went as part of a Progressive Youth Organization (PYO) group to Moscow where he met young people and was able to exchange ideas. This inspired Frank to work harder and it paid dividends. He won a PPP scholarship to study Medicine in Moscow. He went to Patrice Lumumba University, now the People’s Friendship University.
The training was intensive. Frank had to learn Russian, and after a year, instruction began. The experience in Russia was great and Frank learned a lot. He became interested in research and published papers with reputable scientists, on embryonic brain cells, among others. He graduated with his medical degree in 1993 and began working at the Georgetown Hospital.
Frank soon began to do outreach work in other parts of the country. This gave him a splendid opportunity to meet with and help different communities. They included Mahaica Creek, Canegrove, Bonasika, St. Cuthbert and St. Francis Missions and Kwakwani, among other places. He held clinics for a number of years and brought relief to many.
Apart from medicine, Frank was active in politics. He became the First Secretary of the PYO and served on a number of other bodies such as the General Council at the University of Guyana. He was on the environmental assessment board; these positions gave Frank an insight into the challenges that faced Guyana.
Frank was a member of the Georgetown Prison Visiting Committee and this gave him access to the prisoners and to see conditions at first hand. As a member of the constitutional reform commission, Frank made recommendations, some of which were accepted and implemented.
In 1999, Frank went to the world-famous Hebrew University to update his knowledge in public health. He spent a year there and saw at first hand the problems relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On his return to Guyana, Frank was attached to the Ministry of Health where he ran a number of programs to improve health, including getting mothers to clinic and treating anemia in prospective mothers.
Frank managed health projects for the IDB, the World Bank and the Global Fund. He was responsible for millions of dollars that were allocated to carry out these programs and under his leadership there was accountability and transparency. In 2006, Frank was appointed as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, a position he held until 2015.
As Minister, he oversaw the construction of the National Stadium, was involved in the planning of World Cup cricket, the Aquatic Center, and Carifesta, among others. The Inter-Guyana Cultural Festival is a brainchild of Frank as is the National Drama Festival.