UWI Alumna Becomes First Black Woman Named Master of the American College of Rheumatology

Dr Gail S Kerr, a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), has been made a Master of the American College of Rheumatology. She is the first Black woman to receive the honor. News of Dr Kerr’s achievement was shared by the Director of Alumni Relations for UWI, Celia Davidson-Francis, whose announcement included a piece by UWI Chancellor Emeritus, Sir George Alleyne.

UWI Alumna Becomes First Black Woman Named Master of the American College of Rheumatology

“A Pelican at the pinnacle”

Sir George Alleyne welcomed the news of Dr Kerr’s new title, describing her as a brilliant student who attained honors in several subjects and received the Allenberry Prize and the clinical gold medal in medicine. He added that Dr Kerr “never lets you forget” that she takes pride in being a member of the UWI graduating medical class of 1981. According to Sir Alleyne, Dr Kerr received her postgraduate training in the United States and at the Mona campus in Jamaica where she obtained the DM degree in Internal medicine. While he celebrated her academic achievements, Sir Alleyne noted that her “persistence and dedication” were rooted in her talent as a field hockey star, serving as captain of the Jamaica hockey team from 1976 to 1985. He called her election to the Mastership of the American College of Rheumatology a “fitting recognition” of her exceptional contributions to the field of rheumatology and her service to her patients, students, and the profession overall. He concluded his message by providing his “sincere personal congratulations” to Dr Kerr.

Current work

Dr Gail Kerr is the Chief of Rheumatology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Howard University Hospital in Washington DC. She also serves as a professor of medicine at the Georgetown and Howard University Hospitals and is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Her research interest focuses on areas of systemic vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and spondyloarthritides. She established the VA Rheumatology Consortium, a group seeking to provide state-of-the-art rheumatic care for military veterans and is also the co-principal investigator of the Ethnic Minority Rheumatoid Arthritis Consortium, a clinical database developed from diverse clinical practices. Dr Kerr is a reviewer for numerous clinical rheumatology journals and served as a member of an expert panel charged with developing ACR gout treatment guidelines. She is also a member of the board of the DC VAMC Institute of Clinical Research. In addition to her medical responsibilities, she takes part in regular exercise activities, including the Boston Marathon, in which she has run three times.

Honors and achievements

Dr Kerr has been recognized for her service as an accomplished and distinguished rheumatology expert with several awards. She takes particular pride in the work she has done to reduce the inequities faced by ethnic minorities. She has never forgotten her roots at St Andrew High School for Girls in Kingston and at UWI, both of which she continues to support in several ways. In 2019, she was awarded the Johns Hopkins Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Diversity and was the featured speaker at Medical Grand Rounds, with a talk entitled, “Reducing ethnic disparities in rheumatoid arthritis: using EMRAC as a roadmap. “She is a member of the FDA Arthritis Advisory Board and the USP Rheumatology Expert Committee. She is chair of the VA National Rheumatology Consortium, on the Steering Committee for the Caribbean Rheumatology Association, and a board member of the VA Institute of Clinical Research. She was named by her peers as one of the top 21 doctors in the Washington DC-Baltimore-Northern Virginia region and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the Royal Colleges of Physicians, and the American College of Rheumatology.

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