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Carika Weldon’s outstanding spirit

Can do attitude: Dr Carika Weldon is shown with a genetic-engineering kit donated by Amino Labs for Bermuda students to carry out a DNA experiment at the Bermuda Principles conference, which she organised (File photograph supplied)

Like the vast majority of Bermudians, I was disappointed in hearing that 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 decades of experience as a 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 learnt that this type of reality – ironically – offers more possibility of a “win-win” outcome in the resolution of disputes between parties.

Dr Weldon’s role with Covid- 19 testing in Bermuda 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 Sars-CoV-2/Covid-19 reached Bermuda.

She was contacted by David Burt, the Premier, 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 pushback regarding the role of Dr Weldon, from various quarters, but that resistance was subsequently transcended.

It was eventually revealed publicly that Dr Weldon 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 these aspects of Dr Weldon’s character that inspired those of us helping in her initiative in 2016.

She had brought a group of her students from De Montfort 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 Dr Weldon’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, Dr Weldon 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 sequencing data. A conference of global research leaders on the Human Genome that established the “Principles”, took place at the 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 ongoing genetics research, but also nurtures local science education, at all levels.

Attending the closing banquet in February 2020 provided a perspective on Dr Weldon’s genius.

She rushed around the ballroom of 150 mostly international attendees, multitasking 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 her for her amazing efforts.

The evening was closed with a scenario which sums up Dr Weldon’’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 unclear, I don’t think we have to worry about Dr Weldon.

Like the Gombeys, we can all celebrate her contribution to her Island, with an Aa Ooh!

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Published January 12, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated January 12, 2022 at 7:27 am)

Carika Weldon’s outstanding spirit

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