If Robert Gray had been approached before his birth and shown his present CV, he would have declined birth, as his life might have looked like way too much work. Fortunately for us all and for children in particular, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica on the 16th of July 1936 to Robert Gray an Engineer at Appleton, and his wife Carmen.
Fittingly, Robert Hugh Gray was sent to the school of Robert Hugh Munro in St. Elizabeth in 1948, and in order to prevent Doctor Caleb Dickenson from feeling left out, Robert Gray chose to become a doctor.
He was placed in Pearman House. He was not one of the big names in sport, but he took part at the house level as hockey goalie and at the school team level he was a reserve on the tennis team. Robert was in the camera club – a lifelong interest, collected stamps, took part in drama, performed with the music society, and was a prefect.
In 1953 he took over from Mervyn Morris as President of the Debating Society. In the same year, Munro took “The Rose and the Ring” to the drama festival in Kingston. Gray was commended for good acting along with Strudwick and fellow inductee Professor Mervyn Morris, who, along with Maxwell Magnus was one if his closest friends.
After academic success highlighted by concentrations in Chemistry, Botany, Zoology and Physics, Robert left schoolboy Munro at the end of 1954. He then taught Chemistry at Munro from January to June 1955 and navigated, not with ease, that difficult middle passage of being a teacher in a school with teachers who taught him in the prior year and students he was friends with for years. The Jamaica Scholarship and entry into Edinburgh University, Scotland, came in September 1955 and provided a resolution for that dilemma. But life is expert at supplying new challenges, and Robert Gray Snr. died just as Robert was entering university.
By 1961 he achieved the MB and ChB. Between 1961 and 1967 he held successive posts as House Officer, Registrar in Surgery, Medicine and Paediatrics at hospitals in Sunderland, Halifax, Nuneaton, Manchester, and Mansfield in England. In the midst of this he married Lystra Yvonne Lalgee on September 12, 1964, and in the same year got a Diploma in Child Health, presumably in preparation for Andrew Ian (June ’65), Michael Peter (March ’67) and Donna Marie (March ’69) who were born to bless the couple with the proverbial patter of little feet.
In 1967, he was made Member, and in 1983, Fellow, of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh. Between 1967 and 1968 he was back in Jamaica as Senior Registrar in Paediatrics at the University Hospital of the West Indies where he subsequently lectured and became a Consultant in Paediatrics.
Dr Gray launched into private practice in paediatrics and paediatric neurology from 1973 to 1989 while being an Associate Lecturer and consultant at UHWI. For the years 1989 to 1999 he was Professor of Child Health, then Head of Clinical Services Tropical Medicine Research Institute, UWI. From 2001 to 2016 Professor Gray was Part Time Consultant in Paediatrics.
In the meantime, his publications were numerous – 23 research papers of which he was sole or lead contributor. One of his papers was co-authored by Dr Colin Miller – Head of Paediatrics UHWI, who had been in 6th form at Munro while Robert was in middle school.
Professor Gray’s range of publications was all-encompassing. Some are general like “Child Abuse Management” and “Paediatric Emergencies”. Others clearly require high-level technical expertise to get past the title, like “Gluecose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency with neonatal jaundice in Jamaica” and “The relative distribution of T-cell subsets is altered in Jamaican children infected with human T-cell lymphotropic Virus Type 1.” He was in constant demand for presentations at local and international medical conferences.
Between 1992 and 2004 he was a consultant to committees such as PAHO / WHO, UNICEF and the Government of Jamaica, developing policies on matters such as child health services, lactation, and eradication of poliomyelitis, to name a few. All this work was not ivory tower irrelevance as his connection with day-to-day problems was validated by the nickname he got from the grass roots mothers – ”Mr. Breast Feed.”
The after-lights-out bull sessions in Munro dormitories must have become useful as Robert Gray also served medicine via the media, as Radio Paediatrician on JBC radio from 1976-1989, plus countless radio and television interviews on paediatric topics. He also gave addresses on a variety of child health problems to various service clubs, government ministries, and private voluntary organisations.
During his career he received numerous awards including a long Service Award from UHWI; a vocational service award from the Rotary Club of St. Andrew North; an award for excellence from the Paediatric Association of Jamaica in 2003; and an award for distinguish service to the medical profession from the Medical Association of Jamaica. He was also recognized by the department of nursing education in 1997.
He claims to have retired in 2016. However, one of his hobbies which he can now relax and enjoy is – guess what? – health education. Other activities are photography, reading, listening to music and gardening. He is in touch with the paediatric scene in Jamaica and is satisfied that his initiatives continue to prosper. Professor Gray lives on a farm in North Carolina. There are two houses on the farm. His daughter Donna Marie and her husband live in one and he and his wife Lystra, and their second son Michael Peter live in the other.
Today, for the above and other reasons, we proudly induct Professor Emeritus Robert Hugh Gray into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.