DR. EUGENE C. LAURENT, GENS D’ARIME TILL THE END
Dr. Eugene Cipriani Laurent was born on January 31st, 1935.
He became known in Arima as ‘The Free Doctor’ because he never turned away a sick person, whether they could afford to pay or not.
He followed his father’s (Eugene J. Laurent) assignments as a Head Master in various parts of Trinidad until he won an Exhibition scholarship from Hard Bargain Primary School. He came to live in Arima when his father became Head Master of Arima Boys’ Government School in 1946. He attended St. Mary’s College as had his father, where he gained his Higher School Certificate.
He loved Arima and while participating in football with Arsenal Club and cricket as well as numerous other games in the Savannah, he made many friends for life in Arima. He often stated he did not know how to live anywhere else.
After leaving College in 1953, he was employed with the Ministry of Agriculture in Centeno. In 1956, he went to Canada to further his studies and enrolled at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degrees in 1959 and 1964 respectively.
Dr Laurent returned to Trinidad in 1965 and entered Private Practice.
In 1966 he took up an appointment with the Ministry of Health at the Arima District Hospital, where he worked until 1972, painstakingly attending to the sick and delivering over seven thousand babies. He continued in Private Practice with Dr. Yeonnie Whorms John until 1978 leaving then to concentrate on administration until 1998 when he rejoined Dr. John. He retired from Private Practice in 2010.
Continuing his interest in sports he, together with Cliff Bertrand, founder of Abilene Wildcats Athletic Club and member of the Arima North-Eastern Amateur Athletics Association, planned and executed a sports meet the “Arima North-Eastern A.A.U. Relay Championships and International Cycling Meet” the official Opening of the Arima Velodrome which was held in the Arima Savannah in May of 1966.
Both the Velodrome and the Sports Meet were officially opened by Dr. the Right Hon. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who was the Patron of the games.
Dr. Laurent was a Charter Member of the Trinidad East Lions Club, now known as the Arima Lions Club, which was formed in 1967, and served as its President in 1969-1970. In 1973 he served as Deputy District Governor which was the second-highest position in Lionism in the Caribbean at that time.
In 1976, Dr. Laurent attended the University of the West Indies, Jamaica where he received a Masters Degree in Public Health.
On his return from Jamaica he continued working with the Ministry of Health and rose to the position of Principal Medical Officer – Environment. In 1992, he was seconded to the Ministry of Health, Grenada, as the Chief Medical Officer of Health and worked there until his retirement from the Public Service in 1994. During this period, he gained extensive experience in Environmental Health and Environmental Management and played a leading role in the recommendation and implementation of environmental policies for both countries.
He also represented the Governments of both Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada at many regional and international conferences, workshops and seminars and delivered numerous lectures on environmental topics.
In 1985 he was appointed Chairman of a Trinidad and Tobago Committee to organise a National Consultation on Environmental Health and Protection sponsored by the Pan American Health Organisation. The major recommendation of the Consultation was that there was an urgent need to establish an Environmental Management Authority to ensure sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Environmental Management Authority (E.M.A.) became a reality in 1995 and in 2000 the Trinidad and Tobago Environmental Commission was established as a Court of Appeal for decisions of the E.M.A. The Environmental Commission is a Superior Court of Record, established by and under the Environmental Act, 2000. Dr. Laurent served as a Judge on the Commission from its inception in 2000 until 2012.
In 1999, at its Annual Awards Ceremony, the Arima Borough Corporation presented Dr. Laurent with an award in recognition of his numerous contributions to Public Service.
Dr Laurent was Patron of the Arima Visionaires, an organisation founded by Mrs. Jackie Cummings to assist visually challenged members of the Arima and environs community. He participated in many of the organisation’s outreach activities.
He was also a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Orchid Society from 1969 up to his death and served as its President from 1986 to 1989. As President, he was the driving force in enabling the Society to put on a medal-winning display at the internationally renowned Chelsea Flower Show in England. One of his main activities in the field of orchidology was in the identification and conservation of the native orchids of Trinidad and Tobago.
In October of 2015 Dr. Laurent was inducted into the St. Mary’s College Hall of Fame established by the Past Students’ Union to recognise past students and other individuals/groups associated with the College who, by their outstanding deeds of excellence, serve as exemplars to past and present students in keeping with the Union’s motto Vitus et Sientia – Manliness and Knowledge.
A man of many interests, he was also a dedicated family man and he spoke of his pet dogs by their names as if he was speaking of his children. This exemplified his caring nature, caring for people, animals, plants and the environment.
In May of 1964, Dr. Laurent married Sharon Isobel Walker. From that union came two children, Andre, who graduated in Electrical Engineering from Ryerson, Toronto, and Marita, who holds a Mass Communications degree from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
They have one grandson, Shay.
Dr. Laurent passed away on March 6th, 2014, months short of their 50th wedding anniversary.
By Kazim Abasali
Kazim Abasali is a multimedia artist who enjoys creating his empowering and inspiring art, music, videos, ebooks, published articles, and websites, for himself and others. To access his artistic projects, kindly visit his website.
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