Manley Elisha West (1929 - 2012) - The National Library of Jamaica

Manley Elisha West (1929 - 2012)

Professor Manley Elisha West, pioneer pharmacologist, was born on March 17, 1929 in Fairy Hill, Portland. After completing his secondary studies at the Titchfield High School, Professor West went on to the Kingston then Thames High School in Surrey, London, followed by the University of London. It was there that he pursued his dream of becoming a pharmacologist. In 1967, he graduated from the University of London with a Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmacology. He also studied at various institutions including: Cambridge University, where he studied Ocular Pharmacology, Yale University and Sloan Kettering Institute in the United States of America where he studied Cancer Chemotherapy, Ottawa University in Canada, where he studied Experimental open-heart surgery and Belgrade University in Yugoslavia, where he studied advanced toxicology.

Professor West began his journey at the University of the West Indies in 1964 as an assistant lecturer in Pharmacology and in 1968 was appointed Lecturer and Chief Internal Examiner. After serving as Acting Head of the Department of Pharmacology in 1975, he was later appointed in that same year as Head of the Department of Pharmacology, Chief Internal Examiner and Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences. He was appointed Professor of Pharmacology in 1981 and worked until his retirement in 2010, at the age of eighty. Professor West was the first Jamaican and West Indian to be appointed as Professor of Pharmacology in the Department of Pharmacology in the Medical Faculty of the University of the West Indies, Mona.

He has also served the University of the West Indies in many areas such as:

  • Pre-Clinical Vice Dean (four years)
  • Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (one year)
  • Head of the Pharmacology department (five years)

Manley West is however, best known for his pioneering work in the utilization of ganja for the treatment of glaucoma. The interest in ganja as a treatment for glaucoma began with a mere observation. It was observed that country folk who used homemade eyewash consisting of ganja and fishermen who drank ganja tea, tended to have improved night vision. So with the encouragement of Dr. Albert Lockhart, an ophthalmologist who had learnt through a scientific presentation that persons who used marijuana had lower intraocular pressure than non-users, the pair spent ten years on developing the drug Canasol®. Today, Canasol® is still one of the most commonly used drugs by patients afflicted by glaucoma. Professor West, along with Dr. Lockhart, went on to utilize cannabis in the development of new drugs, Asmasol®- which treats bronchial asthma, coughs and colds and another drug Canavert®- a drug that stabilizes the part of the brain that controls motion sickness. Professor West’s contribution to the medical and pharmacological field enabled Jamaica to be considered and recognized internationally and his work further facilitated him in becoming the recipient of many awards such as:

  • World Health Organization Fellowship to research Cancer Chemotherapy at the Sloane Kettering Institute in New York.
  • The Canadian International Award for Cardio-vascular Pharmacology which he took up at the Ottawa University in Canada.
  • The Centenary Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Natural Sciences from the Institute of Jamaica in 1981.
  • Gold Musgrave Medal in 1994 from the Institute of Jamaica for his pioneering work in the development of Canasol.
  • The FAO/United Nations/Jamaica World Food Day “Biodiversity Award” for contribution to Ophthalmic Medicine in Jamaica.
  • The Order of Merit from the Jamaican government for his contribution to medicine in 1987.

When Professor West was not engaged in some pioneering work, he could be found exercising his farming capabilities, by growing coconuts and vegetables in Portland.  He married Eugenie, a registered nurse, and fathered eight children- Julie, Jacqueline, Peter, Colette, Paula, Paul, Mark and Dionne. Manley West died April 24, 2012.

References

  • B/N -West, Manley (National Library of Jamaica file)
  • H/N -University of the West Indies-Medical Faculty (National Library of Jamaica file)
  •  “Research for Development” University of the West Indies, 2009
  • “Remembering a Pioneer, Mentor and Friend”. West Indian Medical Journal.16.2 (2012).
  • Obituaries. The Gleaner. Wednesday May 2, 2012.
  • “Manley West, a pioneer in Bio-chemistry.” The Gleaner. Monday March 1, 1999.