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Prof. Maureen Samms Vaughan receives Order of Jamaica (OJ)

Prof. Maureen Samms Vaughan receives Order of Jamaica (OJ)

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan is known locally, regionally, and internationally for her seminal research, clinical work, and policy development in the field of child health, child development and behaviour.

She is also recognised as an advocate for the well-being of all children, but particularly so for those at the early childhood level, those with disabilities and those who have been victims of violence.  She works very closely with families of children with autism.  

She has served in a number of academic UWI positions since 1993 and was appointed UWI's first Professor of Child Health, Child Development and Behaviour in 2006.  She has been a Consultant Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician at UHWI and Director of the weekly Child and Family Clinic for children with developmental disabilities and behavioural disorders since its inception in 1993.  She has taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels throughout the UWI and has supervised doctoral students at the UWI and at several universities in the USA in child development research.  She has Adjunct Professorial status at universities in the USA.

 Prof. Samms-Vaughan has over 120 publications, including three books, several book chapters and peer-reviewed papers, on a range of child development and behaviour-related topics.  She has also completed numerous consultancies in the field of child development and behaviour for the IDB, the World Bank, UNICEF, PAHO and the governments of the Caribbean.  She is currently a member of the IDB's Advisory Group on Early Childhood Development.  She has received numerous research grants for child development research from UNICEF, the IDB, the World Bank, the National Institutes of Health and the Canada Fund. Her most recent research, the JA KIDS study, a national birth cohort study of 9,700 Jamaican children and families which commenced in 2011, has identified factors that promote and prevent optimum development for Jamaica’s young children.  Prior research on fatherhood in Jamaica has been featured on a National Geographic television programme on testosterone and fatherhood.  

 Administratively, she was appointed Head of the Department of Child Health in 2001, a position which was relinquished when seconded to the Government of Jamaica to guide the development of its new agency, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).    She has been a member of the Government of Jamaica's National Advisory Council on Disability and the National Council on Education. She currently serves as a Director of Family Life Ministries, The Usain Bolt Foundation and a number of school boards and is the Patron of the Jamaica Autism Support Association, a parent support group for children with autism.  She served as Co-Chair of the international organization Know Violence, established to reduce violence against children globally.  She currently chairs the National Commission on Violence Prevention, established by the Prime Minister in 2019, and is a Commissioner of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission, established by the Prime Minister in 2020.

 She was appointed the first Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, a body established by the Government of Jamaica to develop the country’s early childhood sector in 2003 and served in this position until 2016.  Under her leadership, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) developed and implemented Jamaica's first cross-sectoral National Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Development (ECD) 2008-2013; the ECC is now implementing the third follow-on plan 2018-2023.  The plan addresses parenting, well-child care and nutrition, screening and early intervention, regulation of early childhood institutions, training of EC practitioners, coordinated sector-wide planning and budgeting, and monitoring and evaluation of child development.  She has also guided the ECC in the development of Jamaica's National Parenting Policy and has coordinated the early development of Jamaica's ECD Policy.  The structure and function of the ECC and the National Strategic Plan for ECD have been recognised as international models by the World Bank, IDB and UNICEF.  Among the achievements of which she is most proud, are the development of the standards and regulatory system for early childhood centres; the development of Jamaica’s Child Health and Development Passport, a parent-held record provided to all Jamaican children at their birth since September 2010, and which is used for early identification of developmental disability; and the development of the ECC’s Strategy for optimum development of children 0-2 years: the First 1,000 Days Approach and the Jamaica Brain Builder Strategy.   Prof. Samms-Vaughan relinquished her chairmanship of the ECC in April 2016, after almost 13 years of public service in that area.

She has been recognised by her alma maters, Vaz Preparatory School and Excelsior High School as an outstanding past student.  She was the recipient of the Soroptimist's International and Women's Leadership Initiative 50th Anniversary Awards in 2012.  She has been recognised by the UWI as an outstanding researcher on numerous occasions and, in addition, has received the UWI Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Public Service in 2010 and the UWI Principal’s Award for the Translation of Research into Public Policy in 2019.  In 2020, she was appointed the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Global Senior Leader for Jamaica.

 Her work was first recognised by the Government of Jamaica in 2007, with the award of the national honour, Commander of the Order of Distinction, for pioneering work in early childhood development and child health care. In 2022 she was awarded Jamaica’s fourth highest national honour, the Order of Jamaica.  

 Prof. Samms-Vaughan, and her husband Kenneth, an orthopaedic surgeon, worship at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church.  They have 3 young adult children, Stephanie, an attorney; Nicholas, an environmental scientist; and Kristina, a development economist with the World Bank.

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