Speech Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Hon. Sarah Wescot-Williams on the Ground Breaking

The Ground Breaking of the new phase of construction at the AUC Medical School


The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine was founded in 1978, upon a belief in the need for visionary, skilled, compassionate doctors. The AUC was originally chartered by the Government of Montserrat in the British West Indies; however, In 1995 Montserrat’s Soufrière Hills Volcano caused the school to be relocated to St. Maarten. In 1998, the School of Medicine completed a new multi-million-dollar teaching and learning facility and in 2002, AUC’s modern one and two-bedroom student dormitory was constructed.

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The AUC Medical School in Collaboration with the University of St. Maarten provides the opportunity for locals to become future physicians through the provision of scholarships worth up to $ 30.000. The AUC also collaborates very closely with the St. Maarten Medical Center in providing health care to the people of St. Maarten and logistical support through various programs.

Phase 1of the construction which will cost 32 million dollars, will provide the infrastructure and capacity for an enrollment of up to 1000 students who spend on average USD $2.200 monthly on St. Maarten.

Construction is slated to be completed by the September 2013 semester




Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Little did I imagine when introduced to Dr. Hamburger and others from DeVry in August of last year, that we would be breaking ground a short 9 months later for the expansion of the facility known to us as the American University of the Caribbean (AUC).

The history and relationship of this University with St. Maarten goes back to 1997, a time that AUC’s principals and the government of St. Maarten remember all to well.

Forced to relocate to St. Maarten from Montserrat in 1997 due to the volcanic eruptions on that island, the relocation was first thought of as a temporary measure.

However, AUC quickly recognized that St. Maarten was a prime location for a medical university, due to many factors such as accessibility, multi-cultural diversity and the cosmopolitan nature of our island nation.

Faced with this reality however, our island still being an island territory of the Netherlands Antilles, the matter of accreditation of the institution quickly surfaced.

Not only was this a necessary facet of the University’s presence on St. Maarten, but it was also a critical matter for the university’s standing with the U.S Department of Education’s Commission for Medical Education and Accreditation.

The accrediting agency for AUC, the ACCM, was appointed by the island territory of St. Maarten in 1997 as the accrediting agency for AUC on St. Maarten.

Periodic reviews have been consistently executed by the ACCM according to LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education) standards.

AUC continued its growth on St. Maarten with the construction of this medical facility in Cupe Coy with its goal of a student population of approximately 600 students. This goal has been met and surpassed.

While the government was absorbed in the transition from island territory to country, AUC was also considering its options and entered into negotiations with partners interested in the school and in St. Maarten.

The end result of these negotiations was a draft acquisition agreement with DeVry Unioversity, and talks started in January of 2011 regarding government’s support for the transition to DeVry.

Today, Devry proudly lists the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine as one of its facilities, along with numerous others in the United States of America and beyond, and including those in the Caribbean region such as the Ross University Schools of Medicine.

During its due diligence exercises, DeVry quickly discovered the potential St. Maarten offered for the growth of this institution, and during my initial talks with President Hamburger, Mr. Bill Hughson, Dr. Jeon and several others, I recognized the opportunities for St. Maarten with the acquisition of this University by DeVry.

I think DeVry is good for AUC and DeVry can be a good partner for St. Maarten.

The confidence DeVry exhibited from the onset in our country and its government is appreciated.

To -within such short time- convince the management and board of the need for this expansion, for which we break ground today, is very remarkable and a testimony to DeVry’s commitment to global education and to St. Maarten.

After receiving an outline of the plans of DeVry, the government of St. Maarten wasted no time in bringing together the ministries that needed to evaluate DeVry’s plans and advise government on its part in making this venture a reality.

In June 2008, AUC had applied for E-zone status according to the Antillean Federal Ordinance Economic Zones of 2000.

An investment of $ 32 million dollars at this time is most welcome for St. Maarten and our people, an investment that has an economic spinoff much beyond the construction time of approximately 14 months.

I think of increased students, faculty and staff spending with student enrollments up to 1000individuals. I think of family visits of students, faculty and staff, collaboration with our hospital and medical professionals, and collaboration with USM.

DeVry and its St. Maarten family of students, faculty and staff can be ambassadors for St. Maarten abroad and especially in medical and educational circles. Students of AUC have consistently enjoyed good passing and placement rates.

These considerations are principal to government’s commitment that AUC tuitions will not be taxed with TOT.

In addition, government will continue to pursue e-zone legislation and guidelines for St. Maarten.

As it regards this project in particular, government’s pronounced conditions have been stated, additionally to DeVry’s own commitments, to be as follows:

A substantive amount of the investment must be in wages; use of local labor, contractors and material for construction must be maximized; community Support by means of scholarships, community programs, and employment of qualifying nationals; expanded scholarship programs in collaboration with DeVry University and Keller Graduate School of Management; access to AUC’s healthcare infrastructure;

And I am convinced with DeVry’s network and the commitment of those involved in this project, there are even more avenues to explore in this young relationship with St. Maarten.

I also know that because of DeVry’s demonstrated commitment to St. Maarten, there are already talks for further collaboration in making St. Maarten an educational hub and a center for knowledge.

I congratulate all who worked tirelessly to make this groundbreaking possible, the ministries of finance, economic affairs and VROMI, as well as my own cabinet.

I would also like to congratulate Bill Hughson and his staff.

I congratulate the graduates of today’s commencement and their families, the faculty and staff of AUC.

I look forward to a smooth construction period and the dedication of the 2 buildings next year, and subsequently the start of phase 2 of this project.

Congratulations, again!