What institutions did she attend?

  • St. Gabriel’s Girls RC School, Trinidad
  • St.  Joseph‘s Convent, San Fernando, Trinidad
  • University of London, Queen Mary College, England – BSc in Biochemistry and Microbiology
  • The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica– MSc in Medical Microbiology
  • University of London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, England– PhD in Virology

Other Achievements

  • Contributor to WHO publications
  • Recipient of an award from the Caribbean Association of Medical Technologists, 1995
  • Recipient of a Fogarty International Post-Doctoral Fellowship
  • Recipient of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Scholarship awarded by the British Government for PhD studies


She enjoyed studying science at school because her teachers made their subjects come alive.

Esther De Gourville (Date of Birth: 25th June 1959)

Caribbean Women in STI

Dr Esther De Gourville is a virologist who has made a significant contribution to public health both regionally and internationally. She is recognised for her work in establishing microbiology laboratories and HIV-testing services in blood banks throughout the Caribbean, as well as for her involvement in the polio eradication initiatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), through which millions of children have been spared the crippling effects of this disease.

Dr De Gourville worked as a scientist with the Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative managed by WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Egypt. She later moved to the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, where she has served for more than a decade as the coordinator of a global network of 145 laboratories. Her responsibilities include developing policies, accrediting laboratories, training personnel, establishing computerised data management systems, analysing and disseminating laboratory data. Her work has strengthened public health laboratory services in support of polio eradication in nearly 100 countries. WHO’s humanitarian effort to eradicate polio, in which she has played a major role, has led to three regions of the world, the Americas included, being declared polio free.

Regionally, while at the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) in Trinidad, Dr De Gourville was instrumental in drafting the laboratory regulations for national policies on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) for CAREC member countries. She also conducted country visits, provided technical assistance, and trained laboratory workers. She led a research project on heterosexual transmission of HIV in Trinidad and Tobago, working with medical personnel at the local STD clinics. She also supervised staff involved in laboratory diagnosis of viruses spread by insects.

Esther Mary De Gourville was born in Marabella, Trinidad on 25th June, 1959 and spent part of her childhood in Pleasantville and Vistabella. Her ambition to attend university was strongly supported by her mother, teachers and peers. At university, she realised that medical microbiology would be her career path. This is a decision that she never regretted since it gave her the ability to help control diseases that bring suffering to humanity. Naturally, she encourages students to also consider similar careers.


What is a virologist?

A virologist is a specialist in the field of microbiology who studies viruses and virus-like agents that cause diseases and infections. They study the structure, classification and evolution of viruses, how they are spread, the diseases they cause, and the methods to detect and control them.

Virologists help to create vaccines and medicines that cure viral diseases or provide immunity to them. Virologists work in areas such as human or veterinary medicine, public health, agriculture, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Areas of Specialisation

  • Infectious diseases
  • HIV
  • Viral vectors
  • Immunology
  • Animal viruses
  • Plant viruses
  • Retroviruses

What do I need to study?

At CSEC and CAPE: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics

A first degree in microbiology is essential. Individuals interested in a career in research should pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in microbiology.

What skills and traits do I need?

  • Passion for science
  • Excellent analytical, interpretive and communication skills
  • Ability to work with a team
  • Good data management skills
  • Accuracy and attention to detail

Famous Virologists

  • Robert Koch
  • Albert Sabin
  • Max Theiler
  • John Franklin Enders