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Maple Ridge FASD fighter gets a medal for battle

Maple Ridge Dr. Kwadwo Asante was awarded Diamond Jubilee medal at The Asante Centre, Monday. - Phil Melnychuk/The News
Maple Ridge Dr. Kwadwo Asante was awarded Diamond Jubilee medal at The Asante Centre, Monday.
— image credit: Phil Melnychuk/The News

The recognition for the Maple Ridge doctor who helped pioneer the diagnosis and treatment of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder was a bit late.

Dr. Kwadwo Asante was on holiday when the first round of Diamond Jubilee Medals were given out by MP Randy Kamp a few weeks ago, so Monday was catch-up day at The Asante Centre in downtown Maple Ridge.

“Thank you for bringing your expertise in FASD to us in 2000,” Edward Higham, treasurer with the FASD Society of B.C., told a small gathering of staff and families gathered for the occasion.

Higham thanked Asante for joining the centre when it was founded and lending his name to the Maple Ridge agency which diagnoses children who were born with fetal alcohol conditions and which offers support, education and training.

Highham said since the centre was opened, Asante helped make 450 diagnoses of fetal alcohol disorder and helped set the standards for identifying the condition even while maintaining his own practice.

“Thank you for your dedication to the work, and I know that many individuals will be helped, by the people you have influenced.”

Asante also trained multi-disciplinary teams outside Maple Ridge and shared his knowledge in New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa. Asante, who’s now a medical director with the centre, said the idea that drinking alcohol while pregnant can have severe effects on the baby is getting wider acceptance.

“Gradually, we think the message is getting through. People are not drinking as much as they used to.”

But women are still ingesting hard drugs while pregnant.

“So we still have some work to do with pregnancy and pregnant women.”

Caring for and treating people with fetal alcohol syndrome, which can have a multitude of effects, from learning disabilities to lack of impulse control, is expensive for the health-care system.

People with FASD don’t finish school and end up in prison, he added.

“This a lot of Canadian manpower which is unfulfilled.”

Asante added later that six children of the women listed by the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry were treated at the centre.

He said that to show the centre deals with real life and people and isn’t just for research.

Asante started his work after completing his degree at UBC and made what was supposed to be a short trip to northern B.C. He never left, and spent two decades serving in Kitimat and Terrace, with regular trips to the Yukon. He was one of the first pediatricians to study and publish on the condition, says the Asante website.

The Jubilee Medals celebrate the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada.

The Governor General of Canada administered the program and allotted 60,000 of the medals across the country.

Kamp earlier gave out 17 Diamond Jubilee Medals to people who’ve served in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Asante also was recently awarded the Meritorious Service Medal of Canada by the Governor General in recognition of more than 30 years helping people impacted by FASD.

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