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Dr. Asante Indira LeBlanc knew from age five what she wanted to be- a physician. She was born on February 8, 1976 to Mrs. Roxanne Burnham Van West-Charles and Dr. Richard Van West-Charles. The name Asante, which means “thanks” in Swahili, was given to her by a Tanzanian lady who was part of her parents’ study group in Cuba.
Her middle name, Indira, pays homage to India’s first female Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Mrs. Gandhi was a close friend of Asante’s grandfather, Prime Minister and President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. Her father, Dr. Van West-Charles, said giving the name to his first born, who is a twin, is also borne out of respect for the forthrightness of Mrs. Gandhi’s leadership.
Medicine seemed like a natural pathway for Asante who was a science student and in the first batch of students who attended President’s College. Her paternal grandmother, Agnes Van West, was a nurse; her maternal grandmother, Sheila Lataste-Burnham, an optician; aunts, Francesca Onu and Annabelle Pollard, and her father are physicians.
Asante, who resides in Trinidad, is a mother of five- two girls and three boys. She is married to Errol LeBlanc whom he credits as a driving force behind her success and stability. To her, “[h]e’s a good friend, my advisor, and my business partner.”
She is into private practice, providing care in both allopathic and naturopathic medicines. The former is referred to as science-based or modern medicine, and the latter is a form of alternative medicine that relies on natural remedies to heal the body. Her goal is to help patients with chronic ailments return to a happy, healthy lifestyle combining the Eastern and Western branches of medicine, at the same time empowering them to take charge of their health and to achieve that balance of body, mind and soul health, which have been met with success. She is also Chair of the Cancer Society in Trinidad.
A cursory examination of her social media postings reveals the portrait of a physician using her private platform to provide public education on the deadly pandemic. In one such postings she implored people to recognise and appreciate: “COVID is not a secret. If you tested positive or have been around someone that tested positive tell the people you were in contact with.” She went further in stating, “I don’t understand what the secret is. Withholding that information is extremely selfish and irresponsible.”
From childhood Asante was exposed to public service and likely influenced to follow suit, given who were her grandparents and who are her parents. In an interview with another media outlet she said as a child she “would play under the table where [Burnham] held his cabinet meetings.” She also made known that he had a special relationship with her grandfather. To her, though he was a politician, he was her grandfather whom he loved dearly.
On February 20, 2018, when he graduated from the Scotiabank Vision Achiever programme, she posted this to her Facebook: “Today marks the 95th birth anniversary of me dear late, grandfather Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham fondly known as Odo … and today I also graduate from the Scotiabank Vision Achiever programme so today we find out results …. stay tuned and happy birthday grandad…. this is because of you !!!! And many others but today is for you !! You made a huge impact on my life …. even in death you contributed to who I am today.”
The Scotiabank Vision Achiever, which is a 17-week, seven module programme “is designed to impart core competencies required for running a profitable business, that will include training in sales, systemising business processes, marketing and understanding business financials; but more importantly, building each participant’s capacity as a leader.”
Apart from the accolades of being a successful professional, mother and wife, Asante has the ability to make light of issues. She demonstrated that in an interview as she jocularly recounted the story of her parents forgetting to christen her. As per her recall, she was eight months old and nicely dressed in a “crisped christening dress” which was gifted to her by Cuba President, Fidel Castro, who was a close friend of her grandfather.
And though she lives in Trinidad and serves Trinidad society, Asante maintains deep connection with her homeland.