AS I mentioned in this column a few weeks ago, we are now on the holy ground of Jamaica's Golden Jubilee. It is a joyful time as those of us who have kept the faith in our beloved Jamaica have seen great strides. The disappointing manoeuvrings of cynical folk in many spheres of national life are the "temptation" against which Christ taught us to pray - because their actions can take us into the valley of despair.
I prefer to think of recent revelations and pronouncements as diagnoses of the cause of our ills and opportunities for Jubilee cleansing. Our courageous security forces must be grateful for the support of the justice-oriented United States, in fighting this level of crime which has brought shame to our country. Through the years, many have suffered from political interference as they try to uphold the laws of Jamaica.
Grabham Jamaica 50 celebration
A recent Jamaica 50 awards ceremony by the Grabham Society, the Jamaican Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, reminded us that we still have much to celebrate. Their hard-working president, distinguished Georgian, Dr Milton Hardie, explained that the society is named for Dr Michael Grabham, an English surgeon who contributed significantly in service and grants to the Victoria Jubilee Hospital at the turn of the previous century.
We commended the dedication of retired leaders in nursing: Matron Sonia Henry of Andrews Memorial Hospital; Matron Emma Hutchinson of the Victoria Jubilee Hospital; and Sister Brenda Scarlett Miller of the University Hospital of the West Indies.Replying on behalf of the nurses, Brenda Scarlett Miller remembered how her parents insisted that she pursued her dream. She recounted how she left nursing school after a run-in with a superior; only for her father, the late Custos of St Catherine Basil Robinson, to drive her back to UHWI that very same night. He sailed her suitcase over the banister of the residence, insisting that she stayed the course.
Four key institutions were honoured. The National Family Planning Board led by the brilliant, elegant Dr Olivia "Peaches" McDonald, can boast of their impressive achievement in seeing Jamaica's fertility rate plunge from 6.3 births per woman in 1962 to 2.4 by 2009. Her presentation, "The impact of Family Planning on Jamaica's Population in the first 50 years of Independence" at the Grabham Symposium earlier that day gave us some interesting statistics.
Dr McDonald said that her organisation had seen a reduction in sexual experience in the 15-19 age group - females down from 59 per cent in 1993 to 44 per cent in 2008; males down from 75 per cent in 1993 to 62 per cent in 2008. She and her colleagues were working to save the lives of mothers and children by preventing "the four 'too's" in childbearing: "too young, too old, too many, too frequent."
The perennial Victoria Jubilee Hospital led by Dr Rudolph Stevens and powered by excellent doctors and nurses, was recognised. Also, The Hugh Wynter Fertility Management Unit at UWI named for its founder, the legendary Professor Hugh Wynter. Now led by Dr Joseph Frederick and Mrs Pansy Hamilton, the unit's work in in-vitro fertilisation is documented and admired worldwide. The Jamaica Cancer Society, led by chair Earl Jarrett and executive director Yulit Gordon, was praised for its education and screening programmes which have led to a significant reduction of cervical cancer.
We celebrated members of the medical community, Jamaica's "O & G Olympians". Dr Joseph St Elmo Hall and Professor Hugh Wynter played a pivotal role in establishing specialised training for obstetrics and gynaecology in Jamaica. Professor Hugh Wynter is renowned for his trademark eagle-eyed attention and strong diagnostic skills.
Professor Horace Fletcher had an "Aha" moment when he discovered that the drug used for peptic ulcers misoprostol was an effective, non-invasive way to induce labour. His publication on the subject was a close international second and Jamaica started using this method since 1995, a full nine years before it was introduced in the US.
Professor Joseph Frederick discovered that the drug petrissin, used to cause blood vessels to constrict, could control blood-loss in myomectomies, thus allowing precious extra time for this surgical procedure to remove fibroids safely. It was Dr Frederick who led the team to develop Jamaica's first "test-tube baby" in 2001, followed by more than 200 to date. Jamaica's work in this area is said to be on par with that of the developed world. Dr Wendell Guthrie developed the use of non-invasive surgery, thus saving his patients much discomfort, time and resources. His patients describe him as a gentle genius.
We cannot lose hope with professionals of this calibre, healing our sick and flying Jamaica's flag high in worldwide medical conferences and journals.
Congratulations, WLI Honorees
The Women's Leadership Initiative last Wednesday honoured four exceptional Jamaican women and three institutions founded by women. We applaud the dynamic Pat Ramsay, founding president of WLI; the inspiring Dr Deanna Ashley, executive director of the Violence Prevention Alliance; researcher and activist for early childhood development, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, chair of the Early Childhood Commission; and the indefatigable Dr Elizabeth Ward, chair of the Violence Prevention Alliance. The institutions honoured were The Women's Centre Foundation Jamaica, brainchild of Pamela McNeil; Rise Life Management, founded by Sonita Abrahams and Jan Lopez; and Children First founded by Claudette Pious.
Education Minister Rev Ronnie Thwaites congratulated the women for seeing power "no longer as an instrument of self-aggrandisement but as a means to uplift others". He said the ministry faced tough challenges towards the achievement of the 2015 goals of 85 per cent numeracy and 100 per cent literacy. He noted that many of the endeavours in education were actually remedial because of the weakness of the family structure, and called for greater focus on family life to help our children become more fulfilled. Come on Jamaica - we can do that!
We are at fever pitch, as we look forward to Jamaica's Olympic campaign in London. There are several red-letter days for Jamaica, so check the schedules in the press and plan to get together for these exciting viewings!