Hermine Metcalfe: A life dedicated to service

All Woman

HER goal is to make a positive difference in the lives of individuals that she serves, and as a result she gladly accepts any opportunity to do so.

Hermine Metcalfe, now retired, told All Woman that in her student years at the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) she was widely involved in co-curricular activities, which fostered her love for service.

This love further blossomed when she entered the pharmacy programme at the then College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), and also immersed herself in a slew of extracurricular activities such as debating and the Carnival Queen Competition. Alongside her excellent academic performance, this earned her a silver spatula for outstanding work.

Subsequently, Metcalfe was awarded a scholarship to Brighton Polytechnic University in England where she did a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy before returning to Jamaica where, at the age of 27, she was assigned as chief pharmacist at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) where she was in charge of KPH, Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children and Hope Institute.

During that time Metcalfe also served as part-time lecturer in pharmaceutics at CAST, and taught in the pharmacy technicians training programme in the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Soon her willingness to serve was again put to the test when she left her post at KPH for a month to assist the MOH in combating the polio epidemic. This earned her a promotion as assistant to the then director of pharmaceutical services, Lester Wollery.

Throughout this period Metcalfe did a number of educational seminars, worked as a proofreader in the MOH, did a number of administrative services, and also prepared and produced the first copy of the vital, essential and necessary (VEN) list now used for the basis of procurement and drug policy.

Based on her excellent performance, Metcalfe was soon invited by Lederle, a pharmaceutical company, to work as a medical representative. She held this position for a number of years, then moved to Roussel, another company, as regional manager for the North Caribbean, before going back to Lederle which underwent changes to Wyeth and now Pfizer.

It was at this point in Metcalfe's life that Hurricane Gilbert devastated the island in 1988. She decided to ask her bosses for two weeks' leave to go to the MOH and offer voluntary service.

“There weren't many volunteers at the time, and these are things I felt positive about, being able to assist and impact the lives of others,” she said.

Metcalfe is also the chairman of the St Patrick's Foundation, a non-profit human and community development organisation established in 1994 by Monsignor Richard Albert to serve the people of the West Kingston inner-city communities of Olympic Gardens, Waterhouse, Seaview Gardens, Riverton and Callaloo Mews.

She says that working with the foundation gives her renewed joy when she sees the positive impact it has on the basic school, skills training centre and St Monica's Home for the Abandoned.

“Can you imagine the youth in the inner-city with little hope, enter our programme, get certified, get a job and some start their own businesses? Also, the people who are abandoned and we provide a home for them — can you imagine their joy? That's what we're about, and we are really hoping to collaborate with the government to get international funding to be able to expand our home for the abandoned and help more, as we currently house 31 people,” she explained.

“It's all about giving back to people. Many have helped me through my life, as all through my school years I got scholarships. I've had so many people who give encouragement and are very supportive around me, and that's what helps to drive me. The late Monsignor Albert was an inspiration, and I cannot allow his legacy to die.”

Metcalfe has also served as the chairman of the Pharmacy Advisory Committee of the University of Technology, chairman of the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica, and is currently a board member of Alpha Academy, the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, Jamaica Mid-life Health, formerly the Jamaica Menopause Society, and part of the church council at Stella Maris Church.

She has also been awarded the Order of Distinction, Alpha Academy Alumnae Association Woman of Excellence Award, the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service for over 40 years of service to the pharmaceutical sector, and is currently a distinguished president of the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston, having served in the year 2013-2014.

Next on Metcalfe's agenda is to do a project to shorten the waiting time of people seeking professional health care.

“I want to organise a system where you don't have to know somebody or beg a favour, and things are organised so you know where to go, because when people are sick they don't need any more aggravation,” she said.

When not at work, Metcalfe spends time with her family and her husband Clovis who she said has been her support and guide over the years.

Metcalfe's message is to have a mentor and a goal to work towards, while being kind and understanding to each other without forgetting to give back.

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