THE popular adage, 'bloom where you are planted', is precisely what 34-year-old Dr Sherika Equiano-Flowers and her husband Dr Stefan Flowers, 33, depicted when they were selected recipients of the prestigious Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship.
The Flowers made history as the first husband and wife duo to be among the cohort of awardees for the Government-funded scholarship.
The couple, who have been together for over seven years, will be pursuing a Master of Public Health Management for 18 months at The University of the West Indies ( The UWI) for the academic year 2023.
Stefan is currently employed at the Ministry of National Security/Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as a medical officer while Sherika is an employee at the Ministry of Health and Wellness/Southeast Regional Health Authority as an emergency physician at Spanish Town Hospital.
The couple's decision to apply for the scholarship stemmed from their passion for improving the health-care system in Jamaica in their respective areas.
When Sherika first learnt that she was a recipient of the scholarship, in her excitement, the first person that came to mind to share the good news with was Stefan, who in turn told her he too was a recipient.
"I was excited to be sharing this journey with him, [that is], to go through this graduate studies," she grinned.
"We were both kinda watching, so when I'd get an e-mail or a message from Marcus Garvey [the selection committee] we'd both call each other to ask, 'did you get this e-mail?' and so far, we were both on track with receiving the same e-mail from Marcus Garvey".
After a full-blown panic and realising he was a recipient, Stefan regained composure after hearing the good news from his wife that she was also an awardee.
"I learnt about the scholarship through my lovely wife. So when I found out I was a recipient, my heart was beating extremely fast, and my palms became very sweaty. I was in a full-blown panic, but I calmed down eventually and I was ecstatic," he said while trying to contain his excitement.
Best buds forever
This new academic journey together will not be the first rodeo for Stefan and Sherika.
The two met while in medical school at The UWI and both completed their internships at Spanish Town Hospital. The couple shared that it was during that period their love interests developed.
"I don't think any of us at the time could foresee us growing into something more, but we have always been in the same circle through medical school, studying together, practising together…we've always been relatively close, sharing the same space and friends," Sherika explained while laughing at the fact that she was at one point naïve to Stefan's romantic interest.
Stefan too explained that during his work interactions with Sherika, he found her to be extremely hard-working, affectionate and warm, which attracted him to her.
They both later graduated with honours from medical school and subsequently began their life journey together.
The Kingston natives both had their share of accomplishments over the years. Stefan shared that he was awarded The UWI Open Scholarship when he was a student at Wolmer's Boys'. He also served as a prefect and was involved in sporting activities like lawn tennis.
In the meantime, in her high school years, Sherika also sat on several disciplinary committees and was a part of the student government at Holy Childhood. She completed her emergency medicine programme in 2021 with the top score across the Caribbean.
They shared that their parents are both proud of their accomplishments. Stefan highlighted that his father was beaming when learnt he was a recipient of the Marcus Garvey Public Sector Graduate Scholarship.
"My parents are very, very proud, especially my dad. Since I was in prep school my mom has always been pushing me to get the government scholarship. My dad is very supportive, he was smiling from ear to ear," explained Stefan.
Sherika, who describes herself as an ambitious leader with a strong goal-oriented mindset, said she ultimately wants to help to revolutionise emergency medical services in Jamaica by creating accessible, efficient and high-quality care for Jamaicans and other stakeholders.
The Flowers, who are parents to a bouncing five-month-old baby girl, shared that their ambitions and passion for self-development keep them motivated.
Sherika shared that even though she was a late bloomer in her academic pursuits, she later progressed after tapping into her capabilities.
"My biggest motivation is being successful. So, if I said I'm going to become a doctor, I usually work very hard to make it happen…I also love learning new things and new tasks that always excite me."
On the other hand, Stefan said his motivation also stems from his wife and daughter and his desire to achieve more.
"I also have a deep desire to make an impact on the country and add value. There must be a purpose for why I was brought to the planet, and I feel like part of that purpose and part of my meaning to life is to use my gifts and talents to add value back to society," he explained.
He is encouraging young Jamaicans who want to make a change in society to first do some introspection and avoid setting themselves in a box with limits.
"Learn to dream big, learn to set goals and aspirations and have tremendous belief that you will achieve them. You must also act and take that first step towards them and with serial action over time and with belief, success oftentimes comes inevitably," he shared.
For her part, Sherika charged the youth to develop an unwavering foundation of self-confidence.
"Growing up I suffered from doubting myself but the moment I became confident in myself and made plans I was able to achieve. You must be confident for other people to have confidence in you," she highlighted.
Upon completion of her studies, Sherika plans to continue her work with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to create policies and protocols that will enhance and build a better and more robust emergency medical service throughout the island.
Stefan, on the other hand, plans on collaborating with the JCF to tackle high levels of crime and violence, which is the one thing he would change about Jamaica.