The importance of health care workers across the Caribbean region has become even more evident in the wake of COVID-19. From those working on the frontlines of the pandemic to those in the ministry strategizing solutions, their immense impact on the region is clear and well noted.
While the health sector in most Caribbean islands has been male-dominated, women in the industry are continually breaking glass ceilings and changings the gender dynamics that have existed.
In honour of International Women’s Day, Loop Caribbean is featuring women who are leading and forging their paths in industries across the region.
Today, we are highlighting women who are leading the charge in the department of health across the region.
Mary Issac has dedicated much of her life to public service in Saint Lucia. She has previously worked in the St. Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA) and in 2015 she became the opposition senator for the United Workers Party (UWP) in the Upper House of the Saint Lucia Parliament. In 2016, Issac was appointed as the Minister of Health and Wellness on the island.
She also sits on the board of the Latin America and the Caribbean Constituency of The Global Fund Board.
Dr Marie Gréta Roy Clement is the current Minister of Public Health and Population in Haiti. She was appointed as the minister in 2017 by Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontan. Minister Clement was previously a medical doctor in Haiti and before being appointed as the Minister of Public Health, she was the president of the Haitian Medical Association between 2013 and 2015.
The Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett is the recently appointed Minister of Health in St Kitts and Nevis. She was appointed right in the middle of the pandemic in June 2020. She is also the Minister of ICT, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Talent Development on the islands. She was appointed as Senator of St Kitts & Nevis’ National Assembly in 2016 and eventually became a Deputy Speaker later that same year.
Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Health & Wellness in Jamaica. The five-time Olympian (track and field) has been a member of Jamaica’s parliament since 2016. In fact, when Cuthbert-Flynn became Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness she became the first Olympian to become a minister in Jamaica. Cuthbert-Flynn is responsible for Maternal Health, HIV Prevention and the reduction of Drug Abuse within the Ministry.
The Bahamas’ current Chief Medical Officer is Dr Pearl McMillan. Dr McMillan’s expertise and knowledge has been an active member on numerous medical boards on the island and most recently became the co-chair of the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 (NCCC).
Dr Bisasor-McKenzie’s experience in the medical field in Jamaica is quite expansive. She has over 25 years of service in this field which includes being the Head of the Accident & Emergency Department at the Spanish Town Hospital, holding the position of the Director in Emergency Medical Services in the Ministry of Health and later, in 2016 she became the Principal Medical Officer and Director in Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services.
Dr Hazel Laws is the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a position she has held since 2016. She completed her medical and public health degrees at the University of West Indies (UWI)-Mona Campus in Jamaica where she continued as a Lecturer and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Community Health Program in the Department of Community Health & Psychiatry, Faculty of Medical Sciences until her return to St Kitts in 2016. While in Jamaica she was also a private medical practitioner and served as Senior Medical Officer at the UWI-Mona Campus Community Health Center, having participated in numerous chronic disease and disease control committees with the Ministry of Health of the Government of Jamaica and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). Dr Laws has several public health publications in peer-reviewed journals and has been awarded numerous academic recognitions for her leadership role in teaching and research. She is currently pursuing a Doctoral degree in Public Health from UWI.