The Mary Seacole tradition continues


An Editorial for Jamaica’s Observer.

JAMAICAN female medical practitioners are world- famous as healers and caregivers. Mrs Mary Seacole (1805-1881) was among the earliest recorded Jamaican women healers. Starting as an assistant to her mother at Up Park Camp, she learnt the art of healing and went on to Panama and the Crimea where her work was hailed by the British army and Government.

Countless Jamaican nurses and doctors have healed scores of people all over the world, establishing a great tradition that continues today in almost every country in the world. We salute these gallant women and their magnificent work, as they have contributed to the science of medicine as well as the delivery of health care.

Dr Cecely Williams (1893-1992), a Jamaican physician, was among the first female graduates of Oxford University and was world-famous for her discovery and research on kwashiorkor, a condition of severe malnutrition. In 1948, she became the first director of Mother and Child Health (MCH) at the World Health Organisation.

The tradition of Mary Seacole continues with Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE, one of the leading gastroenterologists in the USA. She has been a faculty member at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC since 1997 and in 2004 she founded the Digestive Centre for Women, an integrative gastroenterology practice.

She is the daughter of Dr Chutkan, medical practitioner for many years in Jamaica, and Noelle (Hill) Chutkan, a lawyer known to Jamaicans for her years of dancing with the National Dance Theatre Company.

She has just published the highly acclaimed book, entitled Gutbliss: A Physician Examines the Real Reasons Why Gastrointestinal Problems Afflict Women. The book focuses on the reasons for gastrointestinal distress, and why it’s much more common in women. Although the book is aimed specifically at women, men will benefit from her dietary advice, as well

Mrs Mary Seacole wrote an inspirational autobiography, entitled Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands, which documents her exploits that foreshadow some of our doctors and nurses all over the world. Her words seem a fitting tribute to our female doctors and nurses who give unstinting service.

“All my life long I have followed the impulse which led me to be up and doing and far from resting idle anywhere,” she wrote. “I never thought too exclusively of money, believing rather that we are born to be happy and that the surest way to be wretched is to prize it overmuch.”

We pay tribute to all Jamaican female doctors, nurses and medical practitioners for their service to mankind, here in Jamaica and across the world. We recognise their service often rendered in difficult circumstances and place on record our gratitude, secure in the knowledge that the tradition of Mary Seacole continues.

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