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TONY BEST: Medical women hailed as lifesavers


TONY BEST: Medical women hailed as lifesavers

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To patients, Dr Velma Scantlebury is much more than a top-notch medical specialist who is on top of the world of organ transplantation.

That’s also true of Dr  Millicent Comrie, director and founder of the Centre for Women’s Health at Maimonides Medical Centre in Brooklyn.

Both doctors are literally described as lifesavers.

Scantlebury is a Bajan who is associate director of the Division of Transplantation at Christiana Care Transplant Centre in Delaware, and Comrie is a specialist in New York City.

They are  two of America’s most highly rated physicians whose skill in the surgery, knowledge of the human body and bedside manner  have made them legends, according to medical experts.

 Scantlebury is a down-to-earth professional,  routinely hailed by national, state and local organisations for her pioneering work in organ transplantation. She was the first black women in any part of the world to have performed a transplant. Comrie is an obstetrician and gynaecologist who was born in Jamaica. Both women  were honoured recently in Manhattan by the Society of Foreign Consuls, a 91-year-old international organisation that represents the world’s largest consular corps in New York. Lauded for contributions

A dozen highly certified women – medical specialists, research scientists, fashion designers, business executives, volunteers, and academicians from the US, Europe and Africa were recognised at an International Women’s Day celebration for their contributions to humanity.

Personal inspiration

When time came to turn the spotlight on  Scantlebury, Barbados’ Consul-General in New York, Dr  Donna Hunte-Cox, said she was “a personal inspiration to me in my academic life, as we both attended the same high school, the Alleyne Secondary School”.

“Dr Scantlebury is truly a trailblazer for women. Her tandem mission is increasing the number of African-American transplant surgeons,” added Hunte-Cox.

The surgeon specialist, a graduate of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, was also trained in multi-organ transplantation surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre where she rose up the ranks to become an associate professor in transplantation.

In 2002, she moved to the University of South Alabama Medical Centre as the director of its Transplant Centre and remained until she moved to Delaware in 2008.

She has performed more than 1 000 surgeries and has been honoured by a range of national organisations, including the National Kidney Foundation, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the American Foundation of the University of the West Indies in New York.

“God has blessed me with the gifts that allow me to do such incredible things” that give people a new lease on life, she told the large gathering at the Bohemian National Hall.

Scantlebury also praised her mother “who had the tenacity to leave her country and her family in Barbados to come to this country to provide a better opportunity for me and my siblings”.

“She was a phenomenal woman, whose determination was passed on to me. When others told me in high school (in Brooklyn) to get a job and consider night school, my mum said “absolutely not”.

“Despite the negativity that surrounded me at different phases in my career, it was my determination that got me to where I am today,” added the woman who is one of America’s foremost transplant surgeons.

Tony Best is the NATION’s North American correspondent. Email: [email protected]