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(PRESS RELEASE) – The Ministry of Health and Wellness recognizes the contribution of Dr. Merlene Fredericks-James to healthcare as the first female Chief Medical Officer of Saint Lucia.
Dr. Fredericks graduated from medical school at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, attaining her MBBS in 1997. She worked as a Senior House Officer at the Accident and Emergency Department of the Victoria Hospital for a number of years and then in the Emergency Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados and later at the St. Jude Hospital. She commenced work as a District Medical Officer in June 2004 and later became the Senior Medical Officer in April 2007. In May 2008, she completed her Masters in Public Health with the University of South Florida.
Dr. Fredericks assumed the responsibilities of Chief Medical Officer in October, 2009. During her tenure as Chief Medical Officer for the last 10 years, Saint Lucia has noted marked improvement in public health care under her stewardship and guidance. She has been instrumental in the development and establishment of the present public health structure within the Ministry of Health which has facilitated the capacity to manage a wider range of programs. One of her greatest passions is professional development and training of officers and as a result, she has encouraged and facilitated the training of physicians, nurses, environmental health officers, health educators, and surveillance officers, to name a few. This has strengthened the Ministry of Health’s capacity to develop the HIV/AIDS, disaster management, chronic non communicable diseases and immunization programs.
Dr. Fredericks influence was noted in the development of the CAMC accredited Medical Internship Program, which ensures a structure is in place to facilitate the medical familiarization and training for the range of medical school graduates.
Through her Chairmanship on the Public Health Board, she has reduced nuisances which affected schools and homes, increased licencing compliance of licensable establishments such as food handling establishments and hotels, ensuring safer health conditions for all.
During the last 10 years, under the stewardship of Dr. Fredericks, the Ministry of Health has successfully managed numerous outbreaks and public health emergencies including the H1N1 influenza pandemic, dengue fever, zika, chikungunya, pertussis, and the threat of Ebola, to name a few. In an effort to improve the maternal and child health outcomes, with the support of PAHO she facilitated the Perinatal Audit and has ensured that the necessary measures have been put in place to address gaps needed to decrease maternal and infant mortality. Further, initiatives have been implemented to reduce the impact of vaccine preventable diseases including campaigns, vaccine surveys, the introduction of new vaccines and the updating of the vaccine schedule.
Chronic non-communicable diseases continue to be a challenge for Saint Lucia, the region and the world at large. Dr. Fredericks has worked to achieve gains to reduce the impact on our people. She led the plans and protocols, surveys such as the Behavioural Risk Factor Survey/ STEPS, HEARTS programme for control of high blood pressure as well as public health legislation amendments to include tobacco smoke free public places. She collaborated with the regional public health agencies such as Pan American Health Organization, Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to ensure improvements in health in Saint Lucia, and has touched the lives of all of the officers that she has worked with, always offering sound professional advice, while maintaining a humble disposition.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness wishes to thank Dr. Fredericks-James for her hard work and tremendous contribution to healthcare in Saint Lucia and wish her the best in her future endeavours.