Heroes all - A proud nation says thanks
When Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer was invested with one of the country's highest national honours yesterday, the Order of Jamaica (OJ), it could be considered the icing that topped the prestigious awards she has received for outstanding work in the health sector and welfare.
It came on the heels of one she received in May of this year when she was awarded Fellow status from the Gerontological Society of America, the world's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organisation devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of ageing.
This woman, who has dedicated her life to persons in their senior years, told The Gleaner, "I am truly humbled. You do your work and you do what you love without expectations. I am a bit overwhelmed. What I have been doing over the years has impacted and I think it's critical to ensure that another part of our population, the older people, who, because of the increase in the population, have increasing needs in terms of health care, social care and family care."
She said, "I accept this honour on behalf of my team. We set the tone to let 300,000 people know that someone cares."
ORDER OF JAMAICA
Eldemire-Shearer is one of four of the nation's most distinguished individuals in their specific fields of endeavour who were awarded the OJ at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony yesterday, held on the grounds of King's House.
The National Honours and Awards Ceremony is held annually to recognise individuals who have contributed significantly to national life.
The OJ was also conferred upon Dr Kenneth Baugh for his distinguished service to Parliament, for public service, and for his contribution to medicine. This one-time minister of health underwent brain surgery last year, but that could not stop him from gracing the stage, albeit in a wheelchair, to receive his award.
Baugh, a medical doctor and soft-spoken politician, has, over the years, commanded respect from colleagues on both sides of the divide in the nation's Parliament.
Another medical doctor, Professor Renn Holness, was awarded for his contribution to the field of medicine, in particular, neurosurgery. Ambassador Anthony Smith Rowe Johnson received the OJ for his contribution to foreign services.
Close to 200 persons were honoured in different categories. They include Allan Roy 'Mutabaruka' Hope, journalist Cliff Hughes, and Justice Carol Lawrence, who were among those awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander.
The family of late Gleaner journalists Gary Spaulding and Glenroy Sinclair collected their awards, with both men being given the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer for their excellence in journalism.
Loud cheers rang out at King's House as dancehall superstar Rexton 'Shabba Ranks' Gordon strode confidently to the stage to be bestowed with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer for his invaluable contribution to the Jamaican music industry, locally and internationally.
Antini Henderson and Orlando Brown received the Badge of Honour for Gallantry. Henderson saved her younger siblings from a raging fire that had consumed their home earlier this year, while Brown rescued a boy in 2015 who was being washed away by floodwaters inside the Sandy Gully.
Woman Constable Crystal Thomas was one of the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who was posthumously recognised for gallantry after she was killed in an attempt to stop a robbery on a coaster bus in the vicinity of Maxfield Avenue and Greenwich Town in July last year.
Dr Daniel Graham's more than 30 years' experience in the field of medicine and, in particular, his ability to diagnose and accurately confirm the presence of epilepsy and several other diseases of the brain, had bestowed upon him the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer.
Graham is a neurologist who has special interest in neurophysiology and epilepsy. He studied medicine at the University of the West Indies before moving on to Columbia University in New York in the United States to be trained as a neurologist.
Humbled is how he best described his feelings after receiving his award.
"I am humbled by this. I am just honoured to be here this morning to celebrate this [award] that the whole nation has bestowed. I give thanks and will continue to contribute to nation building. I am always grateful for any honour bestowed. I will continue to serve this nation in the capacity as neurologist," Graham told The Gleaner.
Musical selections were rendered by Ardenne High School, Jemarie Richards, and Audia Spence.