Dr Verna Brooks-McKenzie - Always improving women's health
Veteran gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Verna Brooks-McKenzie is a trailblazer in the field of women's health. With a number of accolades to celebrate her successes, she also shows unwavering effort in helping others.
Reminiscing on her childhood years in Jones Town, Kingston, Brooks-McKenzie studied under street lights, lamps and candles, but she told Outlook about the joy she feels gaining victories in spite of adversities.
"My mother inculcated in me that I had to get an education to get ahead in life. So, I learnt from an early age to focus and tune out very loud noise and music coming from men who congregated in the street, as well as the police sirens when the police travelled through the neighbourhood," she told Outlook.
A medical scholarship from the Government set her on track to earn her first degree at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Graduating with Honours in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1977, she soon moved on to pursue a postgraduate degree, earning a Doctor of Medicine in the same area. Shortly after, she received her Fellowship into the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
With a 30-year stint in the male-dominated field, Brooks-McKenzie is fuelled by the philosophy "to really live you must nearly die". This follows a close encounter with death a little over three decades ago. Since then, she is considered the Miracle Lady, escaping death with a broken neck, three broken vertebrae, a fractured skull, and significant blood loss.
"This caused me to focus on what is important in my life. After that, I raised three children as a single mom. I think this is my greatest success," she explained.
WORKING FOR OTHERS
Currently based in New York, Dr Brooks-McKenzie now focuses on menopausal treatments and osteoporosis, and offers consultation services to women via the Internet. She calls it cyber practise, where she's able to assist women around the globe using her website, Ask Dr Verna. Brooks-McKenzie has also had the opportunity to impact the lives of others in different areas of the world. In Jamaica, Brooks-McKenzie founded and launched the first Osteoporosis Society as well as the first Menopause Centre in Mandeville. The Chrissie Tomlinson Hospital in the Cayman Islands, for instance, is just one of the many places she has travelled to, simply to aid women who suffer from complications resulting from menopause and osteoporosis.
"I truly believe that your life's journey is planned out for you. The Good Book says the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. Mistakes are learning experiences that allow you to grow. I cannot think of anything that I would have done differently," the doctor explained.
Singing to her praises, Dr Brooks-McKenzie outlines some of the awards she has earned from offering herself to others. The Jamaica Oaks Award for Excellence in Charity, 2001 International Year of the Volunteer, Manchester Cultural Development Committee Honour Award in Gratitude for Pioneering and Continuous Efforts in the Development of the Parish and for Outstanding Performance in the field of Community Service, and the Medical Association of Jamaica Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of Contribution to Contraceptive Technology Update Services are some of her major achievements.
She hopes others will be inspired by her.
As she says, "You are responsible for your own success, so get to know what you want to achieve. Remember to always do your research to find out what is required to accomplish your goal. Dare to be bold because you'll certainly have challenges, but you should not give in to your fears and limitations."