By Barbara Ellington, Contributor
FOUNDER OF the Mandeville Menopause Centre, Dr. Verna Brooks-McKenzie, is now one of three Jamaican medical practitioners who are certified by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and has advanced competency in the field.
With an increasingly ageing population and recognising the growing demand for more information about menopause, Dr. Brooks-McKenzie set about getting herself armed with the knowledge and credentials to continue to offer help to women who need it most.
She sat the NAMS Menopause Practitioner Competency Examination in September and last month received word that she had passed with a grade in the top percentile of the results.
In an interview with Outlook, she said that by 2050, there will be over two billion people worldwide over age 65. "We will need a specialty that takes a multi-disciplinary approach to ageing," Dr. Brooks-McKenzie said.
Eligible to sit
However, prior to the September sitting, only persons from the United States and Canada were eligible to sit the examination. "I found that practice discriminatory and decided to write to the international body and make a strong case for doctors from Jamaica and the Caribbean to sit this important exam." Dr. Brooks-McKenzie is also president of the Caribbean Menopause Society.
"The NAMS organisation finally listened and requested that doctors from the region present proof that they are licensed medical practitioners to qualify to sit the examination. It was two hours long and had 100 questions," Dr. McKenzie said.
The NAMS Menopause Practitioner Competency Examination is now offered worldwide and the next sitting will be in Cape Town, South Africa, in May 2004. It will also be held in 12 other locations throughout U.S.A. and Canada and special arrangements can be made for persons attending regular medical conferences to sit the exam.
After three years in operation, the historic Mandeville Menopause Centre has received overwhelming demand for knowledge on the subject which Dr. Brooks-McKenzie literally brought "out of the closet". For years, menopause was mentioned in hushed whispers and the only signs of its presence would be middle-aged women fanning themselves while others were shivering with cold. She is happy to see the turn-about in attitudes and spends many hours addressing the topic at service clubs, community groups and church meetings.
At the time of writing this article, groundbreaking research had just released findings that in the near future, it will be able to diagnose in embryo, females who will in later years be predisposed to osteoporosis one of the diseases that affect menopausal women.
In direct response to the growing need for menopause treatment and information, Dr, Brooks-McKenzie now operates out of the Gynae Centre on Balmoral Avenue in Kingston on Wednesdays. She offers bone density testing, gynaecological services and menopause management.
"I will continue to provide a place where women can come to manage the symptoms of menopause and all the risk factors they face as they age. I will also continue to apply the knowledge I'm gaining to the Jamaican people who are thirsty for all the information they can get on the subject," she said.
Dr. Brooks-McKenzie is grateful to those without whom access to knowledge would have been limited. These include her mother, who always encouraged her to aim for the stars, Hermine Metcalfe Area Sales Manager, North Caribbean, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Teddy Price Senior Professional Representative for Merck Caribbean. Both represent companies that produce drugs related to the treatment of menopause and have facilitated her participation in many conferences on the subject.