17th Sep 1920- 5th Aug 2008
What institutions did she attend?
- St Margaret’s Primary School, Trinidad
- Bishop Anstey High School, Trinidad
- Her 62 years of service made her the oldest registered working pharmacist in Trinidad.
She was described by her friends and family as being very fashionable. She had great joie de vivre and loved social gatherings. In her free time, she also enjoyed reading and travelling.
Caribbean Women in STI
Merle Henry was one of the first female pharmacists in Trinidad and Tobago. She grew up in an era in which women were largely excluded from the elite circle of students and scholars of science, and when employers, including the public service, discriminated against hiring women for jobs in male-dominated professions. But many women jumped the gender barrier and Merle Henry was a fine example of one. She pursued pharmacy and went on to have a long and successful career in a profession that is critical to the provision of healthcare.
Ms Henry joined the public service as a pharmacist at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital in 1951. It took four years for her to be confirmed in the post. In an interview with Angela Pidduck for Newsday, she recalled that, “There were no vacancies at the time. Bureaucracy was negatively at work for me and I was doing a job in what was then a man’s world.”
As a pharmacist in the health service, she was transferred to different hospitals. Her work included tutoring and guiding student pharmacists in dispensing principles, and having to decipher prescriptions written by doctors in Latin abbreviations. Medicines in those days also had to be prepared by the pharmacist, who dispensed to patients at clinics as well as for use on the wards.
Ms Henry broke new ground when she became the first woman to be promoted to the post of Acting Assistant Senior Pharmacist and later Senior Pharmacist in the public service. She retired in this post in 1980. Not one to stay at home and be idle, she went on to gain employment as a pharmacist with private companies importing controlled drugs. She joined Oscar Francois Ltd., where she worked for 13 years, and then J.N. Harriman & Co. Ltd. in 1994. She remained there until 2008, when she finally retired.
Alice Merle Stanley Henry was born on 17th September, 1920 in Belmont, Trinidad. Initially, she wanted to study architecture but instead followed her mother’s advice that a career in pharmacy would be more rewarding. On completing secondary school, she apprenticed at the Royal Pharmacy in Port-of-Spain. Within her first year of apprenticeship, she was promoted to the post of Assistant Pharmacist, and a year later, she joined W. C. Ross & Co. Ltd., a leading pharmacy at that time, as a student pharmacist. During her pharmacy training, she was the only female among her classmates and was once referred to by her instructor as one of the ‘gentlemen’ in the class. Despite having no prior exposure to chemistry, she passed her pharmacy examination in Inorganic Chemistry with an impressive 100 per cent mark. After seven years of study, Ms Henry earned her Licence of Druggist, as pharmacists were called prior to the 1960s. She was promoted to Pharmacist and remained with the company for five years before joining the public service.
Merle Henry was a faithful member of the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Port-of-Spain Soroptimist Club and the Trinidad and Tobago Girl Guides. She was generous and very devoted to her family, including her eight nieces and nephews whom she regarded as “the children I never had.” Her philosophy of life was, “You have all my future in your hands, Lord. I need you to guide me every step of the way.” She passed away on 5th August, 2008.
What is a pharmacist?
Pharmacists are trained professionals who provide expert advice to the public about the use, preparation, supply and
effects of medicines. Their day-to-day work includes preparing, mixing and dispensing medicines; giving advice to doctors and patients on the usage, dosages and side effects of medicines; checking the dosage and possible interactions between different medicines to safeguard patients’ health and safety; and buying and distributing medicines for hospitals, health centres and pharmacies. Pharmacists working in industry conduct research to develop new and improved medicines. Private importers of drugs also retain pharmacists to facilitate compliance with trade and health regulations.
Areas of Specialisation
- Pharmacy practice
- Clinical pharmacy
- Compounding pharmacy
- Veterinary pharmacy
What do I need to study?
At CSEC and CAPE: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics
To become a licensed pharmacist, one must have a degree in pharmacy, complete a year’s training in community or hospital pharmacy, and pass the registration examination.
What skills and traits do I need?
- Interest in chemistry and health care
- People and communication skills
- Accuracy and attention to detail
- Problem-solving skills
- Record-keeping and organisational skills
- William Proctor Jr
- George F. Archambault