Elizabeth Quamina (1929-1997)

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Elizabeth Quamina nee Smith was born in England in 1929. She married Dr. David Quamina in 1955 and they migrated to Trinidad. She attended Trinity College (1954) and the University of London (1960) where she qualified in Medicine and Public Administration. She studied and practised in an era when medicine was a male-dominated profession. She faced and overcame many challenges thus earning the respect of her colleagues and those around her.

Dr. Quamina served in the public health system where she held several senior positions including Medical Officer (1955), County Medical Officer of Health (1965), Principal Medical Officer (1969) and CMO (1979). She was instrumental in organising the early immunisation programme against poliomyelitis and the national Breast Feeding Programme. She undertook and wrote an assessment of the status of the health sector. She formalised the infrastructure for primary health care and integrated the vertical programmes within the public health care system. Her characteristic pleasant but yet authoritative manner ensured that the system functioned well.

She was at the forefront of health legislation reform and pioneered efforts to formulate the first National Health Plan of Trinidad and Tobago. She initiated the National AIDS Programme and chaired the National AIDS Committee. She served on many other Cabinet-appointed committees including the Task Force that developed the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (1981 – 1987).

She was an active member of the Cancer Society and toiled to establish the National Cancer Registry in 1994. The registry is today known as the Dr. Elizabeth Quamina Cancer Registry – The National Cancer Registry of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Quamina received many awards for her achievements. They included the Chaconia Medal (Gold) for service in medicine (1980), the PAHO Award for Administration (1985), the Medal of the Medical Society of the WHO (1985), the Scroll of Honour from the Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association (1986), and the PAHO/WHO Gold Medal for Health for All (1988).

Dr. Quamina’s lifelong dream was to help people. This she fulfilled as indeed countless persons benefited from her dedication and hard work.

A rare and precious gift to humanity, she passed away in 1997. Her life serves as an inspiration for us all.