Saturday, 28 July 2012 15:50

The History of the PAJ

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The idea of a Paediatric Association of Jamaica (PAJ) was the brainchild of three pioneering paediatricians: Drs. Katherine Ammar, Robert Gray and Pauline Milbourn. They had visions of an association in which persons involved in the care of children, could share their knowledge and be advocates for the rights of children in Jamaica.

The first meeting of the Charter members was held on May 8, 1974 at the Medical Associates Hospital Conference Room. At that meeting a Steering Committee was selected. The records show that this Committee consisted of Dr. Robert Gray (Chairman), Mr. Reginald Carpenter, Dr. Barbara Johnson, Dr. Michael Lowry, and Dr. Pauline Milbourn (Secretary/Treasurer). Mr. Carpenter was instrumental in helping the Steering Committee to plan and establish the Constitution. One member recalls that he used as his model the Constitution of a prominent Kingston organization for dogs! With a few minor alterations, it has served us well over the years.

Early Activities

At our first meeting, held on September 11, 1974, Mrs. Carole Burrow, then Executive Secretary of the Jamaica Children's Services Society, was the guest speaker. She discussed the work of her agency and highlighted many concerns which included:

Poor doctor/parent communication.
Poor health care delivery to children in Places of Safety.
The difficulty faced by mothers in obtaining Registration certificates for their newborn infants at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital due to inability to pay the fee of $6.50.
The prevalence of child abuse.
The importance of accurate data collection.

In that same year Prof. David Picou presented to us his research findings on Places of Safety, and the Association was energized towards alleviating the terrible conditions prevailing in those institutions.

The PAJ had many discussions with the Ministry of Youth and submitted proposals for improving conditions in Children's Homes. The members of the Association agreed to provide free medical care, and guidelines were submitted on how to improve the health and nutrition of the children as well as the general hygiene in Places of Safety.

The Association also designed, printed and distributed medical history charts to be used in the institutions. This venture proved to be unsuccessful and frustrating, and members of the PAJ remain deeply concerned about the conditions that still exist in the Places of Safety.

The PAJ was officially launched on February 27, 1975 in the Medical Lecture Theatre of the University Hospital. Dr Wynante Patterson, then Principal Medical Officer responsible for Maternal and Child Health, was our guest speaker.

The records show that the first Executive Committee Meeting was held on March 12, 1975 at 15 Milverton Crescent. Present were Mr. Reginald Carpenter, Dr. Robert Gray (President), Dr. Barbara Johnson (Treasurer), Dr. Pauline Milbourn (Secretary) and Dr. Leila Wynter. Dr. Michael Lowry sent his apologies. At that meeting Dr Leila Wynter suggested that our Association should adopt a motif for our stationery. She also suggested that this could depict a Jamaican woman breastfeeding.

Our logo, designed by a well-known artist, Mrs Weinberger is quite exquisite and clearly depicts our commitment to breastfeeding. The PAJ's first newspaper article, published by the now defunct Daily News in 1975, endorsed the importance of breastfeeding, thus highlighting the fact that our Association embraced the concept of "The Baby Friendly Initiative" long before it was so entitled.

In the mid-eighties the Association's energies were directed towards the formation of the Poison Information Centre, based at the Department of Child Health, University Hospital. The inability of the PAJ to pay the exorbitant telephone bills resulting from abuse of the telephone line, eventually saw an end to that venture.

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