Daughter of shopkeeper defies odds, becomes a medical doctor

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Dr. Tameka Stephenson-Harris is proud of what she has become.

She grew up in the tough community of Greenwich Town in St. Andrew under the guidance of a single mother, Norma Stephenson, who struggled as a shopkeeper to make ends meet.

“Life was tough as a child with the issues of community unrest and having to go to my mother’s shop daily after school,” Dr. Stephenson-Harris said, adding that her early struggles taught her resilience.

She, at the end of high school, was even awarded for resilience; this after she completed her external exams despite being involved in a motor vehicle crash that left her nursing injuries.

Dr. Stephenson-Harris is now living her childhood dream in the field of Medicine.

She holds four degrees – a Bachelor in Nutrition and Dietetics, a Master in Nutrition, a Bachelor of Science, as well as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. She is now pursuing a doctorate in Pediatrics.

Dr. Stephenson-Harris, who attended the University of the West Indies and University of Technology, faced almost insurmountable financial challenges in pursuit of her academic feat.

“I have been asked to leave exam rooms at all levels of my studies due to outstanding payment, but it was The Lord’s doing; he sent scholarships from all over,” said the past-student of New Day All Age School and the Convent of Mercy Academy ‘Alpha’ High.

Happily, the tables have turned financially for Dr. Stephenson-Harris and her siblings, who last year awarded a scholarship in honour of their mother. “My mother did it for us, and she never complained; she saw it as her duty and we learnt not to complain but to be grateful,” said Dr. Stephenson-Harris, who grew up in the church.

She got baptized at age 12, and worships at The Model Church of God in her native Greenwich Town – formerly Greenwich Farm. She hosts health fairs for residents of the community.

Dr. Stephenson-Harris, who is married to Jermaine Harris – a pharmacist, is proud that she did not allow her circumstances to define her – something she hopes other people will learn.

“Do not let your community define you; do not let the odds stop you; I did not,” she declared, adding: “Dreams do come to pass, but you have to work to achieve them.”

Dr. Stephenson-Harris, now a part-time Lecturer at the University of Technology, is also a Pediatrics Resident Physician at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

She is Coordinator for the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Programme.

Dr. Stephenson-Harris also serves on several bodies, including the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, the Jamaica Cancer Society, and the Jamaica Island Nutrition Network.

She, in April 2018, received the Governor General Achievement Award, and was appointed Ambassador of the Governor General ‘I Believe Initiative’.

Dr. Stephenson-Harris, who is also a writer and motivational speaker, enjoys traveling and spending time at the gym.


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