Joy Merren was among those recently awarded honorary doctorates by the University College of the Cayman Islands. The honorary degrees were awarded to those who have contributed to the development of Cayman’s society.
Recipients must have made an indisputably positive, signal and lasting contribution to the improvement of Caymanian society, according to a press release. Areas of recognition include scholarship, culture, public service, humanitarianism, science, art or any other areas the University College authorities deem appropriate.
Ms. Merren was awarded Doctor of Science, honoris causa, for her contributions to the fields of science and nursing. The award was presented at the 2016 Commencement ceremony at the Sir Vassel Johnson Hall on Nov. 3.
After completing her studies at the Cayman Islands High School, Ms. Merren (nee Bodden) earned her associate degree in Nursing (Honors) from St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida in 1971.
According to UCCI, after her initial training in nursing, Ms. Merren qualified as a registered nurse in the state of Florida. She worked from 1971 to 1974 as a staff nurse in the medical and intensive care units at St. Petersburg General Hospital before returning to Grand Cayman to work as a staff nurse at the Cayman Islands Hospital from 1975 to 1977.
She and her husband then moved to Washington, D.C., where she began working as a staff nurse in orthopedics at George Washington University Hospital. She left work in 1979 to pursue training as a nurse practitioner, becoming the first Caymanian to do so, the press release states.
In 1980, she earned a bachelor’s degree in healthcare sciences (nurse practitioner) at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She was certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as an adult nurse practitioner, a credential she still maintains.
In 1982, she earned a master’s in special studies, specializing in gerontology at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University, with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Ms. Merren worked as a geriatrics nurse practitioner at the Manor Care Nursing Center in Arlington, Virginia, and as a geriatrics nurse practitioner at the Columbia Senior Center in Washington, D.C., where she served as a multidisciplinary team member with the Community Outreach Program for the Elderly, known as COPE, at George Washington University.
As a part of her participation with COPE, Ms. Merren wrote an article on “Common Diseases in the Elderly – Drugs and Drug Interactions” and co-authored an article on “Cooperation as a Guiding Principle in Assessment/Case Management: A Case Example.” In 1983, these articles were published by the Office on Aging of the government of the District of Columbia in a collection of related articles entitled “Selected Readings in Assessment and Case Management.”
In 1985, Ms. Merren and her husband, along with their infant son, returned to Grand Cayman.
In 1987, she returned to work as a nurse practitioner at the Professional Medical Centre, and in 1990 she was a clinic nurse at Cayman Medical and Surgical Centre.
In 1994, she joined the Health Services Authority as a genetics counselor/coordinator, a position she still holds.
“During her tenure at HSA, Ms. Merren has made an invaluable contribution, working tirelessly with scientists in mapping and understanding the genetic disorder known as Cayman Ataxia that is only found in the Cayman Islands. This condition has been gradually disappearing among the Caymanian population,” the press release states.
Along with other practitioners working in a multidisciplinary team, Ms. Merren has published a series of technical papers related to Cayman Ataxia, Sanfilippo Syndrome Type A and other genetic disorders in the Cayman Islands. These were published in the Journal of Medical Genetics, the Journal of Human Molecular Genetics and as a paper presented at the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies Country Conference on the Cayman Islands in May 2004.
“Ms. Merren believes passionately that being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life,” the press release states. “This informs and guides her lifelong devotion to the care and empowerment of differently abled persons in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere.
“Ms. Merren is recognized for her skills and expertise, as well as the humanity, care, warmth and compassion that her patients – many of whom are differently abled in multiple ways – have come to enjoy.”