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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


May 15, 2002 – With a few tears and a lot of applause, Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center celebrated Hospital Week on Wednesday by unveiling a portrait of the facility's namesake and honoring Dr. Elizabeth Barot as its employee of the year.
"I learned a lot about caring and sharing from her," said her daughter, Andromeada Childs, misting up as she talked about her mother.
Myrah Keating Smith is a St. John legend. Born on St. Thomas on June 1, 1908, she, her twin sister Andromeada and their family moved to St. John three years later. At age 14, she started studying at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. She then transferred to Albion Andrew Memorial Hospital in Alabama to study surgical nursing. After graduating with nursing and midwifery degrees, she returned home in 1931 to start delivering the first of over 500 babies that would arrive with her help.
"Miss Myrah was the only midwife St. John had," said Alice O'Connor, a retired nurse who worked with Keating Smith at various health facilities on St. John.
O'Connor went on to talk about how Keating Smith had to ride a horse or a donkey to get from Cruz Bay to the Coral Bay area for deliveries. Many times, she' would return to Cruz Bay only to be called out to the East End or John's Folly for another delivery.
Childs, O'Connor and another retired nurse, Eulita Jacobs, all spoke about the differences in the island's health care facilities then and now.
"Miss Myrah said when you don't have what you need, use what you have," Jacobs recalled. Childs spoke about sterilizing bandages in the family oven. "One of my jobs was to roll the gauze," she remembered.
Keating Smith and her husband, Alan "Poppa" Smith, had three children. In addition to Childs, they are Emily and Myrah. Keating Smith died on May 4, 1994.
Keating Smith's portrait, painted by St. John artist Karen Samuel, will hang in the health center lobby. It features a mature Keating Smith wearing a blue dress with pearls around her neck.
As the staff and others remembered Keating Smith, they also heaped accolades on Barot.
"Employee of the year? What year?" St. John Administrator Julien Harley wondered aloud. He was referring to the fact that for much of the 17 years Barot has worked in St. John, she was often the only clinic or medical center doctor on duty. She has through two major hurricanes — Hugo in 1989 and Marilyn in 1995 — and countless other community crises.
In reading notes from the nominating committee, Erica McDonald, health center administrator, said Barot is quick to answer the telephone and take on other non-medical chores outside her job description. "And she can laugh at herself," McDonald read.
Barot, wiping tears from her eyes, said she wouldn't be receiving the honor if it weren't for the help of the staff.
Even McDonald got teary eyed as she thanked the staff for helping her bring the health center up to snuff. She also had nice words for the Hospital Week committee that helped her organize the third annual event. "You guys don't know how much it has meant to me that you have helped me," she said, turning away as she choked back tears.
Harley noted changes at the health center since McDonald arrived just over two years ago. He said he now finds a totally different environment than before, with people ready to help rather than sit around with "sick faces."
"They need to show that to a lot of other government employees," he said.
The health center also honored medical technician Ulie Powell for her 20 years of service as well as a host of others marking their 5-year and 10-year anniversaries.

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