All Women, Woman of the Week

Woman Of The Week – Merle Clarke

Merle Clarke
Merle Clarke

What do you call a woman with the skills to save lives who goes above the call of duty by actively raising awareness of deadly or life altering illnesses as well as giving out FREE advice on how to avoid and or treat these illnesses? Yup, a Super Shero!

I just described today’s WOTW and she even wears a cape…well, actually it’s a lab coat, but it’s close enough!

Doctor Merle Clarke is a 36 year old Kidney Specialist/Nephrologist who is attached to both the Victoria and the Tapion Hospital.

The La Croix Maingot resident has a die-hard passion for people and life in every sense, so much so, that she pursued her childhood dream of being a doctor, just so that she could do what she loved which was helping others feel better.

Today, Doctor Clarke is a Kidney curing, awareness-raising practitioner of a field of medicine that is fairly young but very much in demand.

However, her battle to win the good fight is daunting because she is stuck in a cycle individuals generally pay too little attention to: the health and well-being of their kidneys, whilst on the other hand, young practitioners worldwide choose to study other fields of medicine as many of them find Nephrology to be boring. So if you solve the equation, you will find that through gross neglect of the kidneys, there are many victims of kidney disease/failure and very few specialists to treat the growing number of cases.

But fear not, Doctor Clarke is literally on the case as you will find that she really puts her all into getting those numbers down.

According to the Nephrologist: “The leading causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension. Globally these chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) are quite prevalent and St. Lucia unfortunately is not exempt. Left untreated or inadequately managed, these diseases can lead to multiple complications, with one of the most important being chronic kidney disease. This disease is extremely expensive to treat, particularly in the later stages. Dialysis for example is cost prohibitive for the vast majority of St. Lucians if not for heavy government subsidies, even then. So it is extremely important that we teach and practise the prevention of diabetes, hypertension and other CNCDs. To achieve that, we must focus on the education of not only the patients but of the general population.”

She went on to implore individuals to adopt healthy lifestyle practices, diet and exercise, keep stress levels down and to practise safe sex as HIV/AIDS can lead to an aggressive form of chronic kidney disease.

She also recommended routine pap smears which are excellent for detecting pre cancerous lesions and late stage cervical cancer which can cause compression of the urinary tract and lead to kidney disease in women as well as prostate exams for men aged 40 and over.

With all that said and done, Doctor Clarke acknowledged the above mentioned cycle and said: “Kidneys are unique organs which are usually taken for granted, particularly given the sheer number of functions with which they are tasked to keep us healthy, including but not limited to regulating blood pressure, salt and water, bone heath, maintaining normal blood count and blood purification. Taking care of our kidneys is remarkably easy and is essentially about lifestyle modification which involves the healthy lifestyle practises that we all know. These include abundant water, don’t smoke, control blood pressure if hypertensive, blood sugars if diabetic, don’t abuse over the counter medications particularly analgesics (pain killers) such as Voltaren and Ibuprofen, see your physician once a year to ensure that you are indeed healthy, and ensure that your urine is tested during your yearly physical.”

Now here’s the admirable part, when The VOICE asked Doctor Clarke why she chooses to dedicate her time to spreading awareness of these issues, after all, like any successful Super Shero, she is a busy bee with a packed schedule on any given day. She said this: “I recognise the important role we have of educating the public. It is heart wrenching to have to be in a clinic with a 20 year old patient with end stage kidney disease and tell them that we unfortunately don’t have space on dialysis in the public sector which in a sense, leaves this patient feeling completely hopeless. So I am indeed passionate about prevention and early detection. I recognise that we are a small country with limited resources and renal replacement therapy, whichever the modality is ridiculously expensive and as such unsustainable, if we continue on our current path of being very lackadaisical about our health. As such, our efforts must be primarily aimed at preventing Chronic Kidney Disease and other CNCDs. I’m nothing if not a talker! So I’ll keep talking until we really start paying attention. I am even targeting the children so they can take the message home to their parents. We’re finding innovative and interesting ways of getting the message across whilst actively working with other members of the Saint Lucia Renal Association to spread the message that kidney health is supremely important to overall health, and if kidneys fail every other organ system becomes compromised and morbid mortality increases significantly.”

If you thought she was stopping there, you were wrong, because the good doctor revealed that she, along with the Saint Lucia Renal Association are in the early planning stages of CELEBRITY SPORTS DAY 2017 and that they plan on making it bigger, better and more exciting.

Speaking of sports, it came as no surprise that Doctor Clarke’s secret was sports related. She said: “I love sports, principally cricket, football and tennis. My first crush at the ripe old age of 6 was Gary Lineker (captain at the time of the English Football Team)”

In true Team 758 Spirit, she even gave a little shout out to local Olympian/sporting Shero, Levern Spencer: “Go for the gold Levern…the entire country is behind you!”

Doctor Clarke can be seen every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. on HEALTHWISE which airs on HTS where, in the capacity of the Vice President of the St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association, she hosts the medical show and continues in the efforts to educate and assist the masses.

She said: “We all love St. Lucia and want to see it prosper. The world is a stage and we all have a part…mine is one of sharing the knowledge which I’ve garnered over years and years of study, and caring for my fellow man.”

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