Undecided about her future after completing a biology degree at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Carrol Pitters took up a laboratory monitor’s suggestion to consider attending medical school at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
She left Jamaica after graduating from St. Andrew High School for Girls in Kingston to join her parents in Ottawa, while the Jamaican-born monitor was a relative of Pan African nationalist, Marcus Garvey.
Dr. Pitters applied to UWI even though she admitted she didn’t think her bid would be successful.
“I was making plans to go to McGill to do laboratory medicine when UWI contacted me with the news that I was admitted,” she said.
Completing her medical degree at UWI and a one-year residency at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Pitters returned to Canada to pursue her residency training in paediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UWI,” she said. “I learned how to use my hands and eyes and I was exposed to a lot of diseases and disorders that you wouldn’t see elsewhere.”
Pitters’ professors included UWI chancellor, Sir George Alleyne, who was the chair of the university’s department of medicine.
“As an intern working under him, I found Sir George to be kind and always encouraging,” she said. “Although he pushed his students, he was never harsh and he was always willing to mentor young people.”
After a year as an epidemiology and community medicine resident at the University of Ottawa, Pitters started her medical career in the CHEO emergency department in 1985. She served as the department’s associate director for four years and medical director and chief of emergency medicine for a decade before being appointed chief of staff five years ago.
As the hospital’s senior physician leader, Pitters is responsible for organizing the medical staff activities and ensuring that clinical care and patient safety are of the highest quality.
Last Saturday, she was deservedly recognized for excellence in the health sciences with a Harry Jerome Award.
“This is very emotional and it feels like validation for some of the things I have been doing,” said Pitters, who is the Children’s Hospital Academic Medical Organization board chair. “I am really honoured to be in good company with Dr. Sharon Whiting, Dr. Upton Allen and Dr. Rosemary Moodie (they are Harry Jerome Award winners). These are people who I know well and I admire.”
Other recipients were self-taught musician Archie Alleyne, who is considered one of Canada’s premier drummers; York Regional Police Service deputy chief, Andre Crawford; Ontario’s first independent police review director and former Legal Aid Manitoba executive director, Gerry McNeilly; TD Financial Group vice-president, Scott Mullin; CP24 reporter/anchor, Nneka Elliott; Halifax-based social worker and educator, Dr. Wanda Thomas-Bernard; University of Ottawa civil law student, Edmond Nankam Dzokoue; University of Toronto business administration student, Jelani Smith; pannist, Wendy Jones; entrepreneur, Tamar Huggins; Royal Bank of Canada insurance advice centre head, Mark Beckles and youth advocate, Kareena Elliston, who manages TD Bank’s North America contact centres customer problem resolution strategy.
Two awards winners were unable to attend the event.
Toronto Raptors general manager, Masai Ujiri, was at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington, where his basketball team was shut out 4-0 in the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs and point guard, Cory Joseph, was with the San Antonio Spurs, who were matched against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The awards honour the memory of Jerome, who set seven world records in track and field and helped create Canada’s sports ministry. He was slated to be the keynote speaker at a celebration to mark the record performances of Canada’s athletes at the 1982 Commonwealth Games when he died suddenly a fortnight before the organizers contacted him. They decided to honour the athletes with awards named after Jerome.
Federal and provincial ministers, Jason Kenney and Mitzie Hunter; former Toronto Police Service chief, Bill Blair and his successor, Mark Saunders and Mayor John Tory attended the awards event.
“The roster of this year’s winners is as good as ever,” said Tory, who has attended several Harry Jerome Awards and sponsored a youth table for the past decade. “I will say once more that I wish this entire ceremony was fully televised so that people across the city can see the talent and achievement that is honoured in this community annually.”
This was the first time that Tory attended the awards as the city’s chief magistrate.
“I have a job now that you know involves many different issues and tough decisions,” he said. “A daily challenge comes in front of me which requires I use my very best judgment to try to do things right. That’s the test I am applying to myself on every issue every day and fortunately I continue to get a lot of good and sound advice from people in this community and in this room and I am listening.
“I wouldn’t always be right when I try to do the right things, but I am listening very carefully and one thing I know for sure is that in this business, you can’t always take the least controversial or the easiest path. There would be stumbles and errors along the way, but I think you know there is a purity of heart there on my part that wants us to build the kind of city that I said I want to build when I was seeking this position.”
Since the inception in 1983, a total of 385 Harry Jerome Awards have been presented to individuals and one organization – Eva’s Initiatives in 2005 – for excellence in myriad fields.