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Syringa Marshall-Burnett, born in St. Mary in 1935, was a multifaceted daughter of the soil, contributing to nation building in the arenas of health and politics, while advancing the status of women in the Jamaican legislature. Her efforts in health were internationally recognized and her zeal forever changed the face of medical education in Jamaica.
Mrs. Marshall-Burnett was a leading figure in the campaign to craft an university-based nursing education program at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. She was the 8th President of the Senate, serving from 1995 to 2007.
Although she spent over a decade steering the Senate, Mrs. Marshall-Burnett’s first love was nursing. She got her start at the Kingston Public Hospital where she completed the three year on-site training programme. In 1959 Marshall-Burnett travelled to the University of Toronto, where she received training in hospital nursing and public health nursing, achieving a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 1967. In 1972 she received a Masters Degree in adult mental health and nursing education and later completed a diploma in management studies from the University of the West Indies.
In 1972 Marshall-Burnett became a UWI faculty member at which time she, and Dr. Mary Jane Seivwright who headed the campus nursing certificate programme, lobbied for a degree level nurse practitioner programme. This came to fruition in 1977. A second bachelor degree nursing programme was established five years later for practising nurses. She went on to become the head of the school of nursing in 1989 and established its masters program in 2001. She retired in 2002.
In addition to contributing to the furtherance of nursing education, Marshall-Burnett was involved in other nursing initiatives. In 1993, she set up an examination and licensing system for nurses. She also served five terms as the president of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ). She was a member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Nursing, and served on the advisory boards of the American Journal of Nursing and the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
In 1992, Marshall-Burnett was appointed by the Prime Minister to fill a vacant seat in the Senate of Jamaica. She had attracted the Prime Minister’s attention through her negotiations with the government on behalf of the Nurses Association of Jamaica. Marshall-Burnett moved on to become the Deputy President of the Senate, and in 1995 became its President. She served in the position until 2007.
For her contributions to the field of nursing, Syringa Marshall-Burnett was awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) in 1990, and was appointed a Justice of the Peace. An academic center at the University of the West Indies, the Syringa Marshall-Burnett World Health Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Education, was named in her honour.
Tributes to Syringa Marshall-Burnett