“Dr. Mrs. Mary Grant had a moderating presence in the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) regime of the 1980s and had a disarming effect on persons who had a lot of anger and bitterness toward the military government at the time.” …………….
Malik Kweku Baako Jnr.
A lady of fine touch she was. A lady of ladies, well respected in both the medical field and public life, Dr. Mrs. Mary Grant in many ways epitomised what the Fantes refer to as “Ewuraba.”
To many of us who came into contact with her, Auntie Mary, as she was affectionately called, was a rare human being with a fine touch. She paid attention to everyone who came into her life and respected people for what they were. No wonder the shine in her social life followed her showing her finesse in her medical career and later on in her public life, serving her country and man with dedication.
As the first female medical Doctor from Wesley Girls High School, her Alma mater, Auntie Mary was a role model for girls who passed through the school. At Old Girls’ Association functions, she would go round meeting as many people as possible, chatting freely and always with a smile.
She started her elementary school education at Elmina Methodist School before proceeding to Obuasi Methodist School from where she continued to Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast for her secondary education.
She continued to the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom (UK) in the 1950s to study medicine from where she qualified as a Medical Doctor, one of the first female Medical Doctors this country produced in the 1950s and early 1960s. The love of country saw her coming back soon after she qualified as a Medical Doctor in the UK.
In 1961, she took her first medical appointment with the Kintampo Rural Health Centre
as the medical officer. Three years later, in 1964, she transferred from the Brong Ahafo Region to Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra. Here, she got promoted as Senior Medical Officer with the Pediatric Unit. Within a year, she earned another promotion and transferred to the Labadi Polyclinic.
Dr. Mary Grant’s true love for her profession saw her through a successful and meaningful career. She was genuinely committed to patient care and went all lengths to ensure that privately on her own, she purchased drugs at wholesale prices just so she could give to patients in need.
At a point in her active medical life when she realised that Korle-Bu was a “scary” name for patients on referral to go and access health care, she had a small ward built to keep seriously ill patients under observation until they were discharged or made to accept admission at Korle-Bu.
Getting married to another Doctor, an Epidemiologist, brought a new dimension to her medical career. She became an ardent believer in Primary Health Care and Preventive Medicine. She worked closely with public health nurses, often joining them at antenatal, maternal and child welfare clinics. She did not fall short of organising daily talks and updates on health education to update the skills of her staff.
It was during her time at the Labadi Polyclinic that the Rotary Club built a small clinic for tuberculosis (TB) patients near the polyclinic. In addition to liaising with the TB Specialist who was attached to the clinic, Dr. Mary Grant endeared herself to the staff of the Leprosy Clinic which was under her direct supervision, making sure that the patients were well educated on how to care for themselves and their families.
From La Polyclinic, she was transferred to Kaneshie polyclinic, a very busy centre in terms of its location and mandate. The polyclinic caters for the health needs of the great number of people who were using the Kaneshie market complex as well as the North Industrial Area which had a concentration of manufacturing sites and warehousing facilities.
Dr. Mrs. Grant’s contribution to a wider public service in Ghana came between 1985 and 1989 when she was appointed by the then military government, Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) as Deputy Secretary for Health with special responsibility for health and education. Many have said that her presence in the then government brought a lot of neutrality of feelings and emotions towards the military regime in view of the many hurts that occurred during the revolution that brought the PNDC into power.
Apart from discharging well her duties as Deputy Secretary of Health, she continued to be a strong advocate for primary health care. She ensured that health education as well as maternal and child welfare programmes were kept running.
When Ghana returned to constitutional rule in 1993, she returned to the Ministry of Health as Deputy Minister of Health and later appointed Minister of Education and Culture.
She was one time a member of the Council of State, the highest advisory body to the President of Ghana.
Throughout her public life, environmental sanitation was top on her agenda not only for Ghana but for developing countries. She firmly believed that good sanitation was the cure for many of the endemic diseases, including malaria that plagued our continent. Whenever she had the opportunity therefore, whether on a local or international platform, she spoke passionately about the need for good environmental sanitation.
Auntie Mary’s contribution to wider public service was well acknowledged when she received a state honour and was decorated with the Companion of the Order of The Volta, Civil Division. The citation for that honour reads, “In recognition of your contribution to the principled political renewal of Ghana, the health of our people and your vehement defence of equal opportunities for girls and women, the Republic of Ghana confers on you, Doctor Mrs. Mary Grant, the State Honour of Companion of The Order of the Volta, Civil Division.”
In 1997, the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) awarded her a certificate of Honour for her concern for the welfare of Doctors.
A family woman who liked cooking and entertaining family and friends, Dr. Mrs. Grant had six children two biological and four adopted. She also had four adorable grandsons. She and her husband were ardent Methodists.
She loved to relax with classical music and danced like nobody’s business. As a health person, she took pride in her daily morning walks.
Dr. Mrs. Mary Grant died on Sunday, September 18, 2016 at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra aged 88.
Her passing is not only a blow to her family and friends but also the bigger family she endeared around her. She has left her own children orphaned and so also the many children who admired her from near and afar. Many more have lost a mentor for life. The Methodist Church has lost a true member, GMA has lost a confidant who looked out for the interest of Doctors. For sure, Wesley Girls High School Old Girls’ Association will miss a proud member who lived pure and who was adored in all ways.
But above all, Ghana has lost a true daughter of the land.
May God grant her a peaceful rest. Auntie Mary, sleep well in the Lord.
By Vicky Wireko-Andoh