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Introducing Bermuda’s Pharmacist of the Year

Sheryl Martins, left, was named Pharmacist of the Year last month. She and her husband Rotimi founded Caesar’s Pharmacy 20 years ago. She is pictured with pharmacy technician Veronica Robinson(Photograph by David Skinner)

Sheryl Martins doesn’t do things halfheartedly.

It’s a work ethic that’s helped her get where she is today. The 58-year-old started Caesar’s Pharmacy with her husband Rotimi almost 20 years ago.

Last month she was named Pharmacist of the Year for her contributions to the healthcare industry.

“The biggest reward for us is seeing the pharmacy be successful,” she said. “I’m very thankful and very humbled and I feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life.

“Once I went to Somerset Pharmacy as a teenager I knew that’s what I wanted to do — open my own pharmacy. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

“It still excites me. I like interacting with people. It’s very fulfilling when something you recommend makes someone feel better. It’s a challenge and thrill at the same time to know you’ve made a difference in that person’s life.”

Her achievements didn’t come without challenges.

Mr Martins became seriously ill two years after the Somerset business opened in 1995; doctors weren’t sure if he’d survive.

“It was very frightening,” Mrs Martins said. “I was 41 years old and had two young sons — eight and 15 years old.

“The doctors thought he would die and everyone — family, staff and friends — came and helped to make sure the shop ran while I was with him.

“I realised then that there’s no big I’s when it comes to business. I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help. I realised in order to succeed in life you have to depend on other people.”

Mr Martins made a tremendous recovery and the couple continue to run the Somerset establishment as a family venture.

The accountant is Mrs Martins’s older sister, Lynn Ball; her younger sister Michelle Caesar lends a hand on Saturdays.

“The staff are like our family members as well,” she said.

Mrs Martins loved chemistry in school and knew she wanted a career in the sciences.

“Pharmacy wasn’t a career that many Bermudians were in,” she said. “I mentioned it to my mom [Lavinia Caesar] and she immediately went to Somerset Pharmacy to see if they would let me come around and have a look.

“They had me in the dispensary just helping the pharmacists. They taught me about everything they knew and gave me the chance to see the career from inside out.”

The experience served as a motivator whenever she struggled with coursework at the University of Wales.

“Whenever I came up against a tough patch I remembered how much I really enjoyed the job when I was working in Somerset,” she said. “That gave me the staying power to finish the degree.

“There were many late nights. There were labs and theory and just a huge volume of work that you had to make sure you understood.

“On top of that some subjects were harder and more difficult for me than others. I think everyone has those rough patches when you’re in college. The thing is to work through it.”

Her mother instilled an attitude in her that became her motto: failure isn’t an option.

“My mom believed in us and she made sure we all had a good sense of self-worth and support,” Mrs Martins said. “If we wanted to do something she would jump through hoops to make sure it was accomplished. She had a strong personality.

“There was no way I could come home and tell her I was quitting school. She’d kill me. She taught me if you’re going to do something you have to do it until you reach the end. My family had that same mentality — both the Wellman side and the Caesars. They’re all business people so they are used to working hard.”

Mrs Martins worked in hospitals in Cardiff after she graduated in 1978. She returned to the Island two years later and worked at the Phoenix Stores.

“After I got married we went to New York to live for a couple of years,” she said. “When I got back I worked at the hospital here and then Paget Pharmacy and then Somerset Pharmacy. In 1995 we opened our own pharmacy.

“We called it Caesar’s because my grandfather and aunt all had businesses in Somerset so the community knew our family name.

“I had been managing Paget and Somerset Pharmacy so I got a lot of experience first — and I prayed a lot. I didn’t want to leave God out of it because He gave me this skill set and gave me this vision for the pharmacy.

“At Caesar’s we try to do things a bit differently. When we opened we serviced nursing homes. That wasn’t done prior to us, but we decided we wouldn’t just wait for customers to come through the doors. We worked with nursing homes and the Department of Corrections.

“I think our strong set really is that we educate the patients and it really is all about them as far as I’m concerned. Whoever comes through the doors, it’s a family atmosphere and we want to let them know they’re cared for and they can come to us with their questions and we will answer to the best of our ability. We are very grateful to the Sandys community that have supported us.”