It’s the end of another month, so you know what that means …. #ATBAFeatures. This month we celebrated Women’s History Month where a number of women were highlighted for their contributions to events in history and society today. Therefore, what better way to wrap up the month than by featuring a young woman who has inspired me throughout her journey.
S: I’m a 25-year-old Trinidadian/Antiguan student at St. Georges University in the Doctor of Medicine program. People get confused by this so let me explain, SGU is an American school based in Grenada. Students complete their basic science training for 2-3 years usually depending on your prerequisites, then go to the USA or the UK for another 2 years for their clinical training. I’m currently at the end of the first clinical year which is the 3rd year and I start my 4th and last year in the next 2 months or so which is your elective year. In terms of other qualifications, I also have a BSc in Biology with specializations in Biotechnology and Environmental Biology that I obtained from the University of the West Indies when I was 21. I would honestly describe myself as multifaceted; I have many of different sides to me that you may not necessarily expect depending on the setting you meet me in but overall, I think of myself as a highly motivated and ambitious woman that’s very extroverted and a lot of fun. I’m also very approachable. I’ll talk to anyone about anything, because I love to talk..lol; but also because I love to learn.
What drove you to pursue medicine as a career?
Has it always been your dream job, if not, how did it happen?
Honestly, my first exposure to medicine was at a young age, I was born with very severe asthma. I would frequently have to go to the paediatrician, and as a kid asthma can be a scary thing but it wasn’t for me. I was always excited to go to the Paediatricians office, she made me feel safe, there were toys in the waiting room and I would always get a lollipop after. Something that was supposed to be so scary ended up being some of my favourite childhood memories. At that point, I decided I want to have that impact on children and become a Paediatrician. However, during my undergrad I was exposed to different fields in science such as molecular medicine and genetic engineering and I was really fascinated by all of it. After my undergrad year I applied for a master’s in molecular medicine and diagnostics in the UK where I was accepted. Additionally, I was also accepted for my Doctor of Medicine at SGU. I wanted to treat patients but I also wanted to be able do research, I was interested in becoming a professor as well and I realized pursuing an MD I wouldn’t have to choose. When I was offered a full scholarship by the grace of God the choice was made for me and I knew this was what I was suppose to be doing.
Briefly, tell us about your journey thus far.
What has been your fondest moment?
My journey thus far has been challenging. It has taken me to places literally and emotionally where I have never been before, but it has all been worth it. The journey is tough to summarize in a few lines, but I would have to say some of my fondest moments haven’t come from my personal accomplishments at all but would have to be from all the work I’ve done with my organizations while in Grenada. One that impacted me the most was when we were able to raise 23,000 dollars for the children in Haiti impacted by Hurricane Matthew to be able to make over 500 school kits. I literally remember sitting in the library just reading about the devastation and going to my eboard and saying we have to do something, and I was so grateful to be a part of such an amazing team that backed me and made this into a reality and all the amazing people that contributed and helped. That moment also resonated with me so much because it reinforced what I already believed, you don’t have to have a lot to make a difference. Sometimes, all you need to have is an idea and people will get behind you to really make a difference in people’s lives.
What was one of your biggest obstacles faced in medical school, and how did you overcome it?
I remember struggling with one course in my second semester and I was terrified I would fail because I performed poorly on one of the exams that was worth over 40% of my grade. I was wondering what would people think of me? what about all the money my parents have spent? what about my scholarship? I remember doing two things, I prayed about it and then I made a promise to myself. I realized nothing was wrong with me I just took bad advice about a study strategy. I literally just changed how I was studying, and I did well, and never ended up failing the course. I was also really lucky to have a great advisor at the time that told me “Forward ever, backward never” that it was a little bump in the road and I’d look back and not even stress about it, because at the time it felt like the end of the world. Literally from that day my lowest day I promised I would never let school get me to that low space again, I said these words “I will do my best, and it WILL be good enough.” I stopped stressing myself out and I stopped putting all that pressure on myself and not only have I done fine academically, but most importantly I’ve been happy.
What two words would you use to describe a typical day in your life, and why?
Honestly there’s no typical day in medicine. Expect the unexpected; you just never know what you’re going to get which is what I love about it man. If I have put it into two words maybe “busy and interesting” A day depends on what rotation I’m doing at the time. Right now, I’m on surgery for eg. general surgery I’ll get up in the morning be on the wards for at least 5-5:30 a.m. round on my patient, you’ll round again at 6 with the residents, present the patients, scrub into a surgery or two for the day, you may have a lecture, sometimes you might be in a clinic, downtime you can hit the library to study. When I come home, I try to get some studying done but honestly the bulk of my studying is done in the weekends.
How do you balance med school, life and/or work?
You make time. There’s more to life than just school; as much as I love what I do, as demanding and time-consuming medical school is, I’ve been that girl in everything from since I’ve known myself. It may sound crazy but the busier I am the saner I feel. I’m new to the city of New York so I love checking out new spots, there’s so much to do here. I’d be lying if I said I’m a super organized person because I’m not. There’s a time to work but there’s also a time to chill, if you need a break take a break. Mental health is important, taking time to explore your other interests is important. Outside of typical med school I love to dance, travel, languages, research and I’m also interested in global socioeconomic development and diplomacy which I’ve all been able to do while in medical school. I’m 25 years young and I’ll never get these years back. I feel as a young person you need to be wise and put things in place for your future but don’t forget to live in the present.
Do you have a mantra in which you live by, or what keeps you going?
My mantra literally comes from this amazing girl I met in term one and it’s “Keep it movin’” So many things have happened to me while I was in medical school, because life keeps going right? Things may be going on with your family, your friends, your relationships, your own personal disappointments but you got to wake up the next day and grind because you have a goal. It’s okay if you need to take a tiny step back, but then you’re going to take ten steps forward because you cannot lose if you don’t quit.
If you were given a platform to advocate for anything, what would it be and why?
One of things I’m very passionate about is the United Nations sustainable development goal number 4, quality education. Education for me has taken me to so many places, I am the first person in my family to attain a bachelor’s degree and I will be the first doctor in my family. Literally by just following my passion within the last 3 years I’ve been to Peru, Mexico, Brazil, New York, Grenada etc. Pursuing my education is giving me the opportunity to not only help others but eventually gain my own financial freedom. So many children especially young girls around world, according the World Bank Statistics 130 million girls are out of school, 15 million are married before the age of 18. There is still gender inequality in classrooms about what a boy and girl should be allowed the learn. The foundation of a good education is your foot in the door to carry you so many places no matter where you come from and everyone deserves a chance.
A piece of advice you’d like to share with other young adults wanting to get into the medical field?
I’ll end by saying this, it may be a result of watching too much Disney channel as child but I really truly believe you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. You can do it, so just start and get it done. Don’t worry about how long it will take, you know why? because those years will pass by anyway and you might be in that same place so just start! It won’t be easy and it won’t be perfect but the most successful people don’t get to where they are because it was, it’s because they just don’t stop.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, looking forward to more of your social media posts and following along on your journey.
Keep up with Shawnie on instagram!
*send me a message and I’ll accept you*