The accidental doctor
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/04/2022 (404 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As a child Dr. Andre Coleman did not know what he wanted to be when he grew up. All he knew was that he wanted to finish high school and get a post-secondary education, get a job and make his parents proud. It turned that he gravitated towards science subjects and found himself in a medical program at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, his home country.
“In the first month of my residency to become a family doctor, I worked in the palliative care ward and that was a game changer for me,” he said. “I then knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with people who are facing the most important and at the same time the most painful aspect of life. I wanted to help make a difference to these people.”
Almost a year ago, after completing his residency, André came to Winnipeg to do his fellowship in palliative medicine at the University of Manitoba and to also join his parents and sister, who had already migrated and settled here.
“I love it here at the University of Manitoba, it has great palliative-care training, great staff and a positive culture that I like a lot,” he said.
Even though palliative care is a high-stress field, Andre said that living and dying are messy but there are gems in both.
We often think of palliative as having to do with elderly people or cancer patients.
“It is more diverse than that,” Andre said. “Palliative care is about improving quality of life and it is not restricted to any age group, nationality, or religious belief. Death and illness do not discriminate, they can strike us from an infant to well into our old age.”
He said that people who are in palliative care and their families need genuine support and that each patient may need different kinds of support.
Palliative care is relatively new in the western world and even moreso in the Caribbean.
“We’ve come a long way from keeping the patient comfortable to developing effective palliative therapies to ensure the patient receives the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical support they need on an individual basis. And I am excited about this development,” he said.
“What I like about palliative care work is the patient is the star. You get to listen to them. They often talk about their fears and uncertainties about death and dying and you have to be honest with them and not pretend. It’s tough but rewarding work. You can become vulnerable when you see people your own age in palliative care,” he admitted.
Asked what his parents think about him being a doctor, he said he thinks they are happy that he has finished his higher education and sure that they are proud. Having a doctor or lawyer in the family is something to be proud of and grateful for, but Dr. Andre reminded me that he did not set out to be a doctor, he just fell into it because of the subjects he excelled in during high school.
He added that his long-term goal is to one day return to Jamaica to help improve accessible palliative care service.
“There is some palliative care in Jamaica but it could be more robust and if I could help with that it would be the icing on the cake.”
Fort Rouge community correspondent
Beatrice Watson is a community correspondent for Fort Rouge.