Health

Doctor in the house

  • Medical scholarships: from left are Alesha Page, J.J. Soares and VaShon Williams

Alesha Page’s parents insist that her first word, as a toddler, was “doctor”.

So although the 26-year-old cannot pinpoint exactly what first inspired her to pursue a career in medicine, no one in her family was too surprised when she did.

“I always knew that I wanted to do medicine,” she told The Royal Gazette. “Always.”

Ms Page has already obtained three separate degrees, including a master’s in ethics from the University of Sydney, and is now in the middle of a degree in medicine on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts.

She has just been named this year’s recipient of the Dr J.J. Soares/Hamilton Medical Centre Scholarship, an award worth $10,000 annually for a maximum of three years.

She was delighted to have been chosen. “It’s going to pay for most of my tuition for next semester,” she said.

“I’m 26. Many people of my age are buying their first house, have jobs and are starting families.

“For me, all of that is on hold because of my dream. But with my chosen career I will get to wake up and give of myself to help others and I think that’s the most amazing thing I can do while I’m on this earth.”

The former St George’s Preparatory student applied for the scholarship last year but was not successful. However, she said her interview with Dr Soares, a physician in Hamilton, was helpful.

“He told me that I have to be more well-rounded. I thought I was already pretty well-rounded but I thought about it and realised I spent so much time studying, there wasn’t time for anything else.

“I love to cook, I love athletics and to read. All those things, I had put on the back burner. He told me to try to think about how to allow me to be me.”

The advice paid off as the high-achieving student, who expects to graduate from the University of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2019, has tweaked her schedule to allow for a better study/life balance with no ill-effect on her mostly A grades.

“I think the balance has helped,” she said. “It’s good for stress relief. You have so much to do [at medical school]. It’s great to have an outlet.”

Ms Page attended two home schools after St George’s Prep and then studied at Bermuda College, where she got her associate’s degree in science. Next was a bachelor’s degree in biology from Emory University in Atlanta, before she went to Australia.

“I just wanted to stretch myself as much as I could before becoming a physician,” she said of her decision to pursue a master’s degree. “There are so many ethical issues that arise on a daily basis. It’s helpful to know how to navigate these things.”

The educational route she has chosen means she will not become a doctor until she is well into her 30s, after a four-year residency at a hospital in the United States, but that does not faze her.

“People say ‘it’s going to take so long’ but the time is going to pass anyway,” she said. “You might as well follow your dream and go along the path you want to take.”

The student, who has shadowed doctors on the island, including plastic surgeon Christopher Johnson and urologist Charles Dyer, does not yet know what her specialism will be.

Dr Dyer advised her to simply wait and let the answer become clear once she starts seeing patients on a regular basis.

But Ms Page is sure of one thing: she will return to Bermuda to practise medicine once she is qualified.

“Bermuda is what made me. There has been so much support; from my family but also from the community. I have always had a lot of financial backing and I am so grateful. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Bermuda. I want to be of use to my country. There is no way that I would give that to another country. I love to travel and see the world but I will be coming home.”

Last year’s scholarship recipient, the first to win the award, was VaShon Williams, a student at Loma Linda University in California.

He has been successful in retaining the funding for a second year.