World Family Doctor Day 2021

THE GLEANER, WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2021 | | E3 WORLD FAMILY DOCTOR DAY FEATURE W HEN I first heard about COVID-19 in March 2020, I was sceptical. Surely, events were being exaggerated! I soon realised that COVID was very real, yet the events that have followed have been unbelievable. Schools closed and there were work-from-home orders. For many physicians, this wasn’t an option. My work schedule changed multiple times as we followed government directives and considered new childcare and schooling responsibilities. Online school was especially hard – figuring out new technology and teaching this to our children. I faced parental guilt initially, leaving my children with caregivers at home to navigate this new regime. My patients probably knowmy children’s names well by now as they hear me on the phone explaining schoolwork or trying to sort out technology issues. I have never apologised so much to my patients for interruptions! I had to adjust to seeing patients from a distance while wearing a mask, a face shield and sometimes, full personal protective equipment. There is often anxiety and fear when seeing patients suspected of having COVID. What if I get it? What if I carry it home? I was a year-two resident at the start of the pandemic. Online classes continued, which meant that we were expected to complete our usual assignments – I missed sleep, exercise, healthy eating. There just was not enough time in a day, and I barely kept up. We were not prepared when five months ago, the main road en route to where we live spontaneously broke away, leaving a narrow walking path, with a precipitous 80-metre drop-off overlooking a riverbed. I told myself that there was no way I was walking across it, as I might surely faint when I looked over the side at the drop-off. I ended up riding on the back of my husband’s motorbike to get to work and exams. I told him that I would rather walk and, jokingly, that we could not let both of us die at the same time. I subsequently learned to drive on a steep, treacherous alternative dirt road to get to work. Residents swear that “duppy deh pon dat road,” based on the number of vehicles that have turned over or driven off the road. This route is paved now, but we have a longer, more stressful daily commute. Then a close family member became moderately ill with COVID. This time was really scary, and so exhausting. Thankfully, the individual recovered well, and I evaded the virus. It is hard to play the roles of physician, mother, wife, and student; and I’m still trying to find a balance. It has been a scary, difficult year, requiring constant readjustment and planning. I have coped by reaching deep for inner strength, telling myself that God has not given me more than I can bear, and I have vented – A LOT! I have unwavering support from my family, as well as support from my family medicine classmates and staff, my boss, colleagues, community members, and friends. I am pressing on with year three of my studies. I have a COVID-19 Christmas ornament to remind me of this crazy time. I have received my first dose of the COVID vaccine, and I am hoping, like many of us, for my old life back sometime soon. DR SOPHIE ABRIKIAN Family Medicine Resident A family medicine resident and her COVID pandemic struggles Dr Sophie Abrikian (left) seeing a patient. DRS PETER Swaby and Sandra Swaby are two persons of the same love, dedication, ideals and philosophies. Some would say this is rare, or perhaps even a coincidence, but their convergent destinies have clearly been shaped by God. Drs Peter and Sandra Swaby, recipients of the Issa Scholarship and of the Jamaica Scholarship, respectively, are graduates of The University of the West Indies Medical Class of 1986. Peter and Sandy are avid members of the Kingston Church of Christ, of which they were founding members and continue to serve in a leadership capacity. During internship, the Swabys realised that there were several communities in the rural areas of St Andrew, St Thomas and St Catherine that were without a functioning health centre. Patients in these communities had to travel significant distances to access healthcare and medication affecting compliance with treatment for their hypertension and diabetes. They decided to collaborate with the public health departments to identify these communities and secured funding fromHOPE worldwide to provide medical, diagnostic and pharmacy services on a rotating schedule to these areas. The service grew from an initial seven communities to 14 communities in Jamaica, and included the Mary Issa Health Centre at Heroes Circle in Kingston. Over 120,000 medical consultations were provided through this mobile medical service, which became a signature programme that blossomed into the work of HOPE Worldwide in Jamaica that promotes health and education to deliver high-impact, community-based services to underserved groups and communities. Throughout the past 22 years, the Swabys have implemented other programmes, such as: • An early childhood stimulation programme for children in children’s homes in Jamaica, using volunteers from their churches. • An HIV/AIDS Prevention and Healthy Lifestyle Programme in high schools throughout the island, where more than 80,000 adolescents benefited from self-risk assessment skills. • HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in communities islandwide, providing support, testing and skills training for various high-risk groups. Dr Peter Swaby is the immediate past president of the Association of General Practitioners of Jamaica and continues to serve on the executive committee. Drs Swaby currently work as general practitioners at Apex Health Care Associates as they continue to dedicate their lives to serving and caring. Philanthropy in general practice Drs Peter and Sandra Swaby. FAMILY DOCTORS GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY