THE GLEANER, WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2021 | www.jamaica-gleaner.com | E2 WORLD FAMILY DOCTOR DAY FEATURE D EAR COLLEAGUES, loved ones, and beloved patients: AswecelebrateWorldFamily Doctor Day, I take this opportunity as president of theAssociation of General Practitioners of Jamaica towish for you all good health and a future which is free of any contact with the dreaded COVID-19 virus. My sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones, family, or colleagues to its fatal consequences. We’re in the heat of the battle with this pernicious enemy, and judging from the overflowing hospital wards, the fight is far from over. Doctors, nurses and all the other front-line workers are doing their best and the effort is taking its toll. They’re feeling the strain and fatigue of the struggle and are close to breaking point. They’re tired, some are ill, we miss our families due to long work hours, and, most of all, we’re dreadfully afraid of taking home the virus to our loved ones. As we continue to wage the war against the virus with lockdowns, personal hygiene, mask wearing, and physical distancing, a fresh beacon of hope is now on the horizon. This is the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine which we have been fortunate in obtaining. We are bombarded with good and badmedia news about the COVID-19 vaccine, and the question in our minds is whether or not to take the vaccine. As a doctor, l have been asked by patients if “it’s safe to take the vaccine and what if l don’t?” My reply is quite simple, don’t take the vaccine and risk contracting the COVID-19 infection with all its consequences, which include hospitalisation and dying. Take the vaccine, and reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill, and being hospitalised. They usually follow up by asking: “But, Doc, what about the side effects of the vaccines?” These are legitimate concerns. But if you have been infected with COVID-19 and die, they’re inconsequential. Speaking as one who has taken the vaccine, and has witnessed many colleagues and friends take the vaccine without serious ill effects, I entreat you all to consider the benefits and not focus on the possible negative impact. Enrol for vaccination now and get vaccinated. Being vaccinated is definitely our best bet to beat this virus, preserve our health and that of our loved ones, and finally get back to our usual way of life. One love. Sincerely, DR DONALD GORDON President of the Association of General Practitioners of Jamaica (AGPJ) Vaccination is the way out of the pandemic MARCH 10, 2020 – a date forever etched in our memories. That morning we completed interviews for new residents in the Family Medicine Postgraduate Programme to start July 2020. We had eight probable candidates. Little did we know that this was not to be! The university had already begun preparing us for COVID-19. There had been murmurings about COVID- 19 arriving on our shores. Coming out of interviews, we were made aware of an upcoming announcement from the Government and of an emergency staff meeting. The country was informed of its first imported case of COVID-19. The die was cast! Things would never be quite the same again! Considerations for the teaching of family medicine were examined. We were fortunate that the didactic part of our programme was already delivered using online modalities. The challenge would be the clinical, hands-on teaching which require face- to-face sessions in different hospital specialities and in primary care. Many specialities scaled down services and were not able to accommodate our residents. Innovative ways, including online consultant rounds, were used to compensate for this loss of tutelage. Our residents work within the primary healthcare system, many of them now on the front line dealing with the COVID epidemic. Not only were they at risk of illness but their increased duties impacted their ability to fulfil postgraduate study obligations. We quickly realised that we would have to embody one of the UWI’s Triple A strategies (alignment, access, agility), that of agility to deal with this new challenge. Failure was not an option! We had to continue to deliver a high-quality postgraduate programme. There was also the monumental task of mounting cl inical examinations. These usually involved encounters between residents and patients observed by examiners from all campuses, as well as an external examiner, in this case from Canada. There would be travel of examiners between Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas to examine candidates at each site. Needless to say, none of this was possible. As with all medical postgraduate programmes, we had to convert this process to an online one. Many sleepless nights and grey hairs later, with teamwork and faculty support, this was achieved six months later than originally scheduled. Delays were par for the course. Remember the eight new applicants due to start in July. Well, first of all, the date was pushed back to August and on that August morning we had ONE sure candidate and two trying to put all in place to start. Should we go ahead or put these candidates off? We agonised. After consideration, we found cost-effective ways to be able to go forward . It has been a challenging year which has tested our resolve and resiliency. We have had to pivot, then pivot some more, but have survived. The struggle is far from over, but we have learned so much. Going forward, the balance will need to be found as COVID becomes a part of our ongoing medical landscape. DR AILEEN STANDARD GOLDSON Programme Coordinator Family Medicine Postgraduate Programme The University of theWest Indies, Mona campus FAMILY MEDICINE TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE COVID-19 ERA It has been a challenging year which has tested our resolve and resiliency. We have had to pivot, then pivot some more, but have survived. The struggle is far from over, but we have learned so much. Going forward, the balance will need to be found as COVID becomes a part of our ongoing medical landscape.