Thursday 24 September, 2020

The first doctor in her family Dr Nneke Hart-Smith is 'grateful'

Dr Nneke Hart-Smith

Dr Nneke Hart-Smith

The 'e' may be missing in her name, but Nneke Hart-Smith surely did put her heart into achieving her latest accomplishment of becoming a doctor.

Paging Dr Nneke Hart-Smith!

It was made official on July 2, 2020, and she could not be more 'grateful' or proud as her heart overflows at this academic achievement. 

Nneke is the first doctor in her family. And she said that many people have asked her why she chose to study to be a doctor over the years. Now at 25 years old, her answer according to her "really isn’t anything grand." She said: "For as long as I’ve known myself I wanted to do it. Thinking about it now, when I’d pay visits to my peadatrician, I loved how he made me feel better and I was never afraid of him. So maybe this along with my love for the Sciences really pushed me toward that direction."

The Trinidadian graduate completed her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus in Barbados.

Here's how our chat with the new Dr Neeks went:

Loop: What was the hardest course during your studies and why?

Dr Nneke: For me the harder medical school courses began in my clinical years at the QEH [Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados]. Of all these I found Surgery to be the most challenging as it was voluminous and required more intense studying, since it included multiple sub- specialties of Surgery.

Loop: At any point in time during the years of study, did you think maybe this is not for me? If yes, when and how did you overcome it? If no, what kept you motivated?

Dr Nneke: At no point I ever thought that Medicine wasn’t for me. I used to picture myself working as a doctor and interacting with patients all the time. My motivation stemmed from this being my childhood dream and having the opportunity of it becoming a reality is what really kept me pushing. It was finally real and I had to keep going. There were times I would feel demotivated but never to the point of stopping and giving up.

Loop: What lessons did COVID-19 teach you?

Dr Nneke: Me to be patient and to take things one day at a time, never to rush the process at all. It really showed me how not to fret over things I couldn’t control. Bitter sweet feeling that it took a pandemic to teach me this.

Loop: See the workers on the frontline and realising that in a health pandemic the "soldiers" are actually the doctors and nurses, how did you feel?

Dr Nneke: I felt empowered to be honest. The fact that it could be me one day, not hoping for another pandemic of course, but it boosted my confidence in my field of study.

Loop: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your journey to becoming a doctor? How did you overcome?

Dr Nneke: COVID- 19 has made other obstacles look miniature! There were so many uncertainties regarding our final exams and the mode in which it would be delivered, causing me pent up anxiety. I just had to take it one day at a time.

Loop: What are you looking forward to most when you start treating patients?

Dr Nneke: Something about the look on their faces when the doctors say “Yes Sir/Mam, you can go home today.” That initial happy face they make when they’re all better. I’d definitely look forward to that.

Loop: What do you want your patients to remember about you and say about you?

Dr Nneke: Point to help my patients see me as a person first before a white coat and a stethoscope. I want them to remember most of all how I treat them and respect them to say the least.

Loop: Some people are not as confident in young doctors, what do you want to say to persons who will come see doctors like yourself in the polyclinics and hospital doing rounds?

Dr Nneke: The natural thing to do is assume that the older the doctor is, the more experience he/ she has. However, as a young doctor the experience has to begin somewhere. I’d want to let them know that medicine is a field in which knowledge can be attained every single day. Whether it be passed on from the older doctors, latest research and even from the patients themselves who we can learn so much from.

Loop: As a young doctor, is there anything you want to change about how medicine or doctoring is done in the Caribbean?

Dr Nneke: In the Caribbean, we are not as resourceful as the developed countries. Because of this, access to these resources are achieved at a slower pace which may altogether hinder the health care process. It may be beyond my reach now, but for the future I hope that we health care professionals can attempt to change the slow pace of certain aspects of Caribbean Healthcare, which will have to involve the intervention of Governmental Ministries.

Loop: Where are you doing your internship?

Dr Nneke: The plan for my internship year is for it to be done in Trinidad and Tobago, however due to travel restrictions imposed by the Trinidadian Government it seems to be unattainable for the moment. But of course I’m staying positive.

Loop: Do you want to specialise? If yes, in what and why?

Dr Nneke: Yes I have always considered becoming a Pediatrician for as long as I’ve known myself. Apart from my love for the tiny humans, I’ve grown to love this specialty even more after having completed it at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and pursuing an elective rotation in Emergency Pediatrics at Mount Hope Hospital in Trinidad. Having had the interactions with the parents of the patients and the patients themselves, I really can’t see myself doing anything else.

And of course with COVID-19 impacting her last Semester and send-off, we asked, "How does it feel to have graduated minus the gown?"

Dr Nneke: Even though a formal graduation may not take place in 2020, it feels absolutely great to have completed five years of Medical School.

"But I do hope one day when COVID-19 has settled I am able to cross the stage and collect my Degree and experience the euphoria along with it."

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