“If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. This work I am doing brings me pleasure. Yes, I am tired when I’m done, but at the end of the day I am fulfilled.”
By Sharmain Grainger
Although she is only 26 years of age, Patricee Moae Douglas has already embraced a path that
will undeniably ensure that her name is comfortably etched in the annals of history. She is not merely a young lady with an ambitious mission, but rather, she is one of those who has been ensuring that not just her voice but her message is heard.
Her message is that of family planning, laced with all of the important aspects of reproductive health, ranging from sexually transmitted infections to abortion.
As a recently qualified doctor, Douglas has a particular passion for raising awareness about the Human Papillomavirus [HPV], which according to statistics out of the United States, has been wreaking havoc in many lives, particularly those of the female gender.
This has translated to it being even more common than the Human Immunodeficiency Virus [HIV] and Herpes in the US. Although there has been no research to substantiate the situation in Guyana, Dr. Douglas believes that it is not much different.
“It is said that everyone who is sexually active, at some point of their sexual life, will come into contact with this virus,” the young doctor said, even as she informed that among women who are 50 and older, more than 80 percent of them have already contracted HPV.
Dr. Douglas was given the opportunity to preach her message when the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown launched its Vaccination Week of activities last week. She was the speaker who, with charismatic flow, easily captivated the audience of both the young [mostly school girls] and old.
Even as she stressed that there exists a vaccine to prevent HPV, Dr. Douglas did not hesitate to share the grim impact the virus could have if it isn’t prevented.
“The thing is HPV is preventable but it isn’t curable,” Dr. Douglas told her attentive audience last Monday at a forum held at the Dorothy Bailey Health Centre on South Road, Georgetown. In fact, she revealed then that there are over 100 types of HPVs, 16 of which are known to cause cancer.
As an STI, she noted that HPV is transmitted through sexual contact or sexual intercourse. “This is serious business,” Dr. Douglas asserted, as she continued her deliberation by emphasizing how the virus could be prevented simply by the use of the vaccine.
Although the female gender alone is not at risk, they are, however, most vulnerable to the disease, thus the local health sector has been offering the HPV vaccine as a preventative measure to girls between the ages of nine and 13.
Dr. Douglas is currently on a campaign to ensure that young girls take advantage of the vaccine, which she insists has been proven to be safe and very effective in preventing HPV.
“Since I have started the HPV campaign, people have been messaging my FB page [SRHR with Dr. Pat] asking questions about where they can get their vaccines, if they have a wart, if it is HPV or herpes, and girls are interested in ‘if I had sex already can I still have the vaccine’,” Dr. Douglas revealed.
In order to spread her message more effectively, Dr. Douglas, in January of this year, formed a group called SRHR Adventure. The acronym simply represents Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and, according to her, the sole purpose of the group as the name suggests is to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights. She was able to bring this vision to fruition after she competed and won a grant through the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health project -‘120 under 40’ to promote family planning in Guyana.
Her mission has seen her visiting various locations, teeming with youths, such as the Giftland Mall, youth groups and churches, mainly along the East Coast of Demerara, to spread her family planning message.
According to Dr. Douglas, although she was a loner, in the inception accepting invitation from various organisations to speak on the issue, it wasn’t too long into forming the group that she recognised she simply couldn’t do it alone. She has since taken on board six others, including four other young doctors, a medical student and an individual who has studied psychology.
But Dr. Douglas as the main personality behind the group was long involved in voluntary health promotion work. “I always liked volunteering, that is one of my passions. I have been volunteering in the Ministry of Health’s Adolescent Health Units for approximately three years. Even while I was a medical student I was volunteering. Even after finishing medical school I had a little time span of about six months before I started internship and I was volunteering at a community health centre in Mon Repos as a Community Volunteer Person [CVP],” Dr. Douglas recalled.
As a CVP, she explained, she was tasked with, among other things, helping to encourage first-time teenage mothers from becoming pregnant again during their teenage years. It was since those days that she recognised the importance of family planning, even though her role then was mere advocacy as, according to her, “I wasn’t qualified to give a service then.”
As her volunteerism evolved over the years, she became the SRHR Counsellor at the Women Across Differences [WAD], an organisation that has been working closely with teenage mothers over the years.
But becoming a doctor, especially one that has a focus on women and girls’ health and rights, was not something that Douglas imagined as a young child – a tale that has been told by many practicing doctors.
Born on February 3, 1991 to parents Curtis and Shallon Douglas, she was raised in Haslington and then Non Pareil, both villages on the East Coast of Demerara. According to Dr. Douglas, “that village (Haslington) is where I normally give credit for my witty personality. I was quite ‘hot’ when I was growing up and I was very brave…If you mashed my feet you would have known; you wouldn’t have gone without me putting up a fight,” the smiling medical practitioner related as she fondly reminisced on her younger days.
But she disclosed that she was really able to find herself as an individual when her parents shuttled her off to their new home in Non Pareil, where she currently resides. “That is where I grew up and got to know myself better,” said Dr. Douglas.
In reflecting on the past, she spoke of hers being a rather unusual one, since her father, for what seemed to be economical reasons, opted to make some interesting decisions for his family.
“Where I grew up we hadn’t any lights or running water there. It wasn’t because we were in abject poverty, of course we were not rich, but my father thought he would make an economic decision that he would fetch water from the neighbour’s and pay them half of the cost. I don’t really know why he never thought of putting in lights, but we always used a flambeau or a lantern,” Dr. Douglas recalled.
But according to Dr. Douglas, her father was always interested in her education.
“We would sit at a table and he would go through long division and stuff like that with me…my mother was also always supportive; she was always a doting mother,” Dr. Douglas added.
As a young girl she attended the Golden Grove Nursery School and then Golden Grove Primary before heading off to the Annandale Secondary, where she spent five years to complete her Caribbean Examinations Council’s examinations. She graduated from her secondary school as the Valedictorian and achieved the same feat when she moved on to President’s College to complete her ‘A’ levels.
It was while in secondary school at Annandale, though, that she started to caress the idea of becoming a doctor.
“One day I was watching a show where a doctor was helping women to regain their fertility…he was actually helping them to become pregnant, around the same time a person who was near and dear to me was experiencing the same thing. She had a first child, but was unable to become pregnant again because of medical issues, and I knew how it affected her. She went to different people and spent a lot of money,” Dr. Douglas said.
As such she revealed, “I decided I wanted to help women with their issues …I know women have a lot of issues when it comes to sexual and reproductive health, so there and then I decided that I would become a doctor.”
“I was in Third Form – at a critical stage…I was supposed to go into the general stream, because I was planning on becoming a lawyer, but then I ended up in the science stream and that is basically how it started my journey to becoming a doctor,” related the young Douglas.
After completing her ‘A’ levels, she applied and was accepted at the University of Guyana [UG] to undertake Biology before pursuing studies in Medicine. But even before this, she recalled applying for a scholarship to study Medicine in Cuba. She was accepted, but since she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her mother behind, she decided that UG was the most suitable option.
She graduated from UG in 2015 after which she completed a one-year internship at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC]. Although she has been diligently continuing her volunteer work, a few days ago she was called to practice at the GPHC.
But Dr. Douglas is not too anxious to be a mere ‘run-of-the-mill’ doctor.
“I want to branch off from the clinician aspect and promote women’s health and rights, and I need to be in the field doing the work, rather than being in the hospital setting and seeing patients and testing blood pressure and prescribing medication,” she asserted.
“I think I need to be out there talking to people and engaging them in conversation and creating change in that way. I see becoming a doctor as just a stepping stone into my calling, it is not where it ends,” she confidently asserted.
In fact within the next 10 years, Dr. Douglas envisages completing her Masters Degree in Sexual and Reproductive Health, and hopes that she will be given an opportunity to work closely with the Ministry of Public Health or even an organisation such as the United Nations Children Fund [UNICEF] or the Pan American Health Organisation, to continue her efforts to promote women’s health and family planning.
The ardent Seventh Day Adventist, who fellowships at the Golden Grove Adventist Church, assured that her calling has already been confirmed.
As such, the physician who fully embraces the notion of gender equality said, “I believe women can be whatever they want to be, and there should be no barriers preventing them from getting to where they want to be.”
Her advice to young people is that while having a vision could be viewed as important, it does not always determine where one will end up. As such she underscored, “It’s okay not to be sure of what you want to become, but while you are unsure, that is the time for you to explore and discover yourself. Sit down and think what makes you come alive; what fulfils you as a person, and I personally believe your career should be your passion and when that happens, that is when you really enjoy your work.”
According to Dr. Douglas, “It doesn’t make sense you are in a job if you don’t love it.” Moreover, she firmly embraces the notion that “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. This work I am doing brings me pleasure. Yes, I am tired when I’m done, but at the end of the day I am fulfilled”.
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