By Sharmain Grainger
There is a dire need for more men to play an active role to help safeguard their own health. This is the assertion of Dr. Dennis Bassier who has made it pellucid that “It takes a real man to take charge of his health. It doesn’t in anyway take away from your manliness if you have regular medical check-ups,” said Dr. Bassier of men who think they can’t be bothered with such matters.
Far too many men, he noted, believe that they are too “macho” to take the path of taking charge of their health by availing themselves to regular medical screening which could help to arrest potential health problems or even prevent them altogether.
Dr. Bassier currently sits at the helm of the Ministry of Public Health’s Men’s Health Unit and fully embraces the belief that with just enough sensitization and community support, there is still hope to change the mind-set of non-confirming men.
Although he admits it is an uphill task that will require a paradigm shift for the ultimate goal to be achieved, he certainly doesn’t intend on backing down, and with good reason too.
You see Dr. Bassier is not a medical practitioner who joined the profession merely to gain an income or for appearance sake, rather his delving into the medical field was a realization of a dream he had ever since he was a boy. There aren’t too many people who can say that they are living their dream, but indeed he can.
He was inspired to become a doctor by his paternal uncle, Terrence, who himself was a doctor. As a young boy he was always fascinated by the stethoscope around his uncle’s neck and was always eager to fidget with his blood pressure apparatus. In fact he was even more intrigued by the profession when he learnt that doctoring also meant helping to make people feel better when they are under the weather.
But while he can boast today of being a doctor to just about anyone, Dr. Bassier has long recognized that men are in need of a bit more attention when it comes to health care. For this reason he has been able to push several initiatives countrywide that have been helping to bring men to the realization that they have an avenue to talk about their health concerns.
Total satisfaction is what Dr. Bassier, who will shortly graduate with his Master’s in Public Health from UG, gets from the role he plays as Coordinator of the Men’s Health Unit. Essentially, he has no regrets that he dared to follow his heart and was therefore able to realize his boyhood dream of becoming a doctor.
Born Dennis Amin Bassier Jr. on December 27, 1986 at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, he was the second of the two children the union of Dennis Winston Mohammed Zamal Amin Bassier and Vivian Veronica Abrahams produced. His father, now deceased, was a cultural anthropologist who lectured at the University of Guyana (UG) and his mother was a head mistress. His brother Adrian Earl Bassier, an air traffic controller, is 15 years his senior.
Although his father hailed from Stewartville on the West Coast of Demerara and his mother from Essequibo, they decided to raise a family of their own at Subryanville, Georgetown.
Dr. Bassier recalled attending Stella Maris Primary then the Bishop’s High School before completing his A levels at the School of the Nations. He subsequently completed the two-year Biology programme at UG and then headed to Cuba to pursue his studies in medicine.
“I never really wanted to do anything else, nothing else ever caught my attention, not Maths, not Accounting. I was always focused on science; how the body works…anything along the lines of science I was always interested in,” he shared. “My dad’s brother, Uncle Terrence, he had his own private practice at Peter’s Hall and that is where I started to get my vaccines and I would play with his stethoscope, and blood pressure apparatus and I just liked what he did…I was inspired by him to become a doctor,” Dr Bassier fondly reminisced.
Upon completion of his medical studies, Dr. Bassier was integrated into the local public health system through the mandatory 18-month rotation which saw him spending some time at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, the Campbellville Health Centre, the Diamond Diagnostic Centre and the Port Kaituma District Hospital. While he learnt some valuable lessons at all of the health facilities, he admitted that it was his exposure at the Region One, Port Kaituma Hospital that helped him to rapidly mature as a medical practitioner.
It certainly wasn’t an easy task for a ‘Georgetowner’ to adopt to the hinterland ways, but adopt he did.
“When you see what happens in the hinterland, its like a different country…you learn to improvise when you are in the hinterland. The terrain of course is one of the biggest challenges…but you learn to get accustom to it, you learn to rough it out. You have to get use to the weather too…it is either really wet or really dry…I lost a lot of weight in there,” Dr. Bassier recalled of his time in Port Kaituma.
Although it took some getting use to, Dr. Bassier noted that the learning environment there really helped to build his confidence and competence as a medical professional.
But even as he toiled for just about a year in Port Kaituma, he became overwhelmed with the desire to do even more. Doing more he realized would warrant him having a place at Central Ministry if he was to truly see meaningful initiatives conceptualized and implemented. “I just felt I needed to be in the Ministry somehow…while it is good to help one patient at a time and you get their appreciation, at the Ministry level you can actually help to make broad changes that can impact far more people,” Dr. Bassier noted.
Little did he know that just such an opportunity would have presented itself when he was offered the position of Coordinator of the Men’s Health Unit. He took up the reins of the department in September 2015 and has ever since been the driving force in the Ministry when it comes to raising awareness among men and the importance of them taking charge of their health. “This unit was created for the purpose of raising awareness about male specific issues whether it is erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, male infertility, the fact that more men are involved in road accidents, their alcohol consumption and smoking. We have been going region to region raising awareness about these various issues and finding out from the men about how they feel about a Men’s Health Clinic in their area. It has all been positive, they have been very enthusiastic,” said Dr. Bassier.
But the work of the Men’s Health Unit, he disclosed, usually differ from region to region. “Although it is now countrywide, everywhere it is different and so we have to adjust to the needs of the men in specific areas…in different places they have different interests…for instance in the hinterland regions, we have men who are more concerned about getting their treated mosquito nets, so we work along with the vector control services. Some places the men are more interested in getting their condoms…we try to suit the requirements wherever we go,” Dr. Bassier added.
Being able to fulfil his mandate at head of the Men’s Health Unit requires that Dr. Bassier travel countrywide to monitor regional activities to ensure that maximum benefits are being realized when it comes to reaching men and helping them to properly address their health concerns.
One of the most important aspects of getting through to men, Dr. Bassier shared, is by assuring them that even if they are faced with a health problem, help is readily available to them within their region. “We start off telling them about erectile dysfunction and when you tell men things like that it grabs their attention…all men want to know that it (erectile dysfunction) would never happen to them and if it does happen to them how it can be fixed. That can actually occur because of any number of reasons…high blood pressure can actually cause that, diabetes can cause it, depression can cause it, a hard day’s work or even something as simple as missing breakfast or lunch or you didn’t have enough water to drink during the day. We can tie in any number of health issues once you start off with erectile dysfunction and that usually holds their attention,” Dr. Bassier noted.
Over the past few years he has developed a passion for sensitizing men about their health. “I am a strong advocate for men’s health especially as it relates to raising awareness about prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. I do sensitization sessions with churches, youth groups and anywhere that my voice would be heard,” said Dr. Bassier.
While the sensitization is a crucial aspect of raising awareness about men’s health, Dr. Bassier noted that ensuring that the men follow through on what they are enlightened of often requires the involvement of others, especially the women in society.
VISION FOR GUYANA
Once men begin to take charge of their health, Dr. Bassier envisions a Guyana with healthier men, a state of affairs that could easily translate to an increased life expectancy rate for them. Currently women have a higher life expectancy rate at around 69 years while men lag behind at around 64 years.
Achieving an increased life expectancy rate, however, would require not only regular visits to be screened by a health professional but eating healthy and exercise are also crucial aspects as well, Dr. Bassier asserted.
Our ‘Special Person’ is certainly not one to preach what he doesn’t practice. He thrives on eating healthy, and exercising is a staple in his life. “Three places I go: home, work and gym…I choose to lead by example.”
“Overall we want to see healthier, stronger men…even if they are suffering from some particular illness, we want them to know that they can access non-discriminatory, free health care service,” said Dr. Bassier. He added, “We are looking to have the men’s health clinics across the country tied in to the daily routine of health facilities and not have it as an isolated, ad hoc kind of service.”
But there is even more to Dr. Bassier’s life apart from thriving for improved men’s health and keeping healthy. While one of his favourite pastimes is reading, he also has an adventurous side which he sometimes get to satisfy in the great outdoors. “I love nature, I love the rugged outdoorsy kind of stuff… in fact I prefer to travel in and around Guyana rather than out of the country,” he shared. He also has a knack for painting although his busy schedule keeps him from indulging.
He nevertheless is happy that the majority of his time is well spent helping others to better understand how they can take charge of their health. For the invaluable role that he has been playing through the Men’s Health Unit, today we at Kaieteur News bestow Dr. Dennis Bassier with the title of our ‘Special Person’ of the week.
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