More than five years after embarking on the journey to fulfill her dream of becoming a medical doctor, she has triumphed triumphantly at the top of her class at the University of Guyana and is now thinking of specializing, which could potentially see her coming is a GP.
Dr Jonelle Europe, 24, is still in the honeymoon period of celebrating her success but she is also aware of the great responsibility on the shoulders when the next time she walks into a hospital professionally.
“It’s overwhelming … to think of all the responsibilities and expectations that might come from such a title but it’s also very rewarding to know that you’ve been able to achieve something so big in your life … So it’s that kind of satisfaction is distracting [you] of the responsibilities…, ”she told the Sunday Stabroek days after she graduated.
Making her loved ones proud and inspiring others is also the icing on the success cake she continues to save.
Dr Europe said she was genuinely shocked when she was told she was top of the class despite always giving of her best. Her friends and family told her that they were not surprised by her success and realized that she sometimes underestimated herself.
“The trip taught us the importance of teamwork, in the patient’s best interests, for your own benefit. Like any other long journey, this was done better with good company. The relationships we made along the way were central to our ascent to this mountain. Lecturers become mentors, friends become family, all make this mountain far less lonely, ”said Dr Europe in the valedictorian speech he gave at the recent graduation of medical school.
From a child she knew this was the career path he wanted to pursue. She was always fond of the sciences and was later hooked on the medical television drama series “House”.
Initially, she thought of specializing as a pediatrician and after completing a clinical rotation and getting a taste of a doctor’s life from being in hospital, that is still being considered, although she is considering family medicine.
After observing Guyanese practices waiting until the very last minute to seek medical attention, Dr Europe believes that primary healthcare in Guyana could benefit doctors who are interested in keeping patients out of hospital.
“You don’t want patients to be so sick that they have to run there. I think that helping Guyanese to be healthy before they are sick is an important area that needs some attention. So I’m thinking about family medicine …, ”he said.
She wants to help Guyanese stay healthy and take care of their health because the sooner an illness is diagnosed and treated, the better quality of life will be.
“There is a lot of education that comes with being a doctor … patient information transfer, patient counseling. [And] beyond their physical health there is also their mental wellbeing which is equally important when considering keeping the patient as healthy as possible. So all these things would have to be taken into account when caring for a patient who comes before me, ”said the new doctor.
She knows that patient education would be a herculean task, but she believes it is the best place to start as most of the work is done by the patients. The reason behind her interest is twofold as she has always stated that she is interested and has now proven how busy she can get in hospital, she has not decided whether it is a challenge she would want undertake it, balancing that level of occupancy in terms of workload and adequate participation in her family.
Dr Europe began her primary education at Sacred Heart Primary School but after being destroyed by fire, she went to ABC Academy, where she was challenged to do her best and not just settle for doing good. “From my time spent there that’s when I would say things are a lot more competitive. You wanted to do better…, ”he said. She copied a spot at Queen’s College where she won 15 CSEC passes and was also successful in 10 CAPE subjects.
Although she knew medicine was what she wanted to do, the teenager at the time felt it best to attend the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus. She applied to and was accepted to the University of Guyana and was accepted to both, but saw financial constraints being referred to AS. Although disappointed, she figured there must be a reason for her to attend the local university.
“Five years on there have been no regrets and I’m happy things have worked out that way,” he said with a small laugh.
Now that she has graduated, Dr Europe and her colleagues are waiting to begin their internship and enjoy the last of their vacation before the real work begins.
“There is no ‘right, I’m really tired we can come back and do this tomorrow’, it’s your job now, this is something you have to do. As a student if you’re on call you know, ‘I’m going home tonight’. My call as a student meant I would stay a little later yes … but when you’re there as a doctor and you’re on call you know ‘I came here this morning and I’ll go home tomorrow ‘…, ”he said.
She is preparing for the challenge as they have been warned that the internship is difficult.
The final year in her journey to where she is today was the hardest as that was when the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality in Guyana.
When asked about this time the young doctor initially said that there were many uncertainties that made it more difficult.
“Don’t know how to prepare, that’s where the initial difficulty came from, because when COVID came we were two months ahead of our exams … so at that point you had a plan you were working with to get you to this finish line and then here comes COVID and you’re not sure how to continue your plan …, ”he said.
Beyond that was the concern that COVID brought with her thinking of her family and whether working individuals could maintain their jobs and be safe and even about herself and stay safe.
“Having all these extras out there to think about and worry about was an extra distraction that you hadn’t planned for and really nothing could have prepared you for that …,” he added.
Don’t know when final exams were struggling to plan; they were unaware of the date.
“It made studying a lot harder because you didn’t work to the same deadline as you set yourself … It was a little tiring for us because it’s like you’re running a race trying to get to the end, and mind you here in March I see the finish line and the finish line continues to move further and further afield …, ”she shared.
She was tired and at times she was just tired of studying and during that time her faith helped keep her on the ground as she knew so many things were unpredictable for her, someone more than she was in control. . She also had a support system of her family members and colleagues who helped; it was always good to know that others understood what he had experienced.
She and some of her colleagues had a habit of studying together, but COVID put an end to that at first, and it was difficult for them because the group study helped them greatly. Thankfully, they eventually met almost as a group and that really helped them.
‘Never be scared’
Speaking to young people who might think of a similar career path, Dr Europe said it was important for them to know their motivation and always think about the reason behind choosing a particular route. If they are comfortable that is their purpose in life, they would always have comfort and satisfaction going forward.
“I would always say that you should never be afraid to change your mind or start over or do something different as it is one year less doing something you don’t like or one year less doing something that is not in my best interest.” your health or the life you want … Don’t be afraid to change …, “he urged.
He noted that change is inevitable, and one should adapt because sometimes it takes time to discover things. “So don’t be afraid to make those mistakes. Don’t be afraid to start things over … trust that when you get to the end and where you are satisfied that this is where you belong, you would look back and know why you had to you went through everything you had to go through…, ”he said.
He encouraged them to set high standards for themselves because while it is okay to do well, it is better to do great and far more than the minimum requirement.
“So don’t be afraid to hang your hat a little higher than you think you might be able to reach it because when you reach that extra height it’s very encouraging and really inspiring you for the next challenge and you might have that coming after that, ”he said.
Dr Europe’s success was partly due to the support of many family members, friends and mentors and even individuals who do not know them. Her parents, Cuthbert Europe and Roxanne Welcome-Europe have been great motivators over the years.