Dad are you ok?” she gasped in response as her father’s eyes searched desperately in every direction for help. “Call the paramedics,” I shouted to my buddy as we both sprinted down the hallway of the Bay Walk mall in Rodney Bay. ‘Hypoglycemia’, I thought to myself, as I watched my dazed and confused patient sweating profusely.
“Pulse 105 … help is on the way! Hang in there Mr. Johnson,” I urged, as I removed my t-shirt and made a makeshift pillow, to somehow ease his discomfort. The man lying on the ground was still sweating and his pulse was rapid. I carefully fed him some juice and continued doing this for five minutes, until the paramedics arrived.
If you asked a random person in Rodney Bay or Castries or even Vieux Fort, if their health is more valuable than money or a nice car, almost everyone would say: “Yes. My health is one of the most important things in my life.” If regular health check-ups were everyone’s number one priority—or at least ahead of anything material—do you think we would be able to reverse some of the trends in chronic disease such as hypertension or even diabetes, as seen in the case of our above patient Mr. Johnson? I venture to say, “Absolutely yes!”
Challenges are inherently part of life and anyone older than the age of twelve has had their share. In St Lucia, we all have demanding jobs, a family to spend time with, friends that want to go out, social events we’ve committed to, children in extracurricular activities, medical school studies, and the list goes on and on. How could we possibly have time to be conscientious about our health? If we had everything figured out, would our quality of life improve drastically? Absolutely yes!
Research shows that only five to ten percent of the most chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity are attributable to genetics. The other 90 percent to 95 percent are a direct result of our lifestyle and the environment.
As the President of the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) at the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) in Rodney Bay, I have learned that medicine is more than just the art of saving lives, curing ailments, relieving pain and providing comfort. In St Lucia, our chapter is devoted to providing educational benefits, advancement opportunities and community service projects such as free health clinics, for the St Lucian community.
Being a part of Atlantic University’s health clinic offers our first and second year students, their first opportunity to work directly with patients, an opportunity that might not present itself till the third year in other medical schools. But at the same time such clinics also offer the local community an opportunity to keep a regular check on their blood pressure or blood sugar levels, thus avoiding catastrophic health conditions such as strokes, heart attacks and even diabetes.
One of the main focuses at our monthly clinics is to screen for healthy vital signs, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure readings, diabetes as well as basic eye exams, which are supervised by our highly qualified doctors/professors at AUSOM, who are often seen addressing any additional health related concern patients might have. For the last few months these community clinics have exposed Atlantic University School of Medicine’s students to people from a variety of backgrounds, forcing us to think ‘outside the box’ thus helping us shape our critical thinking skills as doctors-in-training.
Talking to patients at the clinics gives us medical students a better understanding of the feasibility of what we ask our patients to do. Questions like, “does my patient have access to the medicines prescribed,” or “what is the likelihood that my patient can actually exercise three times a week?” help us relate to our patients on a level they are comfortable with.
The reality today is that even though everyone is searching, there really is no magic pill for living a healthy lifestyle without any health conditions. It requires commitment, consistency and sometimes taking that first step, before it is your last.
Our next free health clinic is on Sunday, June 23 in Morne-Dor (on the playing field) Castries from 1 pm-4 pm. It is a free clinic and all ages are encouraged to attend!