Many of you will recall, if you have been watching IETV, Intime Education Television, a long-running series called HealthTime that deals, naturally enough, with health-related topics, biology, hygiene and general science. A major component of the series is a number of shows, about 50 in all, in which a ‘doctor’ discusses everyday ailments, more serious complaints and myths about medical conditions.
Ashley Volney was one of our ‘doctors’. At the time, she was quite young and waiting to be accepted for college in Canada. Perhaps her stint as a ‘doctor’ on the show reinforced her ambition to become a real doctor one day; after all, each program entailed learning a script about some illness or complaint and delivering the message to her patients, sorry, viewers.
Whatever the case might be, Ashley set out to acquire all the necessary qualifications to enter medical school, but studying medicine is a costly business, and money does not grow on trees.
Ashley applied for a job at St Joseph’s Convent and was accepted to teach science; she had gained a biochemistry degree in Canada and was ready to go. But teaching, though fun at first, was not what she had in mind for herself. Medicine was still her goal. She studied assiduously for the exams that would gain her access to medical school, but the problem of financing her studies was always with her.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, something happened that changed everything. The Taiwanese Embassy announced that the Government of Taiwan was offering 30 scholarships worldwide to students wishing to study medicine. Ashley applied.
The selection process was quite rigorous and competitive. It was also completely free of possible ‘local interference’ that would allow favoured candidates, relatives of politicians, or friends of the Embassy any advantages or special treatment.
The procedure was simple but impressive in its use of technology. First there was a written exam over several hours that covered different subjects such as Science, English, etc. The same exam was taken at Embassies the world over and graded by the university authorities in Taiwan. The written exam was followed by a live ‘Skype’ interview conducted by a panel of judges in Taiwan with the applicants, who were sitting in the conference rooms of the various embassies the world over. Each embassy held its own interview for its aspiring doctors.
When the results were announced St Lucia had every reason to be proud. Of all the countries worldwide that had competed for the coveted 30 places in fair and square competition, St Lucia had gained 6 of them. Quite an achievement!
The successful candidates were Marlon Ragunanan, Sancher Sabrina Edmunds, Mark T Melius, Anaii Roberta Emmanuel, Xana Astrid Boriel and, of course, Ashley Volney, who achieved first place worldwide!
Since arriving in Taiwan, Ashley has been honored and her achievements recognized, by the Republic of China (Taiwan). She was chosen as one of three students to accompany the President of Taiwan, President Ma, when he opened the new Medical University.
Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction; dreams can become a reality; hard work reaps its own rewards; and television ‘doctors’ turn out to be real after all.