Physician to establish rheumatology clinic in Jamaica

Physician to establish rheumatology clinic in Jamaica

Rheumatic diseases result in excruciating pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints and are the most common causes of reduced mobility.

With a significant number of the populations of most countries suffering from the disorder, Jamaican Dr. Taneisha McGhie made the switch from an infectious diseases specialist.

With support from the G. Raymond Chang Fellowship and the Jamaican government, she is one of two international clinical fellows enrolled in the University of Toronto’s (U of T) two-year rheumatology program.

In 2005, Chang – who died two years ago – made a substantial financial donation that helped launch a two-year fellowship program for Caribbean physicians. The program is led by Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong, the co-founder of the Centre for Excellence in Education and Practice of General Internal Medicine, who has been instrumental in championing opportunities for Caribbean doctors to train at the University Health Network (UHN) for specific jobs back in their homelands.

“I did an elective with Dr. Ho Ping Kong in 2009 and I knew Toronto was the place where I wanted to be and the fit would be good,” said Dr. McGhie who arrived in the city in the summer of 2015. “The past year has been quite hectic with me doing clinics at various hospitals across the Greater Toronto Area, working with community rheumatologists and taking part in academic conferences. It has been a great mix of clinical work and exposure to other people who are training in rheumatology in addition to some research that I have started to work on.”

Despite varied interests, including a keen aptitude for the arts, McGhie knew at a young age that she wanted to pursue medicine.

“For me, medicine is a calling,” said the Wolmer’s graduate. “It’s a field I found very fascinating. I liked the fact that you are interacting with people, touching their lives and helping them in a tangible way. Since childhood, I understood that concept and my exposure to the sciences in high school confirmed that interest.”

McGhie was turned on to rheumatology when she met Dr. Karel De Ceulaer while doing internal medicine training at the University of the West Indies.

“I met him during my first month of training and by the second month, I fell in love with rheumatology,” she said. “I realized it was an area where you could see quick improvements in patients’ overall quality of life. You would see a patient for the first time, and the next time you see them, they are combing their hair and climbing stairs. That’s very gratifying.

“Dr. De Ceulaer was very instrumental in supporting that interest. He gave me two huge text books once I conveyed to him that I was interested in rheumatology and he drove from Kingston to Montego Bay every month to do a clinic that we share. He’s my mentor.”

Prior to starting a medical practice 13 years ago, McGhie was crowned the 2000 Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. Impressed with her eloquence and articulation in an interview on Smile Jamaica after the sashing, she was invited to audition for a co-host role on Television Jamaica’s premier morning show.

“I gave it my best shot and got the job,” she said. “It was not something I was aiming to do. It fell into my lap and I welcomed the opportunity. It allowed me to expand my horizon in terms of current affairs and meeting many people from different fields outside of medicine. Each morning was exciting as it was live TV. It happened and it was great, but medicine was where I wanted to go.”

At age five, McGhie’s mother – Audrey Allen is a lawyer – gave her a doctor’s kit as a gift.

“I can’t remember if I asked for it,” she said. “What I do remember is that my mother always wanted me to pursue law.”

Despite going in another direction, there is no indifference when it comes to the relationship between mother and daughter.

“Higher education is important to her and she allowed me to broaden my horizon,” said McGhie. “She’s a very kind and giving person.”

McGhie, whose life is deeply rooted in the Christian faith, also heaped praise on her late maternal grandmother who raised her.

“My grandma was an educator and someone who was very poised and elegant,” she said. “In my formative years, she groomed me to be confident and she instilled in me a passion for reading. She was also very spiritual and that provided a solid base for me. I attribute the core of who I am to her upbringing.”

After completing her fellowship next summer, McGhie will return to Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, where she was a consultant in internal medicine, and set up Jamaica’s third rheumatology clinic after Kingston Public Hospital and the UWI.

“It will fill a need for Western Jamaica where there are no rheumatologists,” said the UWI department of medicine associate lecturer.

She will become the sixth practicing rheumatologist in Jamaica after De Ceulaer, Keisha Maloney, Desiree Tulloch-Reid, Stacy Davis and Karlene Hagley who completes her U of T residency this summer.

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