Trinity School of Medicine has always prided itself on the strength and ambition of its students. So many future physicians come our way looking for something new; whether that’s a unique learning environment built on support and a strong relationship with the faculty, a curriculum with an emphasis on clinical skills and service to patients, or just a true opportunity to live up to their potential. In this last alumni spotlight of 2018, and in honor of our 10th anniversary, we sat down with Dr. Gamal Fitzpatrick, a Vincentian citizen and practicing physician at Trinity’s esteemed teaching hospital, Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. Read what it’s like to go from a Trinity student gaining clinical experience during basic sciences to now interacting with new medical students as a physician. We have also included full video of the interview recorded on Trinity’s campus in St. Vincent.
What brought you into medicine?
Initially, it was my love of science. I really enjoyed biology as a kid and I thought that it would be a good fit for me. As I learned more and more about the body, I realized that this was what I was meant to do. And I enjoy a role where I help people and I have a positive impact in people’s lives.
And what brought you to Trinity?
Well I am a Vincentian and Trinity is one of the medical schools in St. Vincent. The reason I picked Trinity was that I felt it was the best fit for me, in terms of the experience that they provide for students. I thought that their program was great in that it allowed you to see patients at the hospital from the very first term up until you leave the island. That’s a great experience. I still remember some of the cases I learned on my very first week at the hospital.
As a Vincentian, how do you see students changing while they’re here on St. Vincent?
While at Trinity, I got the chance to interact with some of the students who were from the U.S., U.K. and Canada. And I’ve seen them change drastically due to their experience in St. Vincent. I’ve seen them come in “vacation mode” and enjoy the island for what it is, a paradise. Fun in the summer and the sun and the beaches and the lush vegetation, and then I see them hunker down, getting to their studying, and really “live” in St. Vincent.
[ed note: On how the students adapt to St. Vincent] I’ve known people who know more local spots than me! I’ve known people who go to the local vegetable market more than I do. So in that sense, the students move from being tourists or vacationers to residents.
How would you say your fellow students from somewhere else influenced you?
I’ve had a great experience with some of the students that I’ve met while at Trinity. They influenced me in a great number of ways. I had a roommate when I was in the U.S. for rotations who was from Canada (Dr. Brock Juffs, Trinity graduate and family medicine resident at LSUHSC in New Orleans, LA). He was a great guy, we did many things together. Even now we still talk about residency and medicine. He showed me a better way to study.
I also found that everyone was willing to work together, everyone was willing to form a study group and sort of debate the topic and try and help each other learn. It was more of a family; they wanted everyone to succeed, instead of competing against each other. I think that’s the value of coming to Trinity.
What was your favorite way to relax?
So, while on campus, one of my favorite ways to relax was to when I went on trips with everyone, I was part of the Welcoming Committee and part of the Caribbean Students Association. So as part of our club activities, we would take students to different locations across St. Vincent. I remember going to the volcano, that was a lot of fun we did a really nice hike. Besides that, I also like to go to the beach just as much as anyone. One of the more popular spots is Beachcombers Hotel and Villa. A lot of students used to go there on Saturdays or Sundays, enjoy the buffet and just relax by the pool.
Did you feel prepared when you got there (to Baltimore)?
Yes. To be honest with you, I felt like I was a lot more prepared than other students from other schools.
I think that my time Trinity prepared me for my rotations in Baltimore because I felt more comfortable with the [clinical] medicine side. I just had to get accustomed to the new environment and the new way of doing things. But once I got into my groove, I had a strong foundation for my clinical rotations. I was able to answer my preceptors, I was able to impress them, get good grades, and in the spirit of friendly competition, I think I did well. A lot better than some of the other students from some of the other schools.
So how does it feel now as a doctor back at home?
As a doctor back home in St. Vincent, it was an adjustment. I had to get re-acclimatized. I got used to the four seasons, now there’s only two seasons – summer and less summer. Internship here is challenging, it’s very challenging time wise. It’s challenging anywhere but especially here in St. Vincent, it’s challenging time-wise. I experience shortages of physicians on my job quite a bit, so I have to do a lot more shifts than some of my other colleagues. But it’s rewarding in the sense that I feel like I’m more invested in the community because the community is oftentimes the people that I know, the people that I see in the streets, the people that come up to me in the supermarket and say ‘thank you, you really helped me, I really hope everything is good with you’ and that sort of thing. Those sorts of conversations make it worthwhile for me.
Do you ever see Trinity students at work now? Do you ever come across them?
Yeah! I actually had an interesting experience with Trinity students in that things kind of went full circle. When I was in first term, when I came to the hospital and someone taught me, I got to teach someone who was in first term [at Trinity]. It was really a rewarding experience for me, to tell them that I was from Trinity and I’ve been through things that they’ve been through and that they can get through it, too. And I gave them some pointers and helped them out with their preceptors. It went really well.
Do you have anything to say to anyone considering Trinity right now?
For the people considering Trinity, I would say go for it. Chase your dream, become the physician that you want to be, don’t think that you can’t make it. This is a place where people make it. There is a good foundation here. Work with students and come together as a family in study groups, help each other out. I think this would be a good environment for you, for work and, I guess, for play too.
Thank you, Dr. Fitzpatrick!