To round out my series on Jamaica, I decided to interview one of my fellow co-residents! Najwah was born in Jamaica and lived there until she moved to the United States for educational purposes. I asked her to share some of her memories from childhood, as well as her experiences in residency.
Interview with Najwah, a Jamaican Podiatry Resident
Life Back Home
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Jamaica (fun fact - I share the same birthday as Bob Marley). I spent the first 18 years of my life there before moving to the United States for college. Growing up in a third world country really helped to mold me into the person I am today. It made me acutely aware of the poverty and need that constantly surround us. To this day, working with under-served population groups is a huge passion of mine. I try to incorporate this passion into as many aspects of my life as possible.
What was it like growing up in Jamaica?
I had the BEST childhood! I grew up in Mandeville, Jamaica, which is one of the more affluent cities in the country. My father was a medical doctor who owned his own private practice, and my mother was a high school English Literature teacher. I attended a private elementary school and a public high school, as did my three siblings. Our family was very tight-knit, and church was an integral part of our lives. My parents worked very hard to ensure that we were given opportunities that they were not afforded. We took private piano, language and academic lessons, had planned family vacations, celebrated Christmas' and birthday parties, among so many other things.
As a country, Jamaica really does embrace its motto of "Out of many, one people." It is a true melting pot. The society is extremely diverse, and you meet people from all areas and walks of life. Jamaica is absolutely beautiful, and the people are some of the friendliest you will ever meet. However, the country does suffer with criminal and economic hardships, which does make life in Jamaica very difficult for some.
Why did you decide to move to the United States? Has there been any aspect about living in the United States that has been challenging?
I am the third of four children in my family. Having witnessed my two older siblings move to the US for college and be given more opportunities than Jamaica could ever offer, I too wanted to follow suit. That being said, moving was still a life changing decision, and did have inherent challenges. Learning to drive on the opposite side of the road was the simplest issue to tackle. Understanding the complexities of racism in America and trying to make it as an international student, however, have been far more difficult.
What has been your favorite thing about residency?
Seeing my own professional growth in both clinical and surgical realms has made me more excited and passionate about my future in podiatry. Being at Cambridge Health Alliance, a well rounded program with supportive attendings and co-residents, has really helped to accelerate this growth.
What has been the hardest thing about residency?
Residency is a full time commitment, meaning at this stage in life, everything else has to take a back seat. I believe most residents can agree they have had to sacrifice their health, social and family life, and at times personal happiness, as part of this investment.
How do you personally manage stress while in residency?
I lean on my support system - my family and friends offer encouragement and advice to help get through the tough times. It is also important to step back once in a while and do something for yourself, to get recharged. Whether that's going to church, going on a hike, a vacation, or watching a movie - it is vital to do something that makes you feel human again.
Thoughts on Burnout
What is your definition of burnout, and have you experienced any during residency?
For me, burnout is the point at which one's efficiency and productivity are compromised as a result of severe stress or fatigue. I have absolutely experienced burnout during my residency training.
What is one way you believe residency programs can help residents manage burnout?
For residents, the stigma that asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence is very real. Creating spaces for open communication where residents can approach other co-residents or attendings to ask for assistance without judgment, is key.
This post will conclude The Point Doctor’s series on Jamaica. Over the coming months, I hope to have more resident profiles available on this blog to highlight the amazing diversity within the field of medicine. Please send me an email if you are interested in participating!