Dr Jacqueline Wright James — Children first

By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, February 19, 2018

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DR Jacqueline Wright James is a fun-loving, focused nurturer who believes in dreaming big. Her demeanour suggests shyness, but on interaction one will quickly realise that this lover of children, though quiet, is set on getting the best outcomes for kids in her care.

Born and raised in Kingston, Dr Wright James told All Woman that growing up, though involved in a number of extracurricular activities, her sole ambition was to do well in whatever she set out to do.

And so, at the age of 12, she decided she wanted to become a paediatrician as she was drawn to children and enjoyed watching her mother, a teacher, interact with her students. She focused on her dream until it became a reality.

Dr Wright James, a former student of St Hugh's High School, shared that while in school she immersed herself in the Spanish Club, Science Club, Key Club, the choir, played tennis and did track and field, in addition to playing the piano from age six to this day.

Upon leaving St Hugh's, she spent nine months teaching mathematics at St Andrew High School for Girls before moving on to pursue a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery degree at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Dr Wright James explained that as part of her degree she did an internship at Spanish Town Hospital, which initially had her second-guessing her dream of becoming a paediatrician.

“When I started and rotated through the various departments, I thought of dermatology, but I had a good consultant who groomed me, and six months in the latter half of my internship I worked at the adjoining health centre. Then the head of the paediatrics department asked me to come back and assist as they were short-staffed, and I went back for two months. Those two months cemented my decision,” she explained.

Shortly after that, Dr Wright James left for the United Kingdom where she specialised in paediatrics, spending one year at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, London, and two and a half years at Guy's and St Thomas hospitals in London before returning to Jamaica. She went back to Spanish Town Hospital where she has remained.

Today, Dr Wright James, a consultant paediatrician and head of the Paediatric Unit at the Spanish Town Hospital for the past four years, says she wouldn't trade her job, despite the many challenges that exist.

The consultant paediatrician also shared that in her time at Spanish Town Hospital, infrastructure improvement is one dream that has come true.

“I dreamt of the ward being one of the most beautiful paediatric wards in Jamaica, and I started a project that saw us redoing the ward. Any good achievement starts with a dream. We partnered with South East Regional and a few corporate entities, held four benefit plays, raised $1.2 million, and at the end we saw a $10-million project come to completion,” she said.

Now her other dreams include further improving the level of care and seeing the special care nursery being transformed into a neonatal care unit, which will receive a boost from the benefits that the unit will receive from this year's Sagicor Sigma Run.

In addition to her work at Spanish Town Hospital, Dr Wright James has given back to the Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas for the past 15 years by conducting ward rounds there every week, assisting with the paediatric clinic, and seeing complex paediatric cases.

“My husband Brian, an anaesthesiologist, is from St Thomas, and it is just one way of wanting to give back to the parish,” she said.

Dr Wright James, who also holds a certificate in management from the Mona School of Business and Management, has done research in meningitis. When she returned to Jamaica from her studies in the UK, this research helped to initiate the pentavalent vaccine — a vaccine combined with five individual vaccines conjugated into one — intended to actively protect people from multiple diseases.

She has also done work on the issue of perinatal mortality, and on the number of resident newborns dying under seven days of age in a specified geographic area, and prides herself in patient and staff satisfaction.

An associate lecturer at the UWI, outside of work Dr Wright James spends time gardening, cooking, and serving as an organist at St Andrew Parish Church.

She also serves the Amateur Swimmers Association of Jamaica, where she is actively involved in planning medical coverage for various meets and accompanying the team as medical doctor on overseas events.

A mother of two boys — Shaun and Justin — Dr Wright James's philosophy is to dream big, think big, plan big, and with patience, action and time, success will come.

“The sustainability of any nation depends on its children,” she says.

“The impact you make on the health and well-being of a child is fulfilling.”

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