The passionate Dr Anna-Kay Taylor-Christmas

By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, March 30, 2015

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SHE'S a Christian, jovial, passionate, strong, and she's usually busy delivering a baby, performing surgery or attending to patients. But despite her hectic schedule, she finds time to use her singing talent to help save the lives of cancer patients.


Tall, with a slender frame complemented by high cheekbones, Dr Anna-Kay Taylor-Christmas, 32, is often mistaken for a teenager. Born in Kingston, she tells All Woman that like many people, she grew up singing in the church and developed her gift as she progressed.


"I started singing in the choir at church and occasionally we would do concerts so I was accustomed to singing in front of a large crowd," she says.


And so, it was no surprise that when she left Campion College and enrolled in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, to pursue her degree in medicine, she also joined the University Singers.


"This exposed me to a wide variety of musical types and stretched my voice and singing technique. I grew a lot from that group. It was about carving out the time for relaxation, which was me practising with the group, performing with them, and ensuring I had a study schedule, which I tried my best to stick to. It was needed to break the madness of med school."


Though an obstetrician-gynaecologist (OBGYN), Dr Taylor- Christmas tells All Woman that she has an interest in oncology.


"I developed an interest in oncology, particularly gynaecological cancers, after I rotated through that department during my residency. I intend to specialise in that area and improve that service in the public system," she explains.


As a result, when the soprano songbird was approached by the Jamaica Cancer Society to assist with their benefit concert in 2012 and 2013, she willingly obliged, and with the help of her husband Maxim, her fund-raising journey began. Now, she will not think twice about singing at a benefit concert.


"My husband, who's also a doctor, plays the piano and he plays for me while I sing," she says.


A big fan of Whitney Houston, she says she also enjoys a wide range of music, inclusive of gospel, classical, soul reggae and inspirational songs, most of which she pulls from while doing her gigs for charity.


But in 2012 when her mother, Monica, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and required treatment in United States which was very costly, Dr Taylor-Christmas further availed herself and her talent to assist her mother.


"When I saw the figures I couldn't process how much money it would cost. I got the idea to put on a concert to try and raise some funds to help them supplement the cost. My entire family is musically inclined, so we came together and pulled our resources in terms of people that we know. My father is a musician so he called on a few friends, we put on two concerts and raised enough money to help my mother with her medical bills."


She explains that multiple myeloma is a disease of the bone marrow, where abnormal cells multiply and take over the normal cells in the body. It affects the bones and causes anaemia and other symptoms like kidney problems. However, she says her mom caught hers early and was able to get intervention.


Dr Taylor-Christmas dubs her mother her true hero, as she found the strength to start a support group locally for people living with the disease.


"There was none here and she linked with the international body and developed one. Through this she has been able to organise treatments, make links abroad, attend the conferences on multiple myeloma and bring awareness to the disease as many are not aware that March is multiple myeloma month," she says.


"She's not the perfect woman; she's independent but loving, loyal to my father. She saw there was a need and took the responsibility to implement the support group. I couldn't ask for better qualities in a mother."


Also a mother of two girls, Dr Taylor-Christmas, in her role as an OBGYN, is also passionate about women being in control of their health and champions the importance of doing yearly pap smears.


"Don't listen to other people who are not health professionals for your health advice. When most patients come they realise it is not even one per cent as bad as what they were anticipating. It's just like a regular examination, but there's one extra step that's not painful. The consequences of not doing it are so significant and severe, and no one wants to get cancer. It is important to do a pap smear and treat any mild abnormalities that you might pick up," she says.


Dr Taylor-Christmas, also a fellow for the American College for Obstetrics and Gynaecology that produces guidelines and continued education for gynaecologists, believes that more focus needs to be placed on contraception for women as too many children limit their educational opportunities and puts a strain on the economy.


"We need to improve the quality of life for women, especially those who are disadvantaged and of a lower socio-economic status. I want to see women in control of their health care. Many are not in control of their bodies or health. Either they are not educated or they're not empowered financially and socially to make good decisions about things that will affect them for the rest of their lives. I want to see by whatever means necessary, women become empowered to deal with their health."


Her inspiration to continue her work comes from God, and mentors like Dr Carole Rattray, whom she looks up to as a teacher and her senior in obstetrics and gynaecology.


Apart from music, Dr Taylor-Christmas also believes in the power of prayer and her daily mantra is taken from the Holy Scripture -- "Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you".


"This verse helps me to not worry about the future, but to trust that God is in control and He has a plan that is good for all of us," she says.



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