SO Cocktails With... Cleopatra Deniece Patterson

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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Cleopatra Deniece Patterson Consultant Physician Anaesthetist Batchelor of Medicine, Batchelor of Surgery Doctor of Medicine in Anaesthesia and Critical Care from The University of the West Indies, Mona

At what point did it hit a child from deep rural St Mary that medicine was within her grasp?

Medicine was never a big ambition of mine. As a matter of fact, as a teenager I wanted to be a hairdresser! I have the benefit of a very supportive family so any choice, as long as it was considered reasonable, would be given an endorsement. The only requirement was that you give it your best shot, find the best person and learn from them. I got decent grades in high school so I went to Titchfield for sixth form where, as a science student, you either applied for medicine or engineering. Medicine took me, so here we are.

Would your message today to your younger self be any different than it was then?

Calm down; slow down; there is enough time to do it all; life is not a competition against the clock. Enjoy the high school years, take a gap year, get a job, go back to school, learn a second language, travel, volunteer, become more than just a doctor.

Why did you choose anaesthesiology?

Anaesthesiology appeals to certain aspects of my personality. I love autonomy; I have a mild obsession with order and control; anaesthesia allows for that. I also like to work in the background, like a stagehand or costume designer contributing to the overall experience, but not at the front and centre of the stage. I also enjoy making an otherwise difficult experience tolerable or even pleasant. I don't know many people who have surgery for the fun of it, and for some it's the most difficult experience of their lives. So if I can add to that in a positive way I will.

What has been your most humbling experience career-wise?

A few years ago I had a patient, a little boy who was severely ill. As a part of the medical team we had done all we could do; we were at the limit of what we could offer. I spent ages trying to inform the dad that his son was going to die; I was sure of it. Man, was I wrong. That little boy defied all the odds, made a complete recovery, and from time to time I run into him and his father. His dad always says thanks, and I feel undeserving. I gave up on this child; I was mistaken. So, since then, I don't give up, I try my best for each and every one, because I actually don't know what the outcome will be, despite the available statistics. At the same time I try not to offer unrealistic hope.

Where's your happy place?

My happy place is my garden. I have a few plants at home; I like to fuss over and care for them. Some appreciate my efforts, some don't, but when the orchids are happy they are just so beautiful it overwhelms me.

Nature or Nurture?

I want to say both, but I think nurture determines most things, and can undo some of what is thought to be genetically determined. I need to believe that to keep motivated.

Is it more important to be liked or respected?

Definitely respected. It's nice to be liked, but if your character is to be tested, you will lose a few persons along the way, because likability is an expensive personality trait, at times requiring much compromise of integrity. Respect is usually a result of consistent principled behaviour.

What is your greatest fear?

That I will regret the way I chose to raise my children and take care of my family. I enjoy working, but that means I can't do as many Mommy activities as I would like. I hope this doesn't ruin my boys. My desire is that they will be honourable, accomplished, high-functioning adults.

What book/s do you recommend most to others?

For a fun read, anything by Anthony Winkler. I have laughed so hard reading his work. That man knows how to document the conduct of Jamaicans in a way that is authentic and hilarious. Malcolm Gladwell for easy reading and unique perspectives.

What lesson has been the hardest to learn?

The most difficult thing I do every day is accept help. I want to do everything myself, but I can't; it's not possible. It was hard to acknowledge that I am vulnerable and I won't ever know everything and have every skill. I now embrace the concept of outsourcing and delegation in both my personal and professional life. I try to achieve mastery in a few things and the rest I allow other masters to do.

What food sums you up?

Coffee. I am an acquired taste, but once you figure me out you can count on me to have an energising effect on your life.

What have you never understood?

I can never understand the appeal of soccer. Why the commitment of men mostly to a game that causes them pure stress to watch and injury to play?

What's the one thing that might surprise people about you?

That I need quiet time, a few moments per day without other human interaction, where I recharge. I do come off as a bit of an extrovert, but I don't function very well if I haven't had time to disappear. (Hence the garden.)

Heels or flats?

Heels, until they hurt, and then I put on the flats.

Jeans or an LBD?

That's tough, but little black dress.

Romantic movie or a comedy?

Easy: comedy! I love to laugh. I watch all the stand-up specials I can find.

Ballet recital or opera?

Ballet recital. I am really impressed by the strength and artistry expressed by the human form.

Were you to assemble a dream team for a life-saving operation who would they be (living and or dead) and why?

That's a really hard question, as there are so many scenarios. But my favourite surgeon is Dr Akil Baker; amazing bedside manner, competent, brilliant and an artist with a scalpel. My theatre nurse would be Julie Plumridge; she is never ruffled, always in control. My anaesthesiologists (I know too many amazing ones) I would have to settle on Dr Brian James. He will stop at nothing to make sure that the absolute best care is offered.

Finally, what's your personal credo?

To be honest with myself, no matter what, be it negative, positive, petty or dignified. I must always know my truth; however, what I reveal to the world will be based on the prevailing circumstances. Is there room in that for a bit of a facade ? Maybe, but I must never fool myself.


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