Dr Jeremy Thomas - Off the beaten pathMonday, September 27, 2021
HAVING always been fascinated with science and doing experiments, Dr Jeremy Thomas knew that, at some point in his life, his career would take him into medicine.
Raised in St Catherine by parents Albert and Sonia Thomas, the Campion College old boy told All Woman that his childhood involved good times with his family and participating in mostly church activities to include football and cricket.
But, though he had a love for biology and was always curious about why things were happening, animals, and how their systems worked, it was medicine and eventually general surgery that piqued his interest for its action-like nature.
“I like getting tangible results and that's what I liked about surgery. Someone comes in with appendicitis and you fix it and they are out. That's one reason I also chose Kingston Public Hospital for my internship and that's where I became passionate about surgery,” Dr Thomas said.
However, when it came to making a career choice, the Manchester United fan wanted to work in an area that was not saturated and that's when his interest started growing in urology.
“Urology gave a nice mix between surgery, but not too many emergencies as general surgery, especially in Jamaica as we are overwhelmed most times by trauma. I liked it for the fact that it gave me a chance to be more organised, meaning I could plan my surgeries, get the hands-on experience in terms of major and minor surgeries, but not face too much of the hustle and bustle of what general surgery for me at the time entailed,” he told All Woman.
As a urologist, Dr Thomas specialises in the genito-urinary system, which involves the kidneys, urethra, bladder, pelvic floor, testes, and penis.
A common misconception is that urologists treat only men, but Dr Thomas said much of his speciality involves the treatment of women and partnership with women to reach men.
“Women have a lot of pelvic floor disorders, a lot of bladder disorders, kidney stones, which affects both males and females. I see women being more active or initiating early care, health-seeking behaviour, or I will have women carrying their loved ones — husbands, boyfriends, brothers, sons —in to us and that's important as we still see predominantly males because, unfortunately, a lot of prostate issues are quite common in Jamaica. It is the most common cancer in Jamaica and in men, the most common cause of death. In Jamaica up to 50 per cent of our men present to a clinic with advanced prostate cancer, which is unlike anywhere else in the world. So it is quite important that women — since they listen more and pay attention more to healthy practices — are aware of the need for screening, what affects a man, and bring them in, in a reasonable time,” Dr Thomas said.
Dr Thomas, who works in Montego Bay, Savanna-La-Mar, and Kingston, further stressed the need for men to do their screenings as they get to 40, as the country recognises these issues in Prostate Cancer Awareness Month this month.
“Screening involves a blood test checking for prostate specific antigens (PSA) and the examination of the prostate. It's important that both are combined as either is not foolproof by itself. It's a combination. Your PSA can be normal and you can still have prostate cancer, which is detected by an examination which will then alert the urologist that you need to get a biopsy of the prostate and that will lead to diagnosis,” he said.
As for women, Dr Thomas said any sort of pelvic floor disorders, whether incontinence, difficulty passing urine, pelvic pain, or kidney stones should be addressed and not just accepted as part of one's normal life.
“You [women] are doing a good job, but ramp it up more. Encourage men in your family, in your communities, men at work, men who you care for to seek medical care, get their yearly medical checks. Before all that, remember prevention is better than cure. So a healthy lifestyle, exercise, diet is always encouraged for both sexes. A lot of the topics to do with the pelvis and below are very taboo, whether it's erectile dysfunction, whether it's the prostate, but they are very real issues and men should not have to suffer alone.”
In spite of his passion, Dr Thomas has had many heartbreaking moments that have helped to fuel his drive.
“Recently there was a young guy who presented with a testicular mass. He was not yet 30, we took it out, it turned out to be testicular cancer and in a month and a half he died...medicine is littered with that and no matter how numb you feel to it, the humanitarian side of you will feel it. These are reasons I promote screening. Prostate cancer is preventable once the screenings are done as they should be. At age 40 or onwards, men should be encouraged to see a urologist or even a family doctor who will then refer them to a urologist,” he said.
Outside of work, Dr Thomas enjoys outdoor life, and like his approach to choosing urology, he prefers the off- beaten path.
“I believe Jamaica is a beautiful treasure that is untapped by its people. Me and a couple of friends had a mantra of discovering Jamaica on the off-beaten track. Most of the spots that are not common, we have been to,” he said.
In addition, Dr Thomas enjoys playing and watching football and is an avid music lover, having played a few instruments to include the piano, guitar, and drums.
Also a member of the Jamaica Urological Society, Dr Thomas has several mantras he lives by.
“There are no elevators to success, you have to take the stairs. Work hard in silence and let success be your noise. Success is never owned, it's rented and rent is due everyday. Stay humble, work hard and be kind. My parents are my greatest motivators and though my dad passed some years ago, the quiet confidence both parents had in me gave me the confidence to achieve some of my potential,” he said.