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Dr Leo Walker - Making a difference - All Woman - Jamaica Observer
All Woman

Dr Leo Walker - Making a difference

AS early as age 10, Dr Leo Walker had his eyes set on medicine. But, unlike many of his colleagues with the passion for dedicating themselves to the everyday care and wellness of people, his decision to take this path was not catapulted by an extraordinary life event, calling, or familial obligation. Dr Walker's decision was a simple toss-up of the careers his grandmother perceived as the most prestigious professions.

Fast-forward to 2021, the 34-year-old consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist, who obtained his bachelor of medicine and surgery degree (MBBS) in June 2011 from The University of the West Indies, told All Woman that he has never regretted choosing medicine.

“As far back as I can remember I've always wanted to be a doctor. Growing up I would always hear family, and my grandmother specifically, refer to doctors and lawyers among prestigious and respected careers, so I thought, 'Hey, why not? Doctor it is,' ” Dr Walker shared.

The Ardennite said that choosing his area of speciality, though, was a more intimate process. Dr Walker recalled that the minute he started his internship rotations he discovered that he had an instant connection that morphed into an intense enthusiasm for obstetrics and gynaecology.

“Initially, I was undecided about what I wanted to specialise in during medical school, but once I started [my] internship and got the opportunity to rotate through different areas and get a taste of what's involved, my mind was made up. In my mind, O&G [obstetrics and gynaecology] was the perfect blend of everything I enjoyed from each area. And the truth is that if I had to do my life all over, 100 times, I would choose O&G in all of them. I feel fortunate in knowing that I'm doing something that I love and I can only hope to continue making a difference.”

If you want to truly measure his love for the field of medicine, though, one has to look no further than Dr Walker's current pursuits. When not following his dreams, the University Hospital of the West Indies hospital-based Maternal Foetal Medicine Fellow is likely to be instructing medical students on the foundation of obstetrics and gynaecology or leading exam review sessions for other aspiring doctors.

“I'm always willing to pass on knowledge. I also find that it helps to cement that same knowledge in my mind and enables me to grow a deeper understanding of the topic. As for my fellowship, it is an area that deals with ultra-high risk/complicated pregnancies, focusing on interventions designed to screen for and limit morbidity and mortality associated with those complications,” Dr Walker said of the speciality area, which has fewer than 10 practising professionals locally.

Another reason Dr Walker said that he never had to second-guess his decision to pursue medicine is that he has always been intrigued by a diagnostic challenge, and the gratification and deep feeling of satisfaction that comes with solving a case and making an official diagnosis has always served as an unwavering source of motivation.

“I always found it fascinating that, as doctors, we're very much like detectives, solving mysteries sometimes. We mix all that knowledge we have acquired over the years with a blend of instinct to address the complex concerns of patients. That's why medicine is considered by many as both a science and an art and it fascinates me,” a passionate Dr Walker shared.

Lifelong friendships, solid patient-doctor relationships, and the gratitude shown by his patients, according to Dr Walker, also make an undeniably tough job rewarding. He shared that, in his experience, there is never an expiration on the gratitude that patients show once there is a respectful relationship with patients because he continues to benefit from the kindness of families that he has cared for over the years who he meets across many organisations and even in the streets.

“I remember a few years ago I went to the depot to renew my car fitness and, of course, this long line awaited me. So I just made up my mind to wait and, as I was getting mentally prepared to languish in there for all eternity, I heard someone shout, 'Doc! Is you that? You don't need to stay in this line.' To my surprise, it was the spouse of a patient I had delivered years prior and he was able to expedite the entire process for me,” Dr Walker said, reliving one of the most impacting acts of kindness he received.

“Obviously, I was grateful for that, but what struck me, even more is that he was so appreciative of what I had done for him and his wife that, even after so many years, he remembered me and was more than willing to help me in whatever way he could. I think those are the moments that motivate me and the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most, when you feel how much you've positively impacted others,” he shared.

Even as there are so many things that he looks forward to in his profession, he said that there are also some areas of concern, one being the threat to the field of medicine created by a profusion of falsehoods. The worrying trend that he speaks of is directly linked to the evolution of media technologies and newer media platforms growing in dominance that often goes unregulated and unchecked.

He said that he is particularly concerned that, instead of users of non-traditional platforms using their capacity to influence and drive truthful, fact-checked medical discussions, the platforms are inundated by a consistent flow of misinformation and disinformation, a challenge recently illuminated by the novel coronavirus pandemic. This has made it more difficult for medical practitioners, but Dr Walker said he is always ready to educate and put things into context for patients.

“I am concerned about the emergence of misinformation and what sources are considered reliable. Personally, as a health-care professional, I constantly encourage my patients to be aware of their bodies and read about whatever it is we discuss during the visit. But it's also important to appreciate that without some background knowledge, misinterpretations can sometimes occur and it's our role to provide that context. I think, especially now, our role as a guide and a source of reliable information is of immense importance,” Dr Walker said.

Between work at his private practices at Westminster and Oxford Medical centres, his fellowship and teaching commitments at the University Hospital of the West Indies, does this bachelor have any time in the schedule to incorporate “life”?

“My schedule is very hectic, but when I do get some downtime, the way that I use it will depend on the mood that I am in. I could just be at home watching movies or catching up on some of my favourite series, but I also consider myself somewhat of an amateur chef so I'll fire up the grill now and then. I think my speciality dish is my beef lasagne. For those who tasted it and know, please let them know it's straight facts,” Dr Walker laughed.

When he completes his Maternal Foetal Medicine Fellowship and receives his certificate in December, he will join the fewer than ten fellowship-trained colleagues in the sub-speciality.

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