Dr David Walcott - Pioneering innovative solutions in health careSunday, June 20, 2021
DR David Walcott has an instinct for identifying problems and an innate ability to create solutions. It's these qualities that have led him into the medical field, not just to become a good doctor that solves his patients' problems, but also to create innovative solutions within the health-care industry. The medical entrepreneur is not only blazing a trail for himself within the field but, through his business ventures, he is also illuminating the path for other professionals to find their own way.
While the myriad issues that exist in the local and regional health sectors are push factors for many medical professionals to seek greener pastures overseas, these same problems are what pull Dr Walcott back to work everyday. He wants to solve them.
“I have a penchant for problem-solving,” the Oxford-trained immunologist said. “My instinct has always driven me towards identifying problems to solve and exploring solutions. One thing I love about the Caribbean and Latin America region is that we have many problems that remain to be solved.”
Through Novamed, the health-care company he co-founded in 2018 with entrepreneur Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, Dr Walcott and his team have been helping to solve the region's problems in the areas of health-care services, medical education, and health innovation. Novamed's medical education arm, First Step, has grown to become a pioneering one-stop shop for medical students and doctors in the Caribbean and Latin America who want to access further training to advance their careers. Walcott created this solution after a personal experience highlighted the gap that needed to be filled.
“I was going to specialise in plastic surgery and had been exploring a series of schools abroad, including Colombia and Harvard, for which I had to do very well in application exams,” he recalled. “I ended up doing quite well, performing within the 99.9 percentile, but realised that most of my peers found it difficult to access these grades and, ultimately, these institutions. I decided that I preferred the idea of creating a portal for access to world-class medical education for the region to specialising and, therein, First Step was born.”
With its impressive 99.5 per cent student success rate, First Step has grown from strength to strength since its inception and has recently launched a new programme — CareerMD.
“CareerMD was created for medical students or professionals seeking assistance with navigating their careers in health care, and we provide the full suite of advisory services required for admission into both specialty [residency] programmes and medical schools in the United States,” Dr Walcott explained. “In addition to this, CareerMD provides opportunities for medical students to garner both research experience and experience interning in the health-care businesses.”
While he has invested a significant portion of his time and energy into his businesses, Dr Walcott has also devoted himself wholeheartedly to medical research and his patients.
After obtaining his first medical degree at The University of the West Indies, the Campion College graduate worked at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). There, he immersed himself in the everyday rigours of the local public health system and got a first-hand (gloved, of course) experience of the challenges that exist therein, and the commitment it takes to be continuously compassionate.
“Life in public hospitals can be stressful and overwhelming, and medical professionals sometimes disconnect from their duty to public care, resulting in compromised patient care,” he expressed thoughtfully. “In the times of peak stress, I learnt to reconnect with my empathy for my patients by reminding myself that everyone has someone who cares about them. Every patient is someone's child.”
Having received the coveted Rhodes scholarship in 2011, Dr Walcott pursued studies at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where he obtained his master's degree in immunology, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Clinical Medicine. While conducting research into drug development and biopharmaceuticals for his doctorate, Dr Walcott also picked up a mini-MBA (master of business administration) from INSEAD and Harvard Business School. He went on to learn six foreign languages, which have enabled him to engage health-care sectors around the globe.
With even half his credentials, the son of two medical doctors could have made a comfortable enough life for himself by seeing patients as a private consultant, but Dr Walcott always knew his calling was to transform, not conform.
“When I entered the medical field, I wasn't hoping to just become another doctor in the system,” he said. “My hope is to drive a transformative shift in health care in the Caribbean and Latin America, noting that most countries in the region find it challenging to serve the totality of health-care needs of their population… I want to contribute towards changing that.”
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