After spending much of his earlier years in paediatricians’ offices, between the Bustamante Hospital for Children (BHC) and private medical centres for childhood asthma, Dr Andrew Burton knew that he would become a paediatrician and set himself on a path to achieve his goal.
The young Senior Registrar in the Paediatric Medicine Department at BHC tells JIS NEWS that his journey was not without hiccups and discouragement, but he remained focused and persevered.
After completing high school at Campion College, Dr Burton attended medical school at the University of the West Indies, where he gained his MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) degree.
He completed the mandatory two-year internship and then became a Senior House Officer (SHO) at BHC. In this role, he explains, young physicians garner experience in different specialities.
“I always knew I wanted to be a paediatrician, so I spent some time as an SHO in different subspecialties of paediatrics in the nursery at Victoria Jubilee [Hospital] and anaesthesia at Bustamante,” he says.
However, during his postgraduate studies in paediatrics, Dr Burton says he had the most challenges.
He recalls that although the postgraduate degree in paediatrics is a four-year programme, he took six years to complete based on some setbacks in his personal life, including dealing with the pain of losing his mother. “So, during the four years, my mother passed away just before the halfway exams were to be sat. I grappled with whether to sit it or pause from that moment, but I decided to continue,” the Senior Registrar says.
This, he adds, was done with the encouragement of family, friends, colleagues and his seniors in the hospital to do it in honour of his mother.
“I sat the exam was successful and then went on to the senior years, hoping to ease up, but that was just a misconception because that was when even more responsibility was required”, he highlights.
“That was when the research component of the programme was expected to be in full gear, I was expected to accelerate, but I just wanted to take a break, so I took a leave of absence from the programme”, Dr Burton recalls.
He adds that there were other significant disappointments in his life at the time and it seemed impossible to him to be able to cope with going through with the programme.
During that leave of absence, the young doctor continued to work at Bustamante.
“I really developed a love for this hospital and the service that it offers, so I just took a break from the academic part of the programme,” he explains. “In coming back, I just had to get the gears turning again to remind myself of my purpose here and what I wanted to achieve, and it just felt like starting afresh while starting at where I left off,” the paediatrician adds.
He explains that having completed the programme in paediatrics, he was promoted to the senior registrar, and he will continue to push himself towards the next level, which is a paediatric consultant. He credits his childhood paediatrician for his love for discipline.
“From back then, I respected her so much. I liked the little setup. I liked how caring she was. She always wanted to help me and always wanted to look after me, and as a child I always admired that,” he says.
He adds that his years in church and in service clubs while in high school led him to zero in on the service aspect of medicine and how much it allows you to do for people.
Now that he is on the other side as a doctor, he says he is grateful for the opportunities that were afforded to him.
“I’m actually even grateful for the pause that I took during the programme. As much as I was frustrated and unsure about wanting to finish, I think it really altered the quality of how I finished,” he says.
He cites, as an example, research that won him three awards at the National Health Research Conference in November 2021.
Dr Burton won the awards for Best Student Presentation, Most Impactful Poster Presentation and Best Overall Poster Presentation at the National Health Research Conference 2021.
“Research is a part of the programme that allows candidates to partially fulfil the requirements to sit the final exam. It is due six months before the exit exam is even attempted,” Dr. Burton explains.
“That research project was one of my biggest stumbling blocks. It felt difficult. I felt uncertain about the process but having gotten through it, I was proud of my achievement and decided… that I was ready to put it out there and share it. So, I’m thankful,” he gleams.
He is thankful to the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the opportunity of the National Health Research Conference to share his research publicly and is happy that he kept his promise to himself to do so.
He acknowledges that paediatrics is his “baby” but has also developed an interest in the subspecialty of Paediatric Dermatology, which he will pursue in the future.
He encourages young people to always remember when obstacles come and that they should keep pushing towards the prize. He shares that his faith and his grandmother’s teachings have kept him steadfast, and is proud of his achievements.