Medical student doing her part during pandemic

Medical student Symone Walkine, 25, is facing an uncertain future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

She would have been “transitioning” into her final year at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and set to graduate next year, but with critical hands-on lessons having been put on hold since March, there’s a “question mark” beside how her future will play out.

“The pandemic had really taken a toll on us, specifically because we’ve been from school for about, I would say going on a little over two months now,” Walkine said.

“So, it was kind of hectic for our physicians or doctors, whoever, to carry out teaching sessions and figure this all out. So, we were at a standstill for a very long period.

“My group, in particular, just resumed teaching about a week or two ago, since March, so, [that] whole hands-on experience has been at a standstill right now.

“We haven’t interacted with patients since March, and this is particularly taxing on those that were supposed to write their exams this same summer. It’s been really, really difficult.”

She added, “We’re not even sure when graduation is going to happen, when are we going to sit our medical board exams.”

But, instead of getting down into a slump, the UWI student said she’s been doing her part to help save lives in other ways.

Walkine is also the president of a UWI Bahamas organization of medical students called the Women’s Health Initiative.

Although it focuses on helping and supporting women in the community, Walkine said community outreach has also played a major role.

“During the pandemic, there was the issue of social distancing but we still tried our very best to reach out to vulnerable populations within the community and assist them as best we could,” she said.

This includes volunteering at the SuperClubs Breezes resort, which the government is using to quarantine Bahamians and residents who were recently allowed to return from the United States after being stuck abroad since late March.

“This week, some of us are also going out to assist with the dissemination of food at Breezes for those that are in quarantine as well,” Walkine said.

“[T]he administrative office informed us that medical volunteers were needed and so our group would partake in things like that whenever they come up.

“So, members of the executive board volunteered to go ahead and assist with the dissemination of food to the persons that are in [quarantine].

“There are different days, because it already started, so, it’s taking place from Monday to Friday. On different days, different members of our executive board are going to help. So, for example, my day is Friday.”

Walkine said the students are not allowed to physically interact with anyone in quarantine, but that they still arrive wearing their own personal protective equipment (PPE) and ready to assist.

Health officials have expressed concern about the amount of healthcare workers that are exposed to COVID-19.

But, even after understanding the risk and seeing what healthcare workers around the world have been facing on the front lines of the pandemic, Walkine said she has not been deterred from the medical field.

Rather, she said she is eagerly anticipating being able to interact with patients again and is using her unexpected downtime to stay up to date on medical advances, so that she can be ready for when that time comes.

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