As a child, Dr. Andre Coleman didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. All he knew was that he wanted to finish high school and go on to post-secondary education, find a job, and make his parents proud. It turned out that he turned to science subjects and ended up in a medical program at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, his home country.
“After two years of studying to be a doctor, I did a residency in a hospital in the palliative care department and that was a game changer for me,” he said. “I knew then that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with people who are dealing with the most important and at the same time the most painful aspect of life. I wanted to help make a difference for these people.
About three years ago, after graduating from medical school, André came to Winnipeg to intern at the University of Manitoba to join his mother and sisters, who had emigrated and settled here.
“I love it here at the University of Manitoba, there is great palliative care training, great staff and a positive culture that I really like, especially the faculty pot luck,” he said. – he says laughing.
Even though palliative care is a very stressful field, André said living and dying are complicated, but there are gems in both.
We often think of palliative care as being for the elderly or cancer patients.
“It’s more diverse than that,” André said. “Palliative care is about the end of life and is not limited to any age group, nationality or religious belief. The end of life does not discriminate. Death can strike us from childhood to old age.
He said people in palliative care and their families need real support, and each patient may need different types of support.
Palliative care is relatively new in the western world and even more so in the Caribbean.
“We have come a long way from maintaining patient comfort to developing effective palliative therapies to ensure the patient receives the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical support they need on an individual basis. And I’m excited about this development,” he said.
“What I love about working in palliative care is that the patient is the star. You must listen to them. They often talk about their fears and insecurities about death and dying and you need to be honest with them and not pretend. It is hard but rewarding work. You can become vulnerable when you see people your own age in palliative care,” he admitted.
Asked what his parents think of him as a doctor, he says he thinks they’re happy he’s finished graduate school and proud. Having a doctor or a lawyer in the family is something to be proud and grateful for, but Dr André reminded me that he had no intention of being a doctor, he just fell into it because subjects in which he excelled in high school. .
He added that his long-term goal is to one day return to Jamaica to help improve the accessibility of palliative care services.
“There is palliative care in Jamaica, but it could be more robust and if I could help that would be icing on the cake.”