Ceola Wade knows first-hand that not every path to becoming a doctor is straight-forward. After deciding to pursue a career in medicine at age 16, she spent the last 15 years exploring different roles and specialties in the field. Though she’s taken a slightly longer route to fulfilling her dream, she admitted she doesn’t regret her journey.
“You really have to want to be a doctor because it can be a very challenging job both emotionally and physically,” the 31-year-old explained. “You have to see some difficult things and learn to work long hours, often under intense pressure. But on the positive side, you get to make an impact in someone’s life and support people when they need it most. I like that there is flexibility in the career as you have the opportunity to work around the world, as well as teach, conduct research, support medical schools and work in hospitals. No one day or year of work will look the same.”
Another reason a career in healthcare resonated with Ms Wade is she enjoys speaking to different people and supporting them in their efforts towards better health. Her first summer job in medicine was working with the late Dr Leonard Teye-Botchway, of Bermuda International Institute of Ophthalmology. Still a Bermuda High School for Girls student at the time, Ms Wade “absolutely loved” the experience: “I mostly helped with administration, but eventually began helping with eye tests. That’s what piqued my interest in health care.”
Over the years, Ms Wade has held over 12 jobs and volunteering roles in different areas of medicine. This has helped her narrow down which area of healthcare is right for her. Current top contenders are Emergency Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Paediatrics.
After graduating with her first degree – a bachelors in Global Health & Humanitarian Relief from the University of Hull – in 2012, Ms Wade took a break from education. While working in the UK’s National Health Service as a Healthcare Assistant, she also took some time out to travel: “I met a nurse friend at one of my early jobs who loved travelling,” Ms Wade said. “We would work 60 to 70 hours per week, then go travelling to countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and North Africa for a month at a time.” She enjoyed it so much she put off returning to medical school until age 29.
Currently in her third year of a five-year Bachelor of Medicine programme at the University of Exeter, Ms Wade also has a bachelors in Medical Sciences from her current university. Believe it or not, she doesn’t consider herself to be particularly studious and doesn’t enjoy sitting through exams or long lectures. “Everyone seems to think you have to be to a straight A student to be a doctor, but schools today are now focused more on developing doctors holistically,” she said. “The goal is to be able to consider a patient’s social, emotional, physical and medical needs and to be able to communicate effectively. It’s no longer about just creating doctors who understand the science and are academic. You need a balance of both.”
While no two days are alike, Ms Wade said her current schedule involves waking up at 5am and starting work at 8.30am. She remains busy at the hospital until 5.30pm, at which time she returns home for more studying. “You have to bend your life to suit certain aspects of life as a medical student,” she said. “This isn’t a job where mistakes are trivial. As a doctor, some mistakes you make on the job can have severe consequences. That’s why in medical school they encourage us to find healthy ways to cope with stress because while we always try our best as doctors, we are only human.”
Ms Wade considers pastimes like art and knitting to be relaxing. She also enjoys tennis, running and yoga, which allow her to turn off her phone and recharge. It’s common for some doctors to neglect their own health, however Ms Wade has learned the importance of taking care of her wellbeing. This provides her with a better quality of life and helps her to be a better doctor for her patients.
In 2019, Ms Wade was the recipient of a Bermuda Hospital Board scholarship, which gave her the opportunity to work at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for a number of summers. This year, she is the recipient of the Donald Lines 2022 Scholarship, which provided her with $20,000 in funds for the academic year.
“Receiving that extra support changed my experience of university,” she said. Prior to that, she had to work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, while also juggling her academic responsibilities. “It’s very difficult to work full time while studying,” she said. “I had to be strict with myself because I knew I had a certain number of shifts to do to pay tuition and rent.”
One piece of advice she gives to young people before choosing a career path and finding the right scholarship is to speak to as many people in that field as possible. Just a few 20-minute conversations with others in your field can provide young people with more clarity and confidence. She said: “There are so many different ways to get into medicine. We are taught to rush it – to go to university, get a degree and come back and work. But for me, getting work experience was a major asset.”
Other Medical Scholarships
Dr. Barbara Ball Public Health Scholarship – awards in varying amounts annually to Bermudian students with proven financial need seeking careers or professional development in public health.
Brown Family Scholarship Awards – $5,000 annual award to assist and encourage students who have met the criteria to study health sciences at Howard University.
Margaret and Robert Harvey Medical Scholarship – $6,000 annually to a Bermudian student studying medicine.
Bermuda Hospitals Board General Scholarship – $15,000 annually to five students committed to academic excellence with proven financial need.