Back-to-roots doctor makes headway

Grenadian-American Shonnell McBain attends the St. George’s University in Grenada.
Shonnell McBain

An emerging doctor who struggled through her college years has credited a scholarship, little known to New York residents of Caribbean heritage, for putting her firmly on course to becoming a full-fledged practitioner.

Shonnell McBain, just six months away from her graduation, says New York City Doctor’s Scholarship Programme to her mother’s birth country Grenada, has been the turning point.

McBain, a United States citizen whose parents were born in Grenada, attended the US offshore medical school, St.George’s University, (SGU) located in the Grenadian capital.

“It was one of the best decisions of my life. I got to connect with my roots. I got to tour the island. I got to meet family members I did not even know I had,” said McBain, in an exclusive interview with Caribbean Life.

“I don’t think many Caribbean students with Caribbean heritage know about this scholarship …to apply for it. So that may be a barrier… Lack of knowledge about it.”

The City Doctors scholarship programe is a collaboration between the SGU and NYC Health + Hospitals targeting students who are residents of the city.

Since its inception in 2012, the program has awarded about 100 students with scholarships worth a total of $10.3 million.

McBain’s scholarship allowed her to achieve two degrees at SGU, a master’s in Public Health and her medical doctor’s degree, in ten semesters over a two-year period starting fall of 2015 and ending December 2017.

“SGU is like a stepping stone,”said McBain, whose third year in medicine took her from St.George’s to New York in clinical rotations at leading hospitals including Coney Island, Kingsbrooke and Kings County.

“If you go to SGU you have an opportunity to get right into the US market as a doctor in training or right into the UK market as a doctor in training”.

McBain was starting a fresh round of clinical rotations with a stint at Southside Hospital early November covering electives ranging from family medicine and urgent care to pediatric neurology and endocrinology.

McBain’s mother, Sharon McBain, a doctor who runs Avenue D Pediatric service in Brooklyn, was a major inspiration by allowing her to perform the role of office manager prior to being awarded the scholarship in 2015.

In fact, the 35-year-old doctor in training actually began her career at 16 working in her mother’s office.

“I did not go to medicine. Medicine came towards me. Very early I pretty much knew all the inner workings of a medical office. Checking in the patients, filing, making appointments,” recalled McBain who confessed to struggling during her earlier education at Science Skills Center High School and Hunter College.

“Then I moved up to taking vitals and doing blood work and eventually I was like … Why don’t I just become a doctor….maybe this is my calling.”

During her two-year stint in Grenada, McBain was also involved in conducting research on Human papillomavirus infection and plans to return to the island to resume her work.

“I was doing some research in HPV and I am hoping to continue that research in the future,” she said.

“And being of Grenadian heritage, it is one of my dreams to be able to do some medical research within Grenada.”

SGU, which has been expanding its operations over the years, attracts students and faculty from 140 countries and has produced over 20,000 graduates including physicians, veterinarians and business professionals.

“What I like about going to school in Grenada is that when you meet somebody from Syria they are actually from Syria. When you meet somebody from Myanmar they are actually from Myanmar,” said McBain.

“Same thing as Nigeria, Senegal and India. They actually came from these countries and they came to SGU. It’s not like they went to America first.”

The Manhattan-born Brooklyn-raised, McBain, is set to graduate in June next year before resuming her residency.

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