Although Dr Dwight Stephenson had initially harboured dreams of being a physician or a surgeon, when the opportunity presented itself for him to study dentistry in the Russian Federation, he did not allow it to pass him by.
Stephenson, who hails from Spanish Town, St Catherine, is a past student of Kingston College.
After pursuing a Bachelor of Sciences Degree in Food Chemistry/General Chemistry at The University of the West Indies, Mona, from which he graduated in 2007, Stephenson went abroad to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. It was there the opportunity arose of studying stomatology (dentistry) in the Russian Federation by way of a bilateral agreement with the Government of Jamaica.
“I jumped at the chance as I got to study something that always interested me, and somewhere in Europe, where I always wanted to study after university,” Stephenson, who is being celebrated as on of the island’s outstanding healthcare heroes this month, told The Gleaner.
The 36-year-old dentist, who started his internship in January 2016 and first worked in Portland before heading to Clarendon, where he has been since 2019, has developed a passion for his field.
One year after joining Clarendon Health Department, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and like most healthcare workers, Stephenson said he was fearful of contracting the virus and passing it on to loved ones.
“The dental profession is a high-risk field for infectious diseases. Coupled with the fact that resources – PPEs (personal protective equipment) and other such equipment/materials – were not always on hand, it sometimes made things difficult to treat patients effectively. I also did COVID sampling at various testing sites which increased my risk of exposure to the virus,” he said, noting that he was also concerned about getting physically, mentally and emotionally burnt out.
However, by staying positive, getting adequate rest and finding confidants to share concerns with, he has been successfully navigating his way through the challenging times.
Stephenson admitted that he was not spared COVID fatigue despite his best efforts.
“I was motivated to stay the course as I knew the pandemic wouldn’t last forever. You just know that you’re here for a reason and that there is still unfinished business to take care of,” he said, giving insight into what makes him an outstanding healthcare worker.
“Each interaction with your patient is an emotional experience and must be overcome in a rational manner,” he said, reflecting on his job. “Many persons have a fear of the dentist, for one reason or the other, and you must help them overcome their fears, their concerns, and their emotions.”