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Doctor grateful for ‘surprise’ scholarship

Doors opened: Kiandra Simons is about to start her medical internship (Photograph supplied)

Kiandra Simons had been faced with uncertainty about how she would pay her tuition fees throughout her medical studies.

The 25-year-old doctor has now been awarded the Margaret and Robert Harvey Medical Scholarship, which will help pay off her student debt and contribute to the expenses of taking the US Medical Licensing Exams.

The news came as a “complete surprise” to Dr Simons, who will begin her one-year internship at Port of Spain General Hospital in Trinidad on October 1.

“It means a lot,” she told The Royal Gazette. “I am so grateful to Dr [Margot] Harvey for generously offering a scholarship which is personally funded.

“Receiving the scholarship came as a complete surprise to me. My mother didn’t tell me anything about what was possibly in the makings until it was confirmed.

“I’m really grateful to her also, as well as Amne Osseyran for putting my name forward.”

Dr Simons, who graduated from the Berkeley Institute in 2009, had her heart set on studying at the University of the West Indies and she started her five years of study at the St Augustine campus in 2011.

A scholarship helped fund her first year, while a government grant contributed towards the second. However, the grant was halved in her third year and Dr Simons’s mother, Kim Simons, had to draw on her pension to help cover the cost. A loan and grant from the Hamilton Rotary Club in February last year went towards the final stretch of her studies.

“My mother is my biggest support,” Dr Simons explained.

“The first two years in school I was able to contribute a bit to school fees as I was able to work summers. I was also awarded government grants.

“But after that, I did not have summers off and was in school year round and it became harder.”

Dr Simons added that the scholarship would help to pay off medical school debts as well as contribute to the expenses of taking the USMLE.

“My work required to complete my last year at UWI in Trinidad and Tobago ended in early June,” she said.

“I was successful in passing all of my exams and now am a doctor.”

She graduates in October and hopes her mother can come and watch her “cross the stage for a third time”.

During her internship, Dr Simons hopes to study for and complete at least one step of the USMLEs. But she also hopes it will help her decide on a speciality.

“I’m all over the place with that. I went to medical school to become an OB/GYN [Obstetrics and Gynecology],” she said.

“I decided against that in my fourth year, but have come to consider it again.”

She is also considering emergency medicine, family medicine, general surgery, urology and otolaryngology (ears, nose and throat).

Dr Simons added: “I have a big choice to make and I’m hoping internship will assist with that.”

Dr Harvey, a family practitioner at Island Health Services, was particularly struck by the “amazing” sacrifices Dr Simons’s mother made to help her complete her studies.

“It’s just stunning,” she said, adding that Ms Simon’s willingness to draw on her pension was “the ultimate sacrifice” a parent could make for their child.

Dr Harvey explained that she awards the scholarship — now in its fifth year — to final year medical students to support Bermuda’s medical future and to give students who may not have the opportunity to complete their studies, the chance to do so. She also noted the cost of the lengthy study programme, adding that the bills accumulate “especially in the final year”.

Ms Simons accepted the scholarship on behalf of her daughter and Dr Harvey added: “Her mom is an amazing woman.

“This year epitomises what parents will do to help their children be successful. The sacrifices she has made for her daughter are amazing.”