Taj Donville-Outerbridge has big ambitions. His dream is to be a reconstructive surgeon, eventually becoming president of the Bermuda Health Council and Minister of Health.
“Some people are supportive,” the 17-year-old said. “But others say, ‘Slow down, one thing at a time’.
“Why should I slow down? If you don’t have a direction, how will you get anywhere? I believe in dreaming big.”
His dreams are being encouraged by the Bermuda Principles Foundation Fund.
Started by Carika Weldon to get Bermudians interested in careers in science, the group has organised a summer workshop at the Mangosuthu University of Technology that Taj and six other students will attend.
“I was overjoyed when I found out I was going to South Africa because it is not often that a Bermudian organisation offers a programme for students who wish to go into the medical profession,” said Taj, a dual enrolment student at the Berkeley Institute and the Bermuda College. “It’s a ten-day programme, and I hope to learn crucial aspects of research that I will need in medical school.”
He spent last summer at St George’s University in Grenada, practising putting sutures on cadavers and doing ultrasounds on live patients.
In May, he will graduate from the Bermuda College with an associate’s degree. He then plans to take online courses to earn college credits before returning to St George’s University in 2019.
As a youngster, he’d horrify his grandmother by dissecting small creatures. “I’d cut open worms and lizards with a knife I stole from the kitchen drawer,” he said. “I was very fascinated by anatomy and evolution and still am. First, I wanted to be an anaesthesiologist. Then I wanted to be a cardiologist and then a vascular surgeon.
“Now I want to be a reconstructive surgeon. I’ve always loved science. I was fascinated to learn that a scientist from Switzerland did the first head transplant the other day. I want to do things like that.”
He’s also deeply interested in politics and has been Speaker of the House in Youth Parliament for the last two years.
“That’s really taught me leadership skills,” he said. “From Youth Parliament I’ve also learnt to enunciate more clearly.”
Shortly before last year’s General Election, he was at a Progressive Labour Party community meeting with his grandmother, Josie Outerbridge, when he was spotted by party organiser Owen Darrell.
“He’d heard me debate in Youth Parliament,” he said. “He said I should get involved with the PLP. They were looking for someone to help around the office.
“I became assistant campaign manager; some days I was working 14-hour days. When the PLP won it was a great feeling to have all our hard work pay off. It was amazing.”
His grandmother has been a huge influence in his life.
“My mother, Julie Outerbridge, is a nursing assistant at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute,” the teenager said. “She works long hours, so often it was my grandmother who would sit with me and do my homework, or take me to my activities.”
His late father, Lesford Donville, was also a great motivator.
“He died when I was 9,” Taj said. “He was a construction worker from Jamaica. He always called me Radio, because I liked to talk so much.
“He’s been my inspiration to succeed. I hope that he’d be proud today to see me putting my love of talking to good use.”