Dowesha Williams is a third year, pre-clinical medical student who will be transitioning to rotations in hospitals soon. She is also on the Dean’s List for the Faculty of Medical Sciences (MBBS) as well as an Honour Roll student on the Elsa Leo-Rhynie Towers Hall. In addition, she is an active member of several clubs and societies, namely, the UWI Surgical Society (tutor for first-year students), the Tower’s Drama Society, and T-Pack Events.
With so much on her hands, one would think that she already has enough on her plate to deal with. But not Williams. She has also made time to tutor youngsters in her community of Race Course as she assists them with navigating the challenges of learning during the pandemic.
Williams will be the first to tell you about challenges as starting her course at university was a major hurdle. She had to take a gap year in order to meet her financial obligations.
In an interview with The Gleaner, she said she went through a period of despondency initially after being accepted to The UWI as a medical student in 2018 but missed out on being sponsored although she worked hard to meet all the criteria.
Williams, who dreamed of being a doctor since age six, would always ensure that she was a medical practitioner in every game she played. Her parents, Dervent and Lisa Desouza-Williams, fostered her dream by buying medical toys. When she was placed at Glenmuir High School, she selected all the science subjects and emerged in the top percentile in all her classes, being consistently on the Honour Roll and the Principal’s Merit List.
In 2016, she graduated as an outstanding achiever with all 10 subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. With the goal of being a sponsored medical student, she set about earning ones in all the units she sat in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), and she did just that, attaining distinctions in the eight subjects pursued.
“I was distraught. I felt my dreams slipping through my fingers as grains of sands do. They said I could begin university as a full-paying student (US$28,000), which is approximately J$4.2 million, or I could defer until the next year, hoping to be accepted as a sponsored student,” she explained, adding that it all happened as there was a backlog at the university.
With her mother being a small livestock farmer and her father being the breadwinner, there was no way they could afford to pay those fees.
“I deferred the acceptance. I cried every day because I had done everything right – went to school, got good grades – and yet I was being held back by things out of my control. I considered switching careers, but medicine was my passion,” she shared.
Williams spoke to her friend and then guidance counsellor at Glenmuir, Althea Francis, who arranged for her to get a job at the Old MacDonald Farm, a food-processing company in Sandy Bay, Clarendon. They hired her to help with accounting. Williams now looks back at that experience as a chance to learn an extra skill while earning to offset some of the costs of her medical training.
At the end of her gap year, Williams finally got the call she was expecting – that she was a sponsored student. Still, it was not enough to take care of all the fees.
“Tuition fees plus residency fees summated to over $1 million per year. I knew I had to source scholarships. I am the recipient of a few scholarships that aid in covering my tuition fees,” she shared.
Big on volunteering, Williams has now taken the students in her community who have not been to school as a result of lack of resources, such as Internet connection, under her wings.
“I am currently keeping a summer school of sorts at my home, where I teach children ranging from age three to sixteen. I believe that life is a cycle, and by doing good, good, in turn, follows you. It is also my belief that every child with a dream can become successful with the right guidance, financial assistance, and action. I’m driven by my favourite quote from Brian Tracy: “There are no limits to what you can accom plish except the limits you place on your own thinking.”
The classes, which started on May 10, will run until June 4 when Williams’ semester starts again.
The classes have had such an impact that she is forced to turn away some students, regrettably, in order to prevent overcrowding and adhering to the Disaster Risk Management Act protocols.
“Not only do the students receive knowledge, but also a healthy meal for the day in the form of lunch, which is free of cost, thanks to my parents,” Williams shared.
Now, as she gears up for her new semester, Williams has her sights set on completing her undergraduate degree and furthering her studies to specialise in cardiology. She is in the process of searching for sponsorship to complete her remaining years at the UWI.