Specialist doctor among elite group to graduate from prestigious med school, will return home to ‘give back’

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Anatole Wiik graduated last week from the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
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By Carlena Knight

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It is no secret that in Antigua and Barbuda, there has always been a dire need for nurses and doctors since many locals decide to stay abroad after finishing their studies in medical school.

They may be in search of “greener pastures”, but one Antiguan is hoping to do the opposite.

Forty-year-old Anatole Wiik, better known as Snowy, is one of three doctors who were chosen during the past 12 years as a dual surgeon and lecturer at the Royal College of Surgeons in the United Kingdom.

Wiik, who graduated last week from the 222-year-old medical facility is hoping to return home from the UK to “give back to a place that has given me so much”.

With years of undergraduate and postgraduate training, and a new certification as a dual surgeon, many may wonder why he would want to return to an island of 108 square miles, especially having received several offers in London, but the father of two explained, that there was always an emotional tie to Antigua that he could never shake off, having grown up in communities like English Harbour, All Saints and Bolans. 

“I had always planned to return to Antigua; simply, my fondest memories come from there. The earliest ones were those of living in All Saints where I was embraced in a tightly knit community. It was there that I first felt a sense of belonging and pride to be from Antigua and Barbuda. As such, I feel that I owe it to the wider community and country, particularly, as I have a unique opportunity to improve the quality of life for people with my skills,” Dr Wiik explained.

“Although I have been offered numerous consultant posts in the UK, as I was trained in arguably the best trauma and orthopaedic residency in the world, the final decision was easy as both my wife and I agreed that our children should enjoy a similar childhood which we valued. The challenging part was the process of uprooting the family and making provisions to make the physical move,” he added.

He explained that he is hoping to fill a void, especially where some candidates for elective surgeries in the past would have had to be flown out due to the fact that there was a lack of speciality availibility.

When asked how he chose the path of medicine, Dr Wiik revealed that his inspiration came after a traumatising ordeal involving some of his family members.

The former St John’s Lutheran Primary School student explained that his brother and sister got run over by a car and it was Dr Nicholas Fuller who truly inspired him, as Fuller jumped into action to assist.

“From there, an unparalleled bond was created, and since then, he has been a guiding light in my life. Throughout the years, I saw him both as a family and community man who constantly wanted to have purpose. It was infectious, and I made an early conscious decision that I was going to be like him and become a doctor. I chose trauma and orthopaedics as I felt that I had a decent pair of hands. Interestingly, I played a lot of sports and loved the outdoors, so trauma and orthopaedics were also a natural fit,” Dr Wiik said.

Since then, after leaving the country in 1995, he has been working tirelessly to pursue his dreams and is hoping to share his passion and influence with the next generation of doctors in Antigua and Barbuda.

“Currently I am awaiting a post to be confirmed at Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre, but my role as a doctor and a specialist trauma and orthopaedic surgeon has many layers. I have the duty to protect and treat the people who may come to harm. I also have a duty to educate and improve on care. I have short, mid and long-term plans for the country, actually.

“In the short term, I would like to develop protocols to standardise simple and effective treatments. The mid term is expanding the service with planned [elective] care such as a knee joint replacement, for example. The long term is to prepare future generations of doctors/surgeons, and improve the delivery and quality of care for the entire hospital,” he added.

It is with that vision that Dr Wiik is also encouraging other Antiguans specialising in various fields to return home.

“Well, I would hope so, but I do understand that that choice is theirs. Both my wife and I have shared similar dreams of returning to the West Indies to practice medicine. There are many factors to play in the decision-making, but generally it should be determined by the order of God, family and home.

“Obviously, in my case, I have been abroad for over 20 years in undergraduate and postgraduate training, so I could easily take the simpler route by staying, but is that the life we want to have? I chose medicine as it was challenging, and because tough times make tough people. With that resilience, you can take pride, and have a meaningful life as a consequence,” Dr Wiik concluded.

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