Toronto's climate may not compete with the sunshine and warm temperatures of the West Indies, but as Dr. Francene Gayle discovered, it's a very attractive destination for learning the latest in neuroscience medicine. Dr. Gayle is a staff internist at Jamaica's University Hospital of the West Indies and is in the final year of the two-year G. Raymond Chang Fellowship Program for Physicians from the West Indies.

Dr. Frances Gayle imageDespite being greeted by a cold blast of winter when she arrived in December 2009, Dr. Gayle looked forward to being immersed in UHN's world-renowned research and patient care environment. Since then, under the supervision of Dr. David Tang-Wai, she has been acquiring specialized skills and learning new approaches for the treatment of stroke and diseases of the central nervous system.

"I'm absolutely happy I came here for the Fellowship", says Dr. Gayle. "The impact on me personally has been wonderful and the impact on my nation will be immeasurable. I am grateful that the UHN is looking beyond Canada's borders to help the global community."

The Fellowship program is led by Dr. Herbert Ho Ping Kong, Co-Founder of the Centre for Excellence in Education and Practice of General Internal Medicine, who has been instrumental in championing opportunities for Caribbean doctors to train at UHN for specific jobs back home.

"There is great need for specialist neurologists in Jamaica", explains Dr. Ho Ping Kong. "Dr. Gayle was highly recommended for the Fellowship by colleagues who had completed training at the UHN and returned to practice and teach in Jamaica. She also had the full support of the Chief of Medicine at the University of West Indies teaching hospital in Jamaica." 

In Jamaica, tertiary care resources in neurology haven't kept pace with the growing need for care, due to a shortage of specialists and funding constraints. Like Canada, Jamaica's population is aging; increasingly, people suffer from serious, chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Stroke, in particular, is a major cause of death.

Dr. Gayle will return to Jamaica when she finishes the Fellowship later this year, and looks forward to working with her colleagues to introduce more advanced treatments in the management of epilepsy and demyelinating diseases (conditions that result in damage to brain and spinal cord nerves). She also wants to implement an acute stroke care system similar to UHN's, which can quickly mobilize a highly responsive multidisciplinary team of health care providers.

Mr. G. Raymond Chang, the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation's champion for Education, generously established the Fellowship in 2005 to provide opportunities for doctors from countries like his native Jamaica to learn specialized skills. Dr. Gayle will be the second doctor to complete the Chang Fellowship since it was created.

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