This month, OECS YES In Action caught up with Julien David Kentish, a 21 year old philanthropist with a passion for health care and breaking the stigma surrounding male nurses in the Caribbean and globally!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a young philanthropist with a passion for healthcare, volunteering and service. I am a National Youth Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda under the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment. I hold the distinction of being the youngest delegate in the history of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and was chosen as a panellist within the XX IFRC InterAmerican Conference hosted in Houston Texas in 2015. I have been an Emergency First Responder for over 5 years with experience in emergency and disaster management and general administration. I am an Advanced Certified Nursing Assistant (Emergency Nursing) better known as a Practical Nurse.
In addition to my clinical work, I am a National Registered HIV Syphilis Tester, Counselor and Site Supervisor and a motivational speaker/ youth advocate. I am a firm believer in Christ and a senior candidate in the West Indies School of Theology Lay Counselling program. I am also completing a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing at the University of the West Indies, Five Islands Campus.
When did you first notice your inclination towards Health Care?
I developed a love for health care when I started volunteering with the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross in 2011. Seeing the tremendous impact that humanitarianism has on society, particularly the underserved and underprivileged, has further fueled this passion.
What inspired you to start?
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are often adversely affected by the countless highly-trained individuals who emigrate to larger countries, in pursuit of better opportunities. The health care sector, particularly the nursing field, has been significantly affected by these emigration patterns and this situation has created a void in trained health care professionals. Initially, driven by a deep family tradition, I considered a career in law. However, the urgent need for young, driven and focused individuals coupled with my incalculable passion for helping others, motivated me into this noble profession of health care.
What obstacles, if any, did you face and how did you overcome them?
Making a choice between clinical medicine and nursing was an obstacle I had to overcome. I was torn between two passions but the underpinning aim was health care so this helped to inform my decision.
Tell us about the journey from the first spark of interest to where you are currently.
My journey started as a grass-roots volunteer in the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross. I was very eager to learn more about the role and function of the organisation and how I could be instrumental in reaching persons within vulnerable communities. After receiving my Instructor certification, I started a program with a colleague targeting national primary schools. This program emphasised Safety and Security protocols in the homes and a number of parents received hands-on sessions in Basic First aid, Safety and Prevention. This experience was a starting point in my journey in health care.
I later enrolled in my nearest Nursing Assistant program. My experience while training as a nursing assistant exposed me to an enormous amount of information and later created numerous opportunities for me to learn and serve within the field of health care. After graduating, I secured a job training position at the Ministry of Sports where I developed and sharpened my skills in physiotherapy. This was a useful complement to my nursing training. I also had the rewarding experience of working at our sole public hospital, Mount St. John Medical Center, as a nursing assistant.
While at the Ministry of Sports, I was given an opportunity to serve at a private medical center called Jubilee Regional Medical Center founded by the renowned Professor Dr Jose Humphreys. While at this stellar medical facility my skills grew in leaps and bounds and I significantly developed and expanded my knowledge and skill set. I took part in medical missions, medical lectures, and health screening initiatives, and was further exposed to emergency medicine, wound care, IV and rehydration therapy, laser therapy, internal medicine, and rural and tropical medicine.
What has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Nursing is a female-dominated profession and tapping into this profession as a young male was a critical challenge for me. As one of the very few male nursing students to enter this profession in my country, I had to break the cycle of stigmatisation and overcome the hurdles that might be associated with it.
How have you used the current COVID-19 global pandemic to your advantage?
The global pandemic has opened doors that we would have never expected. It revealed the fragility of our health care system and the need to take a more preventative and strategic approach in disease management. This experience has highlighted the urgent need for us to improve the policies and procedures that govern our public health system and its response to pandemics and disasters and implementing feasible plans that focus on the continuous development of our health care sector through evidence-based research, sustainable strategic planning, consultations, human resource development and capacity-building.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
Receiving my instruments from the Governor General as a National Youth Ambassador, is perhaps, one of my proudest accomplishments.
What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?
My passion and focus is to use my knowledge, skill set, and opportunities to help the less fortunate. In doing so, I remain true to my personal mantra “each one, help one.” I am motivated by an indwelling passion, that is only quelled by my personal limitations, to break the cycle of suffering, injustice and lack among our people.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in the near future?
I am focused on climbing the ladder of success in the field of nursing and making a difference in my profession. I believe that I can readily accomplish this through training in Nursing Leadership. I hope to someday become a member of Parliament with the portfolio in Health Wellness and the Environment. I hope to use this experience to increase the cadre of male nurses throughout the Caribbean region and remove the female-dominated ideology that deters so many from transitioning into this field and reaching their fullest potential.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced your journey?
Dr Jose Humphreys CEO/Founder of Jubilee Regional Medical Centre. He saw great potential in me and provided an opportunity for me to learn and grow. Many clinicians, including myself, have passed through his training and have developed into leaders that dare to be different and make positive innovative change locally, regionally, and internationally.
Nurse Tamara Dangleben was my emergency nurse supervisor who motivated me to do my best. She encouraged me to reach my highest potential.
Sister Jacquelin Jno-Baptiste is the Nursing Director at the Mount Saint John's Medical Centre. Nurse Jno-Baptiste has been very supportive throughout my journey as I transitioned from a CNA to a BScN student. She encourages me to set goals and never to give up until they are achieved.
Rev. Dr Lester and Clara Emmanuel are the pastors of the Kentish Pentecostal Church. They are my spiritual parents who clothe me every day with prayers, love and support. I am proud to have them in my life.
What advice do you have for other Caribbean youth aspiring to get involved in social services?
I would encourage Caribbean youth to do their best at every level in which they are positioned; to remain true to one’s self and stay focused on goals. Moreover, I would encourage them to be mindful of their weakness and threats and use their strength and opportunities to rival these shortcomings. Specifically, when pursuing a program of study, potential students must know beforehand the admissions requirements needed for their program.
Also, I would admonish them to practice daily affirmations to help build their confidence. Daily affirmations help persons to focus on their goals. My final advice is to surround oneself with positive peers; those that encourage you, give good advice, and serve as motivators and support systems. Most importantly, surround oneself with persons who constructively correct you whenever you are straying away from goals and morals.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to?
Completing my BScN and starting my MSc in International Healthcare Management.