Two summers ago, Roshaye Graham ’18 returned home to Jamaica to face a family crisis: her grandmother, a woman she considered to be her “second mother,” was terminally ill with cancer. For the biology major, the experience was both heartbreaking and infuriating.
“I witnessed firsthand the critical need for healthcare providers to not only devote time and care to their patients, but to also adequately and accurately inform caregivers of their loved one’s condition,” she recalls. “I had presumed the doctors would have informed my family about my grandmother’s condition, but found that they knew relatively little except that her body was rapidly deteriorating. When I finally heard from a doctor, I learned that her oncologist had continued chemotherapy irrespective of the fact that after each treatment my grandmother showed significant and continued decline of memory and overall physiological function, and the appearance of her ulcerating tumor grew worse.”
Told there was little more the medical community could do, Graham and her family were advised to take her grandmother home. “So that’s what we did. Every day for the next nine weeks, my grandfather and I fed, bathed, dressed, and comforted this beautiful woman until she passed. While I felt liberated to know I was helping her, I was frustrated that I had not been given any clear understanding of her treatment and continued to be concerned that she had not received the best medical care.”
Graham says her grandmother’s ordeal furthered her interest in a healthcare career and sparked her desire to help patients and their families as they face some of life’s toughest challenges and decisions. Now, she is preparing to enroll at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, where she plans to become an OB-GYN.
After her grandmother’s death, Graham’s interest in research and finding answers led her to complete two neurobiological research internships at The Rockefeller University in New York City, where she worked closely with distinguished neuroscientist Mary Beth Hatten ’71. “I couldn’t help but dream how exciting it would be to carry out studies in the same way that would aid in the medical field,” she says.
As an OB-GYN, Graham wants to open a maternal health education center in her home country. “The World Health Organization has found that nearly all deaths that result from complications in pregnancy and childbirth occur in women residing in developing countries such as Jamaica. While it is dismaying, I recognize that most of these deaths are often preventable.
“By obtaining a medical degree, I would be able to use my knowledge and skills to reduce these statistics. I want to make a difference in Jamaica’s healthcare system, and my determination, commitment, and passion will enable me to be successful.”
Photo by Michael Falco