At 16, Nicholas Mason has already decided he wants to be a cardiac surgeon. The Bodden Town student has watched open-heart operations and sat in numerous lectures with some of the top doctors in Cayman. His mentor is the head of cardiac surgery at Health City Cayman Islands.
Sixteen students from the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre, including Mr. Mason, are studying full time this school year at Health City. Their second semester began Monday, with 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. days filled with lectures and rotations in the hospital’s different units.
Students in the program get the full healthcare experience, from science and surgery to dealing with the humans behind the health problems. Mr. Mason told a story of a local woman who went to Health City for heart surgery. “She was in a wheelchair, she couldn’t even walk. She’d be out of breath just getting to the cafeteria. But she came back three months later and she was able to be running around, doing housework.”
“Reading books and books can be boring, but here you get the feeling of being a doctor,” Mr. Mason said. Health City, a private hospital established in part to take advantage of the growing medical tourism industry, has a staff of almost 150. Doctors, mainly from India, focus on cardiac and orthopedic surgery at the new campus in East End. The hospital will celebrate the first anniversary of its opening next month.
In addition to bringing in foreigners for pacemaker implants and knee replacements, Health City’s mission is broader, to include employing and educating Caymanians in the healthcare sector and helping the poor get access to care. The education program, a partnership with government and private schools, is part of that mission.
In addition to the year-long internships for CIFEC students, Health City hosts students for week-long programs from high schools in Cayman.
Gene Thompson, the project director for Health City, said the hospital will host at least 170 students this school year. “We take every interested school kid into the hospital for a week,” he said.
The program runs for most of the day and includes lectures from doctors and one-on-one time with clinicians and others working at the hospital. He said Dr. Devi Shetty, the hospital’s founder and the director of Narayana Health, wants to double the number of students in the one-week program next year.
That will mean more than 300 Caymanian students would get hands-on experience in the healthcare industry in the next school year.
“The long-term goal is to show these kids that healthcare has a lot of opportunities,” Mr. Thompson said. It’s not just doctors and nurses, but emergency medical technicians, radiologists, technicians working in the lab and many other jobs, he said.
Health City government liaison Richard Parchment said the idea is to expose these students to healthcare when they are 14 to 16 years old. It’s a “turning point,” he said, “when they’re figuring out what they want to do.”
But Health City’s school programs are not motivated by a purely educational mission. The hospital has ambitious plans to grow over the next decade, and, if those plans stay on track, Health City will need to hire thousands of doctors, nurses, technicians and others in the coming years.
Health City’s contract with the Cayman Islands government calls for 30 percent of its workforce to be Caymanian, Mr. Thompson said. He added that, if growth proceeds as planned, that means the hospital could need more than 1,000 Caymanian employees with healthcare training over the next 10 years.
As Mr. Thompson and Mr. Parchment plan for growth years down the line, Mr. Mason said the hospital is having an impact on him and his fellow students right now.
The student said his interest in science stated around Years 8 and 9. Science classes were “sometimes boring, sometimes interesting.” But without the Health City program, he said, he “would not be on this path.”
He plans to go to college next year and said that once he finishes his bachelor’s degree, he hopes to go to Johns Hopkins in Maryland for medical school and from there continue to pursue his dream to become a cardiac surgeon.