A Jamaican doctor who died Tuesday from injuries she suffered after being struck by a taxi van at Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport was remembered by her colleagues as a pioneer in the field of women’s health.
Dr. Vary Jones-Leslie, 62, died at the Cayman Islands Hospital less than 24 hours after she was struck on Owen Roberts Drive.
Dr. Jones-Leslie, an obstetrician-gynecologist, had arrived Monday morning for a temporary shift at the hospital, where she was a substitute to assist local physicians, hospital Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood said. It was an arrangement Dr. Jones-Leslie had participated in a number of times for the Health Services Authority, Ms. Yearwood said.
Royal Cayman Islands Police, who were still investigating the fatal crash at press time Tuesday, said the taxi van driver, a 69-year-old man from Bodden Town, was treated at hospital and released.
It appeared that Dr. Jones-Leslie was attempting to walk across the three-lane Owen Roberts Drive just north of the airport terminal around 10:45 a.m. Monday when she was struck, police said. The taxi van that hit her showed significant damage on the right side of its hood. Some bags she had apparently been carrying on a trolley were strewn across the road, and first responders found her lying in the middle of the street.
No arrests were reported as of press time Tuesday in connection with the crash.
Dr. Jones-Leslie’s family members flew to Cayman Monday afternoon to be with her, medical personnel confirmed.
News of the veteran physician’s death spread quickly throughout the medical communities in Cayman and Jamaica.
“I know we are all just so saddened,” said Dr. Rhonda Reeves, a fellow doctor and former trainee of Dr. Jones-Leslie told the Cayman Compass on Tuesday. “Her work touched all over Jamaica and overseas.
“She was my consultant [physician] when I was first starting out. She gave you the confidence to go out there early on, that you can do it.”
Dr. Reeves said historically the ob-gyn medical field in Jamaica was a male-dominated profession, but she said that has changed in recent years with many of female doctors trained by Dr. Jones-Leslie working in government facilities and private practice.
“She pretty much took the female [doctors] under her wing,” Dr. Reeves said, adding that her mentor always seemed to connect well with the younger generation. “Everybody always thought that she was really young, 10 years younger than she actually was,” she said.
Ms. Yearwood said the impact of Dr. Jones-Leslie’s sudden death was “immeasurable.”
“Her life and work as a clinician will be remembered by all of us,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin said Tuesday. “Her warm spirit, caring attitude and commitment to making a difference in the lives of others was exemplary.”
The HSA also noted that medical staff, including surgeon Dr. James Akinwunmi, had to work “under very difficult and emotional circumstances” in attempts to save their colleague’s life Monday and early Tuesday.
Dr. Jones-Leslie had worked up until last year at the government-run Spanish Town Hospital in Jamaica, but she retired in 2016 from public service, according to hospital Chief Executive Officer Gregory Thomas. She was still active in private practice, according to colleagues in Jamaica.
Monday morning’s accident raised some safety concerns among officials about the entrance road into the airport terminal.
There are three crosswalks along Owen Roberts Drive which, is bookended to the north and south by airport parking lots and by Andy’s Rent-A-Car property. However, there are no crossing lights at those intersections, and the road heading into the airport terminal does not have any speed bumps, although the road adjacent to the terminal does.
“[The ministry] will … be looking at strengthening existing safety protocols at the airport and its environs in an effort to prevent such incidents happening in the future,” Transport Minister Moses Kirkconnell said.
Chris Hadome, the head of the Cayman Islands Taxi Association, said Tuesday that the crash was unfortunate, but that he believed the government had done what it could to ensure the area around the airport was safe.
He suggested that crossing lights could be installed at the pedestrian intersections to further warn drivers to slow down while on approach to the terminal.