Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dr Beverly Ann Scott

...and 'The Stolen Cascadura'


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SHE couldn't believe her luck. As Dr Beverley-Ann Scott fumbled to put her car keys into the ignition she felt a surge of excitement coursing through her veins. Knowing that literary icon Earl Lovelace was sitting next to her on the passenger seat was overwhelming. Talk about a dream come true!

It was while they attended a meeting at the Writers' Union during which Lovelace was the guest speaker, that Scott met the man who has to a large extent influenced her as a writer. The opportunity rose for Scott to offer Lovelace a ride home and, well, it was a chance she couldn't pass up. Sitting side by side in her Renault, Scott drank in the sight of Lovelace his metal-rimmed glasses, salt-and-pepper hair and the deep lines that framed his mouth like parentheses. At that moment, Scott was transported back to the days, when as a pupil at St Joseph's Convent, San Fernando, she was giddy with enthusiasm when she learned that her English Literature class would be reading and studying Lovelace's The Wine of Astonishment. That West Indian literary classic would remain Scott's favourite book and Lovelace to this day remains Scott's favourite author.

I can't wait to tell everyone who I met today! Scott thought to herself as she put the car in drive. Things were going so well, the duo chatted away and discussed ideas - that is until Scott realised her gas tank was leaking and she had to stop the car along the Queen's Park Savannah. Scott's face turned red with embarrassment. She couldn't believe how quickly her good luck had turned into misfortune all in a matter of minutes.

"I was so embarrassed, because that was when I had my old Renault. Imagine, I get this chance to meet Earl Lovelace and look my car shut down. I have this gas leak!" exclaims Scott, still blushing as she recounted the incident.

But Lovelace wasn't fazed at all, Scott recalls. In fact the the pair walked to the closest vendor and drank coconut water and picked up the conversation where they left off as they waited for one of her friends to pick them up. Seeing the down to earth and humble nature of a writer of Lovelace's calabre left a strong impression on Scott.

Since then, the two have remained friends with Scott occasionally seeking writing advice from Lovelace. Their meeting it turns out, was quite fortuitous. Two years later, Scott's novel The Stolen Cascadura was selected by Nalis for the 2012 One Book, One Community award. While The Stolen Cascadura is a work of fiction, Scott writes strikingly of the harsh realities of life for many in communities across Trinidad and Tobago.

Scott's own life experiences, however will make for interesting reading especially if you've been too afraid to follow your dreams because of the unknown. Learning how Scott was determined to leave a promising career in her 20s to pursue something entirely different and challenging despite health scares and rejection may move you to go after your dreams and not put if off for another day.

From the moment she completed her Advanced Levels at the age of 18, Scott began working, first as a bank teller, then as an account executive and part-time lecturer. While she worked, she also gained her BSc in Information Systems Management from the London School of Economics.

At the age of 27, Scott had a promising future in the banking/busines sector but something was missing. She yearned to make a difference in the lives of others, and more and more her heartstrings were tugging in the direction of medicine. Scott felt certain that becoming a doctor would fulfill this burning desire to help others. But her A'level grades were not outstanding and while she was accepted to pursue mechanical engineering at The University of the West Indies, her application to study medicine there was rejected. Scott knew she had to study sciences and repeat her A'levels if she was to have a shot at The UWI's Faculty of Medical Sciences so she left her job at the bank to concentrate on her studies. In the interim she landed a job as a part-time feature writer with the Catholic News. It was a shock to many and needless to say, her decision was not a popular one among her colleagues.

"They couldn't understand. It was a shock to many. In the banking world, people thought, "you're leaving your job to be a journalist with the Catholic News?" It just didn't make sense to a lot of people but it made sense to me," says Scott.

As a feature writer for the Catholic News, Scott met a lot of people who, because of circumstances, had to forego doing what they really wanted to in life.

"I remembered thinking to myself, I don't want to say I always wanted to do something but never got the chance. So that motivated me. Even though I thought I was too old to get into medicine, I didn't want missing out on medical school to be one of my life's biggest regrets," she says.

She was eventually accepted into an offshore medical school and graduated at the top of her class. She wanted to transfer to The UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences and felt sure that her application and exceptional grades would be accepted but again she was rejected.

With two rejections, Scott was very low on funds and very dispondent. She was also dealing with health scares and had to have major surgery, not once but twice. She felt her energy being sapped and even gave thought to going back to the business sector, like the prodigal son returning to the arms of his father. She felt like giving up.

Just then she was encouraged by a friend who had transferred to a medical school in the Philippines to apply there since the quality of clinical experience and teaching at the school is of a very high standard. She applied and was accepted as a third year student at the Our Lady of Fatima University in Manila, Philippines. She learned Tagalog, the first language of the majority of Filipinos, to better communicate with locals, had to travel as many as three hours to get to her assigned hospital and adjusted to the rigors of the programme.

The rest, as they say, is history. She graduated from medical school in 2009, returned to Trinidad and is now a house officer in the surgery department in one of our public hospitals.

"If I believed I wasn't smart enough to do medicine based on my two rejections from UWI, I would not be a doctor today. I was just very determined that this was the path that God was leading me on and I felt sure that he would make a way out for me," she says.

It's still difficult getting up early in the mornings to run off to the hospital since most times Scott is still drained from the previous day's activities and there are systemic problems in the hospitals that need to be fixed urgently, she admits. But every time she makes her rounds on the wards, there is a great sense of accomplishment that envelops her.

"Being a doctor is about having the passion to care for others in their most vulnerable moments and being prepared to put in the hard work, the long hours of study that are required to have the knowledge needed to make decisions in the best interest of the patient, especially when those decisions mean the difference between life and death," says Scott.

There are not many authors/doctors out there but somehow in her tight schedule Scott still finds the time devote to her first love writing. Later this month her second novel Is America She Gone? will be released.

'Sandra' the protagonist in Scott's latest novel leaves her children behind in Trinidad to work illegally as a caregiver in the US and soon realises that America is not the place she imagined it to be. She sends barrels to her children back home but loses sight of what is really important family. She eventually returns to Trinidad to learn the hard way that money cannot take the place of a parent's love and the price she pays for her decision is greater than she ever imagined it would be.

The Stolen Cascadura is available at all the leading bookstores. Is America She Gone? will be on bookshelves from December 15.

Whatever may be your dream, don't let rejection slow you down, Scott advises young ones today.

Says Scott, "One of the things I have learnt in my life is that rejection is not the enemy. Just because someone says to you 'I don't think you can do something', doesn't mean that you can't do it."