Tue | Jul 14, 2020

Don Gilbert - doctor of racing

Published:Wednesday | November 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMKajamba Fitz-Henley

We don't often hear of medicine and motorsports crossing paths. But, hearing of doctor who also happens to be a man with a genuine love for racing might easily mollify the novelty of the idea in our heads.

An orthopaedic surgeon at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Dr Don Gilbert has been practising medicine since 1993. He stated that from the age of 18, his goal was to help people as a doctor.

However, just a few years later, a younger Gilbert started actively taking an interest in motorsports. "There was a Suzuki owners' club for those of us who owned a Suzuki GTI, which I got involved in about 1994, but the racing didn't actually start until about 1995," Gilbert said. His discovery of the club coincided with a time in which "the Suzuki brand was very common; a lot of people liked it, and it was a relatively affordable sports car, so there were a lot of people who were interested in it."

Thus, he came to own and eventually race with a 1993 Suzuki Swift GTI, which he still races today as an independent racer, attending all four of the biggest racing events for the year.


Challenges in racing


Naturally, with such a demanding profession - medicine - a hobby like motorsports could prove even more challenging than what is typical for the average racer. Gilbert shared the most pressing challenges with Automotives: "I don't have the time, so I don't get to practise as much as I ought to, hence, I don't do as well as I could do if I had the time to practise, but my profession has to come first."

Other challenges can occur on the actual days of races. For example, at Dover's Independence of Speed in August, Gilbert participated in one race and came third, with his car malfunctioning shortly after, preventing him from partaking in any further races. Fortunately, though, the car was repaired in time for Dover's Heroes of Speed in October.


Learning from racing


The doctor has continued racing for over 10 years, not only for the thrill of being behind the wheel, but also for the learning experience. He revealed that he has learned from a personal, mechanical, and physical point of view. "I recognise the importance of every single part when it comes to safety. For example, when some of the drivers skimp on things like a HANS device in motor racing (which helps prevent injury to the spine in an accident), I won't skimp on it because I realise the importance of it." Recently, Dr Gilbert has been trying to work with the Jamaica Race Drivers' Club to establish a day for drivers to come together and promote in motorsports. That day, however, has not yet come.

While trying to encourage the discussion on physical and medical safety in motorsports, Gilbert ensures that he maintains his own safety as a driver: "My medical perspective gives me deeper insight into what can go wrong and the prognosis, hence, I don't skimp when it comes to safety. I take it seriously and practise everything that can make me as safe as possible."


Racing future


In relation to his racing future, Dr Gilbert revealed his intention to continue racing. "I know there's gonna come a point when I'll have to stop, but presently, I take part in 5k runs, try to keep fit and go to the gym three times a week. So, from a physical point of view, I certainly can keep going." The doctor did admit, however, that he has set no particular goals outside of trying to enjoy himself in racing. "It's a sense of enjoyment. If I come second, I come second; if I come third, I come third; if I come last, I come last. The point is, it's just the joy of participating," he said.