Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:In a country where the three forensic pathologists employed by the Government are expatriates and there is a severe shortage in the profession, Jamaica has reportedly snubbed one of its own who qualified herself in the field.
Dr Kisha Mitchell-Richards, assistant professor and director of autopsy at the world-renowned Yale University in the United States, says she was refused a face-to-face interview at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in 2006, despite being qualified in anatomic and clinical pathology and forensic pathology, at the George Washington University and the University of South Florida.
The forensic pathologist, daughter of former deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Gerard Mitchell, and Lurline Mitchell, a social worker, is a past student of the Montego Bay High School and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, where she studied medicine.
Mitchell-Richards moved to the United States in 2001, after a year and four months of internship in pathology at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew.
She did a four-year residency in anatomic and clinical pathology, then forensics for a year.
"When I finished my training in Tampa in 2006, I heard that there might be a position at Cornwall Regional and I ran it down," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
The pathologist, who described her profession as a natural fit for its investigative offerings, said, "You try to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and that is the area I find most compelling in medicine."
It is now seven years later, and she cannot remember the name of the person she spoke with at CRH, except that he was an expatriate.
"All I can remember is that the name starts with a 'K', and I called and called and finally he said I must go ahead and apply, 'we will give you a phone interview'."
Mitchell-Richards said at the time she pressed for an interview in person, owing to the fact she would be on the island the following week, but was told, "no, a phone interview is fine".
She did the phone interview, "and then they sent me an email that I was not successful in getting the job".
Treated with such scant regard, it triggered a change in the direction of her career and, since then, she has not considered returning home to work.
Instead, she went back to do more training in gastrointestinal (GI) and liver pathology. At the end of her training she was employed at Yale, where some 14 pathologists report to her.
The rejection was upsetting, she said, because she really wanted to contribute to her country's health sector.
"Hadn't they denied me the job, I would not have the position I hold now. I am doing well, I am very strong in the academic pathology world, I do a lot for national organisations in the States," said Mitchell-Richards.
She is webmaster for the Gastro-Intestinal Pathology Society website and she gives short courses at the group's annual pathology meeting.
She also conducts a short course on GI and liver disease at the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology's annual meeting, and is very involved in teaching at Yale.
She married her friend whom she has known since age 17, Amarfio Richards, and is a first-time mom to a seven-week-old baby boy.
Mitchell-Richards is well aware of the severe shortage of forensic pathologists in the country and she tags it an unfortunate situation.
"I haven't considered recently how I'd be able to help. I have a good relationship with a number of pathologists and physicians in Jamaica and, on a case-by-case basis, I try to help with anything they need when I can, but I don't currently have anything in place that provides help on a larger scale," she said.
For this Jamaican doctor, who is an avid tennis player and a lover of her country, pathology is a fundamental part of medicine.
"When you do your surgery programme at the UWI, you have to do a little pathology."
At Yale, she is part of a robust team which does diagnostic work and research.
In terms of pathology, there are no other Jamaicans at Yale; however, the medical school recently graduated two Jamaican girls who went to Montego Bay High School.
They are now physicians and another, a Campion graduate, is in her third year.
"In terms of training we have people, there is a resident in obstetrics and gynaecology, but in terms of the faculty, I am the only Jamaican," said Mitchell-Richards.
At age 34, Mitchell-Richards was diagnosed with breast cancer. She survived, after opting to remove both breasts.
"If I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in Jamaica, it probably would have taken me longer, maybe I would not have had the therapeutic options I have in the States; everything happens for a reason," she concluded.