A young Marjorie remembers having to take her great aunt, who had diabetes, to the Spanish Town hospital, and sometimes waiting all day without getting any treatment before the doctor unceremoniously ended his shift. “That really upset me a lot and I swore that I’m going to become a doctor to be able to treat patients the way they should be treated, not because of time and that type of thing, you’re talking about people’s lives, you can’t just cut them off like that.”
“(So) ever since I was a medical student, I decided I’m going to do surgery, not medicine,” she recalled. “Because you know, a patient comes in sick, you treat them, they getter better and they go home. In medicine, they stay there and you talk for 3 hours and by next week they’re dead, because they can’t do much for them.”
As it relates to becoming a surgeon, she chuckled: “I was always cutting up things, scale the fish, clean the fish, kill the fowl, clean the fowl…anybody was sick, any cuts or so, I’m always patching them up, taking them to the doctor.”
Dr. Yee-Sing graduated from the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in her home country of Jamaica after successfully completing a 5-year course. The following year, she did her internship in Trinidad and Tobago where she honed her love for surgery, working there until 1982 before moving on to the United Kingdom.
At first, she was at the Royal College of Surgeons of London at Nuffield College. She then sat the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) Part 1 exams in Edinburgh, Scotland, before heading back to Jamaica to join the post graduate Doctor of Medicine (DM) surgery programme. She made history by being the first female to complete the DM course in surgery at Mona.
After finishing the DM, she went back to the UK in 1990 for Part 2 of the FRCS of Edinburgh. She then returned to Jamaica and was employed by the Ministry of Health as Senior Medical Officer at the Port Antonio Hospital, which served about 75,000 people. That turned out to be a 12-year stint.
In the early 2000’s, Dr. Yee-Sing was asked to go to Anguilla for 3 months, as there was no surgeon there at the time. Not surprisingly, that turned into 2 years and 8 months.
On her way back to Jamaica, she was contacted by the Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health in the British Virgin Islands requesting a locum. She was just supposed to hold on for a month, but that turned into 6 weeks, then 2 months and then came the offer of a 2-year contract.
However, she went back home, only to be drawn back to the BVI in 2004, where she was employed as a General Surgeon at the then Peebles Hospital (now Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital). From General Surgeon, she progressed to Chief of Medical Staff, supervising the Emergency Room (ER), orderlies, Emergency Medical Services or EMS workers, and visiting medical students from Canada, Germany, the US and Jamaica.
Dr. Yee-Sing fondly recalls developing a rapport with the staff. “I would teach at the same time, which I like to do…once you’re under my supervision, you were taught as you go along,” she said.
She is very proud that one of her students, Aasha-Marie Flax Miller, is now a radiologist at the Dr. D. Orlando Smith Hospital. She mentioned others who were under her tutelage at some stage, while she was doing her DM, who are now working elsewhere in the world as general surgeons, urologists and in other fields.
“During my time as Chief of Medical Staff, apart from the training, we were able to advance the Emergency Medical Service: we got new ambulances and I played an integral part in the plans for the new hospital…along with Mrs. Winifred Charles Crabbe, who was the Administrator at the time,” Dr. Yee-Sing recollected. She said they worked together along with other nurses and doctors and heads of specialist departments to vet these plans.
Dr. Yee-Sing lauded the significant improvements at the new hospital, especially in the surgery department. The hospital is now doing laparoscopic work and she is hoping they would do more endoscopies, which is so urgently needed.
“We have seen the implementation of CT scans and MRIs, (and) that made a big difference in how we manage patients, because prior to that we had to send them away to get these tests done and then wait for the results to come back,” she said. She said with the advent of these new and innovative equipment, they have seen a vast improvement in medical care at the hospital.
Dr. Yee-Sing praised the staff at the hospital for improving the quality of their service to patients, who are also now experiencing a more comfortable environment as they are being cared for. The entire building is now air conditioned and elevators make it easier to get from one floor to the next.
“All the different departments are being properly run right now, and I think it’s because of more specialists coming in the different areas,” she said. These include a Cardiothoracic Surgeon and a Radiologist and several Anaesthetists and Obstetricians/Gynaecologists.
She highlighted that there are now more operating theatres in the new hospital allowing for multiple surgeries at the same time. In addition, there is now more laparoscopy and hysteroscopy work being done.
“One of the drawbacks, however, is the orthopedic department; we haven’t got an orthopedic surgeon that is full time at the hospital; we have borrowed from Bougainvillea and Eureka, but it would be good if we can have our own,” Dr. Yee-Sing said, adding that they are always busy dealing with victims of traffic accidents, gunshot wounds, broken bones, sprains and the like. She said what would help is for the hospital to get specialized operating room equipment to assist in this department.
After her stint with the government ended in 2010, Dr. Yee-Sing entered into private practice with Dr. D. Orlando Smith, who at that time was operating his own private clinic. A turning point came in 2013 when she merged her practice with PicSmith Medical Services, while at the same time also consulting at Bougainvillea Clinic and Private Hospital, and the government hospital as well.
If you’ve been calculating, you would realize that Dr. Marjorie Yee-Sing has been practicing as a medical doctor and a surgeon for over 40 years. So we asked her what has brought her the most satisfaction over the years, because she must love what she’s doing, right?
“Just seeing patients recover from their illness and doing whatever it takes for me to find the cause and be able to treat them adequately – that brings me joy, just to see them get better,” she stated.
She also quipped about seeing patients years later who would call out to her whether at the supermarket, in the street or wherever, asking if she remembers them. She admits that sometimes she really doesn’t, but they would always remind her of their visits, their injuries and even boldly show her the healed cuts from their surgeries.
“Doc, remember you save me life when I came in here, the man bash me head with a stone and I was unconscious for days and you bring me around,” was one of the anecdotes she related.
Dr. Yee-Sing said such stories simply make her feel good and give her joy and satisfaction to see the condition in which the patients came and that she was able to assist.
There was a time when she was called on to perform OBGYN duties at the hospital and there was a patient whose baby was in fetal distress and she had to do an emergency Caesarian section. She said she recently saw the lady and was introduced to the child who is now grown.
“Even the little ones, they recognize me,” she giggled, “I do a lot of circumcisions on children.”
At her current practice, Dr. Yee-Sing, though a surgeon, does a lot of general medicine. She sees all patients, including those who are diabetic, hypertensive, patients with skin rashes and headaches.
She is well fitted to do that, as her DM surgery programme trained her in other specialties as well, including urology, orthopedics, cardiothoracic, OBGYN, pediatrics and other medical and surgical emergencies.
Coming from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago and moving to the smaller islands of the Caribbean is really of little consequence to Dr. Yee-sing in terms of the consistent excellent quality of service she provides and her absolute dedication to duty.
“I enjoy it, I would not be in it if I didn’t like it, honestly,” she stated categorically. “Because you just want to see the patient get better; if a patient is in pain you can’t just walk away, you have to help.”
Her practice is not generally opened on Saturdays, but sometimes, she does find herself opening up to accommodate an accident victim. There are even times when she is in church that she is called out to perform emergency surgery.
And then came the question: “How many more years do you have in you, Doc?”
That brought a little more than just a chuckle this time as she responded: “I don’t know, I really don’t know. Maybe a couple more years. I can’t say. My patients are hoping that I will stay forever. I don’t know, I haven’t decided. I’ve gotten so attached to these patients, they don’t want anybody else to touch them.”
She said it really touches her when patients say they’d rather stay at home and die if she is not going to be managing their care, and she has to insist and tell them no, they cannot do that!
Dr. Yee-Sing says she also has quite a few patients in Virgin Gorda, who would come over to Tortola to be cared for at her practice. She recalled how difficult it would be at times for them to get transportation over during emergencies and expressed delight that there is now the new Iris O’Neal Medical Centre, which is staffed by professionals and able to handle more cases.
In retrospect, Dr. Marjorie Yee-Sing is satisfied that she has made a significant contribution to the development of the healthcare sector in the Virgin Islands.
She looks back at a time in training when they literally had to write their notes, compared to now when computers are a requirement. She admits that this new innovation makes the job easier in terms of record keeping and efficiency across the healthcare system, but says she never lets the computer distract her from giving her patients that personal attention and eye to eye contact needed to build patient confidence.
“I think I have assisted in bringing the standard of healthcare up to a level that is satisfactory, acceptable and which has resulted in patients getting improved health care and I think I have contributed significantly to the improvement of the system at all levels,” Dr. Yee-Sing reflected.
She attributes her longevity and success to her dedication, commitment, passion and stamina.
Even during the lockdowns in the BVI as a result of the global pandemic, she has had to be going out to work every day. She expressed gratitude to the police who were lenient when patients who had emergencies, but didn’t have passes had to come to her office for treatment.
Finally, of pride and joy to Dr. Marjorie Yee-Sing Daley, is her only child, a daughter in her mid-20’s, who is practicing medicine at home in Jamaica. No wonder!