Most doctors get their medical degrees and leave it at that.
Not Dr. Delroy Jefferson, medical director of the Health Services Authority. It seems, for him, there is no such thing as too many letters after your name.
In addition to his doctorate of medicine in anesthesia and critical care, he has a master’s and a PhD in business administration and last year he started work on two postgraduate law degrees, which he plans on earning simultaneously.
This fall, Jefferson will talk about the importance of education to those graduating from the University College of the Cayman Islands. He was recently announced as speaker for the commencement ceremony on Nov. 5.
UCCI interim Vice President and Provost J.D. Mosley-Matchett said she has gotten to know Jefferson as a fellow Rotarian and called him a “Renaissance man.”
“He's an excellent physician and administrator,” Mosley-Matchett said, explaining why she invited Jefferson to speak, “but he's also a community-minded individual who selflessly seeks to improve the lives of individuals in need both in Cayman and abroad.”
Stacy McAfee, president and CEO of UCCI, said Jefferson’s lifelong pursuit of education is an example of the ethos the school hopes to impart to students.
“Many times, students think of a degree as an endpoint,” McAfee said, “when really, it should be seen as the opening of a new door. There is no end to learning, and Dr. Jefferson embodies this principle.”
Jefferson said he’s not always had people see it that way.
“Sometimes I’m called a nerd for studying all of this, but then you see that it makes a difference,” he said, sitting in his office at the HSA, where he’s been medical director since 2012.
For instance, he said, his knowledge from studying business and finance allowed him to successfully argue in favour of continued government funding for cardiac-related emergency services in Cayman Brac several years ago. Jefferson, who headed the Brac’s Faith Hospital from 2001-2005, said he was able to show the service was cost effective.
“There is value in having knowledge about a wide cross-section of things,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to need it. If someone is talking to me about finance, I should be able to speak finance at the highest level.”
In addition to impressing upon the graduates how important education is, he also hopes to provide them with some strategies for navigating higher education.
“I really want to talk about setting your goals and making a plan to accomplish those goals and maintaining a focus towards that,” he said, adding that it’s important for students to “set their own agendas and invest time and effort in getting there.”
Jefferson has been giving that same advice to students he has mentored over his career. For the past 14 years he has travelled to Egypt annually -- with the exception of this year due to the Covid-19 - as well as other countries, to set up clinics and provide free medical care to poor areas.
“When I travel, I look for children that could use some help with their education,” he said. In countries such as Egypt, where education is free, “rests mainly in providing books, computers, housing and peripheral things like living and travel expenses.”
Over the years, he said, he has mentored seven Egyptian students, as well as others from Ghana, Honduras, Haiti and Jamaica. A painting of sailboats by a Hatian student he worked with hangs on the wall in his office.
A big part of his motivation for such work comes from his own upbringing and the support he received from teachers who took him under their wings. In the small Jamaican village of Robins Bay, boys were expected to become fishermen or farmers, he said.
“It was a sissy thing for boys to be in school,” Jefferson said.
But his teachers saw that he was bright. He was eventually given scholarships that allowed him to pursue his studies. He feels obligated, he said, to similarly help others. Another part of that effort is sitting on the government’s scholarship review panel and encouraging students who want to pursue medicine.
“When I first got here,” he said of his 1998 arrival in Cayman with his wife, Winsome and their daughter, Jodi, who is currently studying in Scotland, “I had a passion to see Caymanian doctors. I kept a register of people I could assist toward that goal. Now we have quite a large number of young Caymanian physicians.”
The road is not an easy one, he said. He recalled the case of one student who had struggled in his first year abroad and was in danger of losing his scholarship.
“As I spoke with him, I saw passion,” Jefferson said. “I convinced the others on the panel, ‘Let’s give him a second chance.’ He did so well. He applied for medical school and got in. He’s coming to join us now as a new physician.”
That belief and dedication to others is apparent not only in the Jefferson’s actions, but also in more subtle ways. With all of his degrees and the awards he’s been given over the years, not only as a physician, but in his active participation with Cayman’s Rotary, of which he is a past president, one might expect the walls of his office to be plastered with framed accolades.
Instead, there are a few Caribbean-themed paintings. Not a degree or award in sight.
“They’re all at home under the bed,” he said.
UCCI Commencement is scheduled for Nov. 5. Time and location will be announced at a later date. For additional information visit www.ucci.edu.ky or call 623-8224.