In this installment of Our Stories, Ryan shares why he believes Jamaican men aren’t necessarily fearful of a doctor’s visit … For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise- white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience… this is Our Stories!

“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” – Steve Case

Meet *Ryan Chevinngs-Medical Student

From Mimage photo, Meet Ryan

This 21-year-old who battled Thin Basement Membrane Disease is now a Medical Student. He is one of the exceptions to the Jamaican man thinking that ‘visiting the doctor makes a man inferior’. He doesn’t believe in men being less of a man by visiting the doctor. He shares why he is not afraid of the doctor and hopes his story may help other men overcome their ‘fear’ of going to the doctor. He also desires for better marketing of male health to improve in his community. He would love to see content that applies to the culture of Jamaicans as he does not believe the issue is “fear of doctor visits” but lack of effective male health promotion strategies appropriate for our culture. I am sure after reading his story, Jamaicans, especially Jamaican men will become more willing to get regular check-ups.

Do you think being a medical student is enough encouragement for you to visit the doctor when you feel sick?

Yes for me.

Do you think this is the case for everyone in this field?

No, it isn’t. Doctors are the worst patients for real, sometimes…

Fascinating, why is that?

Not sure, probably the fact that they see it every day and do it every day and sometimes it is painful what they see patients go through. They’d rather not know than have to find out and go through it themself.

That is very understandable, this seems like a fear of discovery. Why aren’t you afraid of the doctor?

Not sure *chuckles* I guess I wanna live. And I wanna know what’s going on in my body.

Very good. Many Jamaican men struggle with that same fear of discovery and for that reason, they do not visit the doctor when they are sick. What do you think is the solution?

I don’t think it’s a fear. It’s a culture change. Not anything to do with fear. Jamaican men are culturally less likely to visit the doctor for things of that nature, primarily because it takes away from their masculinity, or they think it does. ‘

They aren’t a man, if they can take what’s happening’… This comes from the culture. So they need to adjust the marketing campaign to fit that culture.

Valid point! Do you think visiting the doctor takes away from your masculinity?

No, I don’t think visiting the doctor takes away from my masculinity. 

Okay great! What will influence your decision to go to the doctor?

I will self medicate through over-the-counter pills until I see the symptoms increasing or continuing over a period of time.

From Mimage photo, depicting Ryan amused

Sounds plausible. What is your experience at a doctor’s office?

My experience has always been good. I went very religious in high school.

Why did you visit the doctor so often during high school?

I had a kidney infection.

Tell me about that experience.

I was diagnosed with Thin Base Membrane disease. I was in the hospital because of that, the onset that I was losing protein and blood because my kidney wasn’t filtering properly, I eventually went back to the hospital to do a biopsy and also to remove a thyroid cyst from my throat… I became slightly anemic. This happens from second form to fourth form.

Wow, what an experience. Did it end there?

I continued doing follow up appointments until I was 18.

Can you remember if you were ever afraid of hearing about having Thin Basement Membrane disease?

No, but before I was diagnosed I got a differential that was fatal, so yes I was scared before. I was about 14 I think, I cried but all is well.

I learnt about it in med school, it was either Alport’s Syndrome or Thin Basement Membrane.

Do you remember if you were afraid of surgery or procedures that would correct the disease?

At the time, no, I was not, now that I know about anesthesia and how one wrong move can kill you, yes.

Okay, I understand, sometimes knowledge can be burdensome. Do you believe the experience in your younger years influences your view of a doctor’s visit?

Not really, because I wasn’t going to the doctor for a check-up but I had something wrong with me. Currently, I don’t know if anything is wrong with me.

Doctor’s visits very, very frequently aren’t a thing for me.

Ok, so when was the last time you visited the doctor?

Last time I visited the doctor was in July this year.

From Mimage photo, depicting Ryan expression for ‘If nothing is wrong all the better’

How often do you visit the doctor?

I don’t visit the doctor very often , maybe once a year.

Why do you believe some Jamaican men view visiting the doctor as being less of a man?

As I said before it’s the culture however I don’t view it as being less of a man because I am a functionality person, if something is not working, it needs to be fixed.

If it means I must open my bottom to test my prostate, that just haffi gwaan.

If I figure something is wrong with me and I need to get myself checked out. ‘If something is wrong, I will try and fix it. If nothing is wrong, all the better.’

I totally agree! Thank you so much for your time and input Ryan!

*Name changed upon request