Gillette Clinicians Improving Lives of Jamaican Children

Posted On: Jul 17, 2013

When Wayland Richards left his native Jamaica for the U.S. to pursue a degree at Crown College in St. Bonifacious, Minn., he often struggled with the question, “What will you take back to the young people of Jamaica?"  Beginning in 1995, Richards answered that question by hosting youth retreats dedicated to helping young Jamaicans receive job training and education essential to rising above the poverty line.

Mark Gormley, M.D. (far right) pictured the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Minister of Tourism, along with fellow volunteers.

During one such retreat, a physician volunteer told Richards of his interest in using his medical training to help Jamaican children living with complex health conditions. Richards soon shifted his focus to medical mission work—and in 2002, founded the Organization for Strategic Development in Jamaica (OSDJ). When Richards learned of Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare through a member of his church, he saw an opportunity to partner in treating Jamaican youth with disabilities.

During Richards’ first visit to Gillette (accompanied by Jamaica’s Minister of Health) he met Mark Gormley, M.D., a pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician. Gormley, who had just returned from a medical mission trip to Russia, spoke to Richards about how his team’s efforts in Russia could be replicated in Jamaica.  Less than a month later, Gormley received an invitation—could he travel to Jamaica to tour the country’s healthcare facilities and give several medical lectures?  He agreed, and an international outreach program was born.

Gormley has since traveled to Jamaica semi-annually with a team of colleagues hailing largely from Gillette, from physical therapists to nurses and orthotics (bracing) specialists.  Together with Jamaican physician Paula Dawson, M.D., the group collaborates to provide treatments—including surgeries, Botox injections, therapies and assistive technology—to children who have cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Gormley estimates that his group has already helped more than 250 children.

They’ve also caught the attention of the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica and Obama administration. As a result, Gillette will be part of a new effort to collectively spur volunteerism, medical education and tourism in developing countries like Jamaica. “Jamaicans understand that tourism reflects positively on their country,” explains Gormley. “If more groups like ours can give these countries tourism dollars while also helping local children, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”