Getting ready for impact

Dr. Jamaica Cass

Dr. Jamaica Cass wants to help people, particularly people in her mother’s community, the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

In 2013, while attending Queen’s, she completed her PhD in microbiology and immunology with a specialization in breast cancer research. Although her research was fulfilling, Dr. Cass decided she wanted to go to medical school so that she could someday apply her training, skills, and knowledge to help the people of her community.

After graduating from Queen’s, she went to medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans, where her first surgery rotation was performing multi-organ transplants at the highest-volume liver transplant centre in the country. “I was seeing patients in a transplant-specific ICU in a private hospital system in an amazing specialized facility,” she recalls.

During her training, she also worked in nearby underserved communities. She spent eight months of her clinical rotation in a small community hospital in one of the poorest parishes in one of the poorest states. “I did pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, radiology, and emergency medicine,” she says. “I also did a fair bit of surgery because that was my area of interest.”

Dr. Cass also spent time working in one of the highest-volume wound care clinics in the U.S. “I would spend days helping patients learn how to take care of their chronic wounds because they didn’t have access to medications to help prevent them,” she says. “I wanted to work with underserved populations and I definitely had that chance.”

Following medical school, Dr. Cass returned to Canada to do her residency in general surgery at University of Alberta. “I love surgery,” she says. “I performed a lot of breast surgery there and I learned a lot about breast health.” However, after three years of surgical residency, Dr. Cass decided that general surgery wasn’t for her. “General surgery is the first point of contact for high-acuity patients — people in car accidents and who get shot or stabbed, all kinds of trauma. That’s not where I wanted to end up.” Today, Dr. Cass is a resident in family medicine, where she is able to care for patients beyond their acute needs. She treats her patients based on their unique needs.

Dr. Cass is almost ready to fulfill her original goal. “There’s a family medicine clinic in Tyendinaga that serves Indigenous people from South Eastern Ontario,” she says. “I look forward to bringing all of my knowledge and skills together so that one day I can join the clinic and serve my community.”