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TONY BEST: Athletics star’s love for medicine


TONY BEST: Athletics star’s love for medicine

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DECADES AFTER DR RONALD CLARKE ended a promising athletics career representing Barbados in international competition, the specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology is still running fast.

“My days in track and field events are over but I am very active when it comes to ensuring that women enjoy excellent health,” said Clarke from his office in Mobile, Alabama, where he has a thriving private practice.

The Bajan established and runs Greater Mobile Physicians for Women PC, which serves thousands of patients.

“There was a time when much of my satisfaction came from competing for Barbados in 100 and 200 metres, but today the joy and the gratitude come from helping people, his patients, to be in good health.

“I believe in principle, honesty, integrity and standing up for the rights of people,” added the affable physician, who is quick to tell you about his Bajan heritage; the need for people, especially women, to maintain good health; and why issues of skin colour were not always stumbling blocks.

Interest changes

The man who represented Barbados in the sprints at the Pan American, Central American and Caribbean and the Commonwealth Games at different times between 1976 to 1984, earning the accolade as Barbados’ Male Athlete of the Year in 1980,  knows what it takes to get the medical job done with aplomb.

“I am an advocate for women’s rights and I emphasise quality care for women,” he insisted.

Born and raised in Marley Vale in St Phillip, Clarke attended The Lodge School in St John and it was there that he first developed an interest in medicine.

“My interest was sparked when I was in the sixth form and I was studying science,” he recalled. “At that time too I was running the 100 and 200 metres for the school.”

It was his success in the classroom, science laboratory and on the track that paved the way for his tertiary education which began at New York’s Adelphi University on Long Island where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology in the early 1980s. Next stop was Meharry Medical College, a historically black school in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received his initial training in OBGYN.

After earning a medical degree in 1990 he moved onto the University of Cincinnati Hospital Group Programme in Ohio and did his residency “I had just finished my residency in Ohio in 1992 when I learned of an opportunity to go to Mobile in Alabama. After carefully considering the offer I accepted it, and I have been in Mobile ever since,” he explained.

“Mobile has been good to me. It reminds me a lot of Barbados, close to water and the warm weather,” he said.

Interestingly, Mobile, a city with a population of almost 200 000 people, about 50 per cent of whom are white and 45 per cent black, has written a special chapter in the history of America’s civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, it was the scene of vigorous battles against entrenched racism and separation of the races across Alabama, but much of that has changed.

“I have learned that racism is racism. It all depends on how you handle it,” Clarke said. “Much has changed in Mobile” and it has been for the good.

Today, 40 per cent of his patients are white and 60 per cent persons of colour.

Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.