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On Jan. 11, Integrated Medical Centre (IMC) spearheaded a number of events leading up to the opening of its new Integrated Medical Centre – Treasure Cay honouring Rev. Stafford Symonette and Mrs. Diane Solomon.

Integrated Medical Opens New Location in Treasure Cay


Above: The two honourees: Rev. Stafford Symonette and Mrs. Diane Solomon along with Vanessa Lockhart far right in green.
Above: The two honourees: Rev. Stafford Symonette and Mrs. Diane Solomon along with Vanessa Lockhart far right in green.

On Jan. 11, Integrated Medical Centre (IMC) spearheaded a number of events leading up to the opening of its new Integrated Medical Centre – Treasure Cay honouring Rev. Stafford Symonette and Mrs. Diane Solomon.


Medical Symposium:

First in the line of events was a Medical Symposium at Full Gospel Assembly under the theme: Patient Centered Care.

Dr. George Charite, IMC director, welcomed all local and international guests in attendance. He said it was a step forward in providing medical care to the community of Abaco.

“Integrated Medical Centre – Treasure Cay is starting a new trend of medicine in The Bahamas, and this new trend of medicine is where we are encompassing complete health care: medical, surgical, and spiritual,” Dr. Charite said. “We want to provide a complete healing environment to our patients in our community; so this that we’re starting in Treasure Cay is going to continue into Marsh Harbour, and very soon, it will continue to other islands in The Bahamas.”

As moderator, Dr. Carnille Farquharson, family medicine specialist, was enthused about the services that Abaco and Grand Bahama residents will be able to take advantage of.


Dr. Rogelio Ribas – Baptist Health International:

Dr. Farquharson first called on Dr. Rogelio Ribas of Baptist Health International. Dr. Ribas spoke on the topic: “Cancer: The Future Is Now.”  He talked about the upgrades in technology that is ongoing stateside, while warning that technology may not always be the best approach.

After addressing the four pillars of cancer – medical, surgical, radiation and interventional oncology – Dr. Ribas introduced the concept of robotic surgery to the audience.  The advantages of robotic surgery translates into less blood loss, reduced hospital stays and equal or better outcomes.

While Baptist Health offers a number of personalized services at its hospitals and centres across the United States, Dr. Ribas emphasized that it is of utmost importance that patients speak directly with their primary physicians who can instruct them on what to do.

Dr. Mary Beth Tomaselli – Oncology Referral Network of America (ORNOA):

Next, Dr. Mary Beth Tomaselli, a breast surgeon at Oncology Referral Network of America (ORNOA), gave a presentation on “Breast Cancer Prevention, Diagnosis and Surgical.” As a child, she learned firsthand about the disease after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Tomicelli urged women to do self-breast examinations monthly from the age of 20. Examinations should be done on the tenth day following the menstrual cycle. She also defined mammograms, radiation therapy, breast ultrasounds, breast MRIs, breast Tomosynthesis and mastectomies along with the pros and cons of each procedure noting that no imaging study is 100 percent accurate.


Dr. Christina Gomez – Holy Cross Hospital:

Her talk was followed by Dr. Christina Gomez’s presentation on “Advances in Breast Cancer.” Dr. Gomez, a medical oncologist at Holy Cross Hospital, was excited to share cancer statistics that were just released on Jan. 7 of this year. She began with a recent patient case before revisiting the newfound statistical data.

In her presentation, Dr. Gomez said that research shows that cancer mortality rates have declined and that 1.3 million cancer deaths were avoided in 2013.  She posed several studies and their findings that were taken over a 10-year period.  Nevertheless, Dr. Gomez said that there continues to be 1.6 million new cancer cases each year, and in The Bahamas, breast cancer has the highest morbidity rate among women.


Dr. Theodore Turnquest – Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH):

“Cancer Screening Essentials” was the timely topic tackled by Dr. Theodore Turnquest, a consultant oncologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital. He agreed that breast cancer accounts for most of the patients they see.

Sadly, research confirms that one in eight Bahamian women will be affected by breast cancer, and as a result, The Bahamas ranks #6 in the world in terms of breast cancer deaths per 100,000 population.

He reiterated the importance of doing mammograms, clinical and self-breast examinations, and breast MRIs.

Startlingly, colorectal cancer is on the rise.

Colorectal cancer is ranked second in men after prostate cancer, and third in women following breast cancer and cervical cancer.  In endometrial (uterine) cancer statistics, The Bahamas ranks 12th worldwide. Lung cancer contributes as the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.

Dr. Turnquest recalled when they used to only see three or four cases a year, but now with smoking rates going up, the cases have increased as well.

“It’s preventable if people stop smoking,” he said, pointedly.

With prostate cancer, The Bahamas places 13th worldwide, and locally, prostate cancer is the No. 1 cause of death in Bahamian men. Therefore, research shows that the benefits of having a screening test done greatly outweighs the harm associated with testing. Men ages 45 and over, can speak to their doctors about the risks and benefits of testing.

For the general cancer screening, Dr. Turnquest said it is important to know your family history, and that there are various exams to choose from. He warned that Bahamians must do everything in moderation particularly with alcohol intake.

In the case of breast cancer in men who are obese, he said it is the wife who usually detects it. Men who also undergo hormonal manipulation may also be at risk for breast cancer.

During the question and answer session, one of the most significant questions was related to a vaccine for cancer. Dr. Gomez answered by saying that doctors are making baby steps in that direction with the reduction in mortality rates, but there is no cure as yet.

Based on Dr. Turnquest’s presentation, a frightening revelation is that Caribbean men appear to be predisposed for prostate cancer no matter where they relocate.


Dr. Winston Campbell – Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH):

An interesting presentation was given by PMH consultant, Dr. Winston Campbell, on “Obstructive Sleep Apnea” – The Often Missed Diagnosis.”

According to Dr. Campbell, the three critical areas of the condition are nasal obstruction, the tongue or the uvula soft palate. He gave the signs of OSA and elaborated on the assessment scales used to measure the tongue position and the risk of developing OSA.

Finally, a list of home sleep devices were given to aid those with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Tragically, OSA can lead to many chronic non-communicable diseases including congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, atherogenesis, and endothelial dysfunction as well as diabetes and obesity.

For men, OSA leads to low testosterone and sexual dysfunction.

Dr. Campbell contended that there is an economic burden caused by OSA when it results in hypertension that costs the Bahamian government $38 million in medical spending or diabetes that totals $26 million.


Dr. Ali Malek – St. Mary’s Hospital (West Palm Beach):

Dr. Ali Malek of St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach touched on the impact of strokes and issued “Guidelines for Management of Strokes in Remote Areas.”

In the case of a stroke, time is of the essence because when brain cells die they are not salvageable, he emphasized.

“During a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute,” Dr. Malek added.

Additional research states that for every hour a stroke continues, up to 200 million nerve cells die and the brain ages four years.  Doctors focus on the penumbra of the stroke, or in other words, the area that is not damaged by the stroke. They then seek to determine why the patient suffered a stroke and determine measures of preventing another one.

Eighty three percent of strokes are classed as Ischemic strokes, while the remaining 17 percent are called hemorrhagic strokes. Risk factors can range from family history, age or sickle cell disease to modifiable risk factors like obesity, hypertension, smoking and cholesterol.

He was astounded that Bahamians are surrounded by such a beautiful environment and an abundance of seafood, yet we take foods that are healthy and transform them into unhealthy foods because of what we add to them. He reminded the audience that processed foods are not good for the body largely because they are made from the poorest ingredients.

Like Dr. Ribas from Baptist Health, Dr. Malek urges patients to see their primary care physicians. While some medications may help with strokes, there are some that do not.

If someone is having a stroke, Dr. Malek recommended placing the stroke victim flat with the head and shoulder slightly raised to reduce the blood pressure in the brain. Additional tips are that if the victim is unconscious, gently roll him so he is lying on his left side and pull the chin forward. This keeps the airway open and allows any vomit to drain and not affect breathing. If the victim is conscious, give all the positive support you can. Remember to never give a stroke victim anything to eat or drink because the throat may be paralyzed causing them to choke.

“Educate the community,” Dr. Malek repeated. “Time is Brain; the best stroke is the one you don’t have.”


Dr. Gemma Rolle – Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH):

As the presentations began to wind down, Dr. Gemma Rolle spoke on “Updates in Gastroenterology.” She also addressed colorectal cancer (CRC) and its ties to family history/genetics and lifestyle risk factors. Dr. Rolle focused on the development of polyps in these patients and the potential of them turning into cancer.

A number of screening methods are used to detect polyps with a colonoscopy being the “gold standard.” Not only does the colonoscopy allow the detection of polyps, but it also allows for the removal of them at the same time.  She also introduced the terms: polypectomy and chromoendoscopy.

Circling back to colonoscopies, Dr. Rolle explained that a colonoscopy can be done every 10 years and can be used to diagnose other things. However, its shortfall is that small polyps can be missed; a full bowel preparation is required; the patient is sedated; and they may require a missed day at work.

A colonoscopy can risk serious complications such as bleeding, tearing/perforation, infection, severe abdominal pain, cardiovascular events or death. In light is such complications, Dr. Rolle was well aware that some patients will generally mistrust physicians or harbour fatalistic views about cancer, or they can simply have symptoms that do not allow them to do the procedure.

Screening guidelines dictate that screening begins at age 50. Based on the presence or absence of polyps, the findings will determine the amount of years in between for screenings.



The final presenter was Dr. Johnathan Hersch of West Boca Hospital in Florida. He gave the insight on sports medicine beginning with should dislocations that can be classified as forward, backward or inferior. He suggested learning two or three techniques, and among the techniques are Kochers Method, Scapula Manipulation, Cunningham Technique, Stimson Method and Traction Counter Traction.  Dr. Hersch also gave after care advice adding that younger patients tend to have a high recurrence of dislocation. He used college, high school and junior high players in popular sport of football as examples.

Dr. Hersch’s next topic was AC and AC Joint separation, and the types of surgeries available from Grades 1-6. Elbow injuries were addressed along with injuries to the biceps, knees, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. He looked at a number of initial treatments like RICE, AROM, NSAIDs, Quad & GAIT analysis. Finally, Dr. Hersch ended his presentation by comparing surgery versus non-surgical procedures.


Official Opening of Integrated Medical Centre – Treasure Cay:

Following closing remarks by Dr. Farquharson, the group dispersed to the site of the Integrated Medical Centre – Treasure Cay for the Health Fair and Gospel Concert.  Guests were encouraged to tour the building, which is comprised of the Rev. Stafford Symonette Medical Pavilion, the Diane Solomon Surgical Centre, and the Integrated Medical Spa located next to the Spinnaker Restaurant.

Father Rogelio Madrazo prayed a blessing over the medical centre before Mrs. Solomon was asked to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony. Onlookers were amazed at the magnificent work done to the building by theCreative Construction team with its detailed moulding as well as the welcoming and impressive design of the spa’s interior.

The Integrated Spa will offer massage therapy and specialty massages, aesthetic services, an infrared sauna, hydrotherapy, body waxing, body wraps/scrubs and specialty facials. Ricardo and Avalon Miller’s Island Pharmacy Location #2 is also located in the Integrated building, and has been open since last year to serve the people of North Abaco.

Renardo Curry, MP for North Abaco, was also in attendance, and was invited to make remarks as the guest speaker and to officially declare the medical facility opened. Curry said that Integrated Medical Centre in Treasure Cay would prove paramount to the island because of the share of challenges and loss of life in the absence of it.

“I am pleased to announce that with the establishment of this new facility in addition to a number of other private practices on the island including the arrival of the new mini hospital in the Central Abaco district, the demeanor of most Abaconians of leaving the island in search of medical attention will be that of the past.”

“Most, if not all, of the medical healthcare services needed will be accessible on the island of Abaco,” Curry concluded.


Health Fair/Gospel Concert:

At the Health Fair, there were representatives from Baptist Health International, the National Workers Health Plan Network, Holy Cross and an air ambulance service. A bouncing castle was provided for the younger ones, as well as food and drinks for everyone.

Gospel groups like Genesis, New Direction, Jes’ Us, legendary Bahamian gospel singer Rev. Simeon Outten and the New Life Band, and various church praise teams entertained the audience.

About Canishka Alexander

Canishka Alexander was born in New Providence, but spent most of her childhood years on Abaco. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Abilene Christian University.

Although she has accomplished many things in life, her greatest accomplishment is being a mother to her four children. She loves God, her country and people of all cultures.

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One comment

  1. Congratulations!! Happy New Year!! A Peace of Mind to have a facility of that caliber! Muchas gracias y que Dios los Bendiga.

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