VIDEO: Linstead Native, Dayna Palmer, Earns First Class Honours In Medical ScienceNovember 18, 2022
Knowing that her parents were unable to fund her tertiary education, Dr Dayna Palmer, who hails from Linstead in St Catherine, quickly devised a strategy.
She decided to record exceptional academic performances in order to earn scholarships.
That plan, which was executed in fine style, climaxed on November 3, 2022 when Dr Palmer graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI) with first class honours, signifying the university’s best quality academic achievement.
She now holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree.
Dr Palmer, who has been working as a medical intern since September 2022, was also selected to be the Faculty of Medical Science’s valedictorian.
“I was completely surprised [by the selection],” she told The Beacon, notwithstanding her stellar academic performance and involvement in extracurricular activities.
Dr Palmer is an alumna of Polly Ground Primary School in Ewarton and Trinity Prep in Linstead, as well as Immaculate Conception High in Kingston where she was an honour roll student (2011-2015) as well as Head Girl.
She recalled commuting on weekdays for two hours from Linstead to school in Kingston, beginning as early as 5 o’clock in the mornings.
“While I was at Immaculate Conception High, about Grade Nine, I figured out that I wanted to do Medicine but would have to apply for scholarships that would take me through university because, although my parents did their best to provide for me, they had no college fund set aside for me,” Dr Palmer said.
She successfully applied for the UWI Open Scholarship while she was in sixth form.
Getting the scholarship was not a surprise as Palmer had attained a number of academic feats, including notable placements nationally and regionally in some CSEC and CAPE subjects, which are administered by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
In 2015, for example, she was placed second overall in Jamaica for CSEC. Dr Palmer was also first on the island in CSEC Biology, as well as second in Jamaica and the Caribbean in CSEC Human and Social Biology. Another second-place finish nationally was in CAPE Chemistry (Unit 1).
She received a number of academic awards, including the Sister Maureen Clare Award for being the highest achiever in the 2015 CSEC examinations at Immaculate Conception High.
In relation to her accomplishments, she told The Beacon: “When I want to do something, I will move mountains to get it done.”
Her brilliance and tenacity also paid off after she commenced studies at UWI.
“The MBBS programme was difficult in terms of time management and the exams – and it was five years long,” she said, noting that the journey was not always smooth sailing.
Dr Palmer ended up feeling uncertain about school when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing a ban on face-to-face lessons.
“During that time, I was really considering if I wanted to continue the programme third to fourth year. But when online classes started [as a replacement of face-to-face classes], I stuck it out and did pretty well,” she said.
On reflection, she is grateful that she persisted and completed the programme, and copped a number of awards. They included the Dr John Hall Prize for the top five students with honours in the medicine and therapeutics exam.
Dr Palmer, who has been a medical intern since September 2022, is excited about pursuing a career in integrative medicine, focusing especially on the family.
She tutored with the UWI Surgical Society, and was a member of the JAMASA Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace.
A professional gig violinist, Dr Palmer performed with the UWI Classical and Jazz Ensemble as well as the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica. She, however, puts her musical talent on show mainly at weddings, funerals and award ceremonies. Earnings from those gigs helped her through medical school.
Reflecting on how she became a violinist, Dr Palmer said: “The summer before going to Immaculate, I was listening to some violin music and was really intrigued by how the music sounded and I thought I could play a stringed instrument. But I left it at that.”
An older cousin later encouraged her to join the Orchestra Band at Immaculate Conception High… and she did.
“It was very hard at first [playing the violin], but I found out that I like it and was learning it and so I stuck with it and continued to practice,” Dr Palmer added.
Asked how she would like to be remembered, she told The Beacon: “I would like to be remembered as someone who has a gentle healing energy. When people talk to me or interact with me, I’d want them to remember feeling better after the interaction.”
Dr Palmer also advises current students: “Always be persistent, decide on what you want beforehand, and have a goal.”
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