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  • Writer's pictureElaine Thompson

27 Applications, 25 Interviews: Harvard Matched

“Daddy, I want to become a doctor, one day.”

Every once in awhile an aspiration changes the trajectory of one’s life. A purpose that traps your heart, forcing you to fall in love with each thread that weaves that story together. One such story is that of Dr. Cyrilee M. Thompson who once said at the age of four, “Daddy, I want to become a doctor, one day.”

“I have always admired and respected physicians who saved lives smartly dressed in their white coats,” she shared.

Although Thompson had an excellent innate compass for an exceptional destiny, she was too young at the time to understand all of the facets tied to her venture.

“I did not realize at that time, the other important aspects of being a physician: being passionate about one’s field, placing patients at the center of care, and giving back to one’s community. While the thought of saving lives dressed in a white coat sparked my interest in medicine, my passion and countless opportunities to contribute to Nephrology solidified my decision to pursue a career in this field.”

Dr. Paul Roberts and Dr. Cyrilee Thompson at The University of the West Indies, School for Clinical Medicine & Research Class of 2016 graduation.

An older Thompson is now able to share more of her vision for a healthier Bahamas, more specifically in the realm of Nephrology. She shared that Nephrology is the study of kidney disease.

“There is a large burden of kidney disease in the Bahamas. In the Bahamas, kidney disease is tied to the high prevalence of chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, but other conditions like lupus, HIV, sickle cell, and polycystic kidney disease also contribute. I understand the demand for trained professionals in the field as well as limited access to alternative dialysis modalities. Almost everyone does hemodialysis but there are now other options too. Kidney biopsies can help in identifying reversible causes of kidney disease. Kidney transplants offer a solution for individuals undergoing dialysis enabling them to eventually discontinue dialysis and

Interventional nephrology improves the care received by dialysis patients. Access to care and services for all Bahamians is another element that is of great concern to me. It was these gaps that motivated me to pursue training in a first world setting with plans to ultimately return home and help to bridge some of these gaps.”

Thompson is continuously inspired to equip herself accordingly in order to bring effective expansion to her field in the Bahamas.

“I also have a background in Physiology, and Physiology is the foundation of Nephrology. It was a good fit for my academic background as well as a chance to give back. There is limited ongoing research in kidney disease in the Bahamas and I hope to be able to contribute significantly to this.”

Thompson’s medical training and academic background extends to a number of schools, including McGill University (Montreal), University of the West Indies (Trinidad & Tobago), and Downstate Health Sciences University (New York).

Dr. Cyrilee Thompson presenting at the National Kidney Foundation Spring Clinical Meeting 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts

“I would like to thank God because without him none of this would be possible. My father and the Bahamian people have also made a tremendous contribution to making my journey possible. My father always emphasized academics and provided financial support. Additionally, I was privileged to receive many scholarships from various organizations, including the Bahamian government. This assistance alleviated a significant portion of the expenses incurred. It is another compelling reason why I must return to the Bahamas to give back.”

The choice to pursue her fellowship was a decision that turned out to be a journey of excellence when she landed twenty-five interviews of the twenty-seven schools she applied, five of which were Ivy-League. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, and University of Pennsylvania were among them. Her final match for her Nephrology fellowship, Harvard.

“Nephrology fellowship has been the hardest part. It is a high volume specialty, and so the schedule can be rigorous, but ultimately I do believe that I will be more than capable of practicing in almost any setting after completing the training.”

Thompson gives excellent advice for those wanting to pursue a similar path.

“First and foremost, believe in yourself. On any journey, you might encounter discouragement in the form of people or situations. Stay confident and strive towards your dreams. It is more possible than you think,” she shared.

Thompson also shared that her favorite verses are Philippians 2:3, 4, Proverbs 3:5 and 6 — principles she lives by. She expresses great hope for a bright future in her field and seeks to bring the necessary steps to create growth as well as new developments, especially in the Bahamas.

“I also would like to expand the field by seeking to better understand genetic variants that affect the pattern of kidney disease in people of West African descent. The field is expanding and these variants are now therapeutic targets with the possibility of treatment options in the near future. This would be monumental in the Bahamas where the majority of our patients are black and are very likely to possess these variants.”

With a passion for helping others, Dr. Thompson is determined to bring expansion to the area of kidney disease. She has proven that determination holds the key to excellent results. It is the heartbeat of success. She is proof that one day failure will fall, outnumbered and outmaneuvered, and success will be there to take its place. The phrase one day weaves a tapestry of promise. After years of hard work in one day, we can begin to live out an adventurous childhood dream. After countless hours of dedication, in one day we can begin to experience the aspirations we had hoped for even beyond our wildest imagination. After consistent and steadfast determination, in one day we can be Harvard bound. In one day, our lives can change, exceeding all expectations. It is when hard work and determination surpasses all desire to succeed we will know the power behind the phrase “one day” because one day a dream will indeed become reality.


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