Paediatric Pioneer: Dr Shirley Cridland

A founding member of the local medical community, Dr. Shirley Cridland continues to lead the way in paediatric medicine in the Cayman Islands.

Dr. Shirley Cridland is a well-known and highly regarded name in the Cayman Islands. Born and raised in Jamaica, she moved to Grand Cayman with her family in the mid-1970s and opened the island’s first private paediatric practice.To many medical practitioners and parents alike, Dr. Cridland is a pioneer who has been a leader in the paediatric field for more than 37 years.

Cridland
When did you first realise you wanted to become a doctor and what made you decide to specialise in paediatrics?

Growing up I had met many people in the medical profession and held them all in high esteem. At [age] 15, I volunteered in an emergency clinic set up after a hurricane in Jamaica. It was a wonderful experience, and it was then that I began to think of a career in medicine.

While in medical school I enjoyed my paediatric rotation.I worked in paediatrics during my internship, did postgraduate studies and worked in hospital paediatric units in Jamaica and the United Kingdom before joining a paediatric practice in Jamaica.

Both your studies and early work experience were based in Jamaica and the United Kingdom; why did you decide to move to the Cayman Islands and open a practice here?

Due to circumstances in Jamaica in 1976, I felt it was necessary for me to relocate my family. My husband knew many Caymanians who had been living in Jamaica and had recently returned home, so it seemed Cayman was the best choice.

When I arrived that same year there was no post for a paediatrician within the government medical services.Having years of experience in paediatrics, I felt I would best serve the Cayman community in this field. Dr. Edlin Merren offered to rent to me space within his building, and it was there that I began my practice here in Cayman.

How do you feel about the growth of paediatric medicine in the Cayman Islands since then?

I am impressed with the growth and the scope of paediatric medicine being offered today. There are now three full-time paediatricians employed with the government and a number of privately run paediatric offices. I am particularly impressed with the knowledge and experience newer paediatricians have brought to the island, especially in the field of neonatology.

How do you envision the continued development of paediatrics in the Cayman Islands?

I would like to see paediatricians in the public and private sectors working together, along with all of the services that deal with children, so there can be improvement in the coordinated care of children in Cayman.

Parents need to be aware of the importance of regularly scheduled routine medical exams in order to assess growth and development and to detect any abnormalities early. At routine exams parents are able to express any concerns regarding their child.

You were one of the founding members of the Cayman Islands Medical & Dental Society. What led you to realise the Cayman Islands was in need of such a society?

Back in the 1980s there were very few doctors on the island, and each had some area of expertise. Then-Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Williams suggested we form a society so we could get to know one another, discuss interesting cases and assist each other when necessary.

You were also a founding member of the Cayman Heart Fund. What is the purpose of that foundation?

The aim of the Cayman Heart Fund is to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of heart disease through education, training and providing medical services. Through the annual Heart Fund Fair and free screenings in each district we are able to identify and counsel persons at risk.

I strongly believe that raising awareness about heart disease is important as, in most cases, it is a preventable disease. Education about a healthy lifestyle needs to begin in early childhood, stressing the importance of exercise and a balanced diet.

Cayman-Heart-Fund-Chair-Emeritus-Suzy-Soto-Bapist-Health-Internationals-Ana-R.-Bassil-Dr.-Yvonne-T.-Johnson-Karie-Bergstrom-and-WEB- Compass
Dr. Cridland (far right) and members of the Cayman Heart Fund [credit: Cayman Compass]
Children are less active in recent years and child obesity seems to be of particular concern in the Cayman Islands. How are you involved in dealing with this issue?

I have been a member of the Children’s Health Task Force, which was formed after screenings showed a rise in obesity. We have learned that education for a healthy lifestyle needs to begin at birth. Our focus is therefore on counselling parents and caregivers of infants and young children.Brochures with sample menus are available to all who care for children.

What inspires you personally and professionally to give so much of yourself to the community?

Working in paediatrics is an important part of my life.I enjoy interacting with children and counselling them on issues like the risk of unhealthy habits while encouraging them to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

You have received great recognition for your contributions to the local community — how does that make you feel?

Recognition makes me feel appreciated and valued. I was particularly touched to receive the first Cayman Islands Medical & Dental Award. It is very special to be recognised and honoured by your peers.

. . .

Published: Skies Magazine, November 2013

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