Dr Haresh Gopwani is one of the top ear, nose and throat specialists in Barbados. He is deeply passionate about what he does and revealed that “even if I wasn’t being paid I would still practice medicine.”
He has a soothing aura of calm and an intelligent, inquisitive mind.
Dr Gopwani wanted to be a doctor from the age of 12. He has always had a curious mind and part of his inquisition was into how the body worked. He started reading and saw that we are not perfect and that things can go wrong. This led him to learn how one can fix the body; being a doctor was a natural progression from that.
Dr Gopwani is a hands-on person so he decided to go into surgical intervention, rather than a field where you have to give people pills to pop for the rest of their lives.
“Being a nose, ear and throat specialist is the best of both worlds – about 40% of patients require surgery and the rest do not.”
Dr Gopwani, like the majority of doctors in Barbados, studied abroad. He studied his primary medical degrees in Jamaica, and then went on to do his post graduate surgical degrees in Britain.
Jamaica was Dr Gopwani’s first prolonged stay outside Barbados. It was a huge eye opener for him as the demographics, politics and economics of Jamaica are totally different to Barbados.
“It was a rude awakening to what can go wrong in a society.”
The levels of poverty were far beyond what Dr Gopwani had seen before, yet the spectacular topography of the country was amazing. Dr Gopwani explained “it was a sort of a love / fear relationship.”
Dr Gopwani has been back at least half a dozen times – not into Kingston, but into the countryside.
Britain, however, was different. “Just as I can say lots of things didn’t work in Jamaica, a lot of things worked very well in Britain.
While in Britain, Dr Gopwani lived in Edinburgh and Hampshire and there was a spell of time when he thought he could live there forever. “I felt very comfortable, but despite this I always felt a pull back to my home – Barbados.”
So why did Dr Gopwani want to move back to Barbados? He explained that Barbados will always be his home.
“It’s my home, my birthplace, a place I feel is my own. I have been to six of the seven continents and have lived abroad, but I have never been free of this continuous pull back to Barbados”.
So what is the medical system like in Barbados? Well, Dr Gopwani explained that Barbados delivers a first world medical service. All Barbadians are entitled to free health care and almost all doctors on the island have been schooled abroad. However, Dr Gopwani reported that the system has been plagued with inefficiencies and deficiencies in material and personnel.
“Even though I have worked in the industry for over 30 years there is always an element of not doing it 100%.” We have abilities to do things, but are limited by a lack of equipment and overcrowding in the wards.
Dr Gopwani not only holds down his high flying career, but also has a beautiful family. He is married, has one daughter who is now a fully qualified surgeon and two sons. His youngest son is 25 and works as an acturial associate while his eldest son works in finance and banking.
When Dr Gopwani was a youth he spent most of his time in his head – reading books rather than exploring his physical capabilities. It was only after he started his degree that he discovered his physical side – climbing.
“I am not a sporty person. I shied away from sports classes at school. The first time I enjoyed physical activity was my first climb in Jamaica.”
Dr Gopwani knew he had a mind, but he wasn’t aware of his body. “Through climbing I discovered my body; I already knew my mind worked pretty well.”
Dr Gopwani’s love of climbing has similarities to medicine. It is a challenge, but once you get there you feel elated.
“The first time we went to the mountain peak I saw this blanket of cloud at my feet and it was absolutely breathtaking.”
Dr Gopwani has now climbed on most of the major peaks in the world. His favourite is Mount Everest where he climbed 20,000 feet.
Dr Gopwani likes to learn new things from the different societies he encounters. He found the people of Nepal to have a society completely different from all he has encountered – even his mother country – India. He said it was like stepping back into 16th century India before colonisation. Dr Gopwani was born into a Hindu family so this meant a lot to him.
Kilimanjaro was also a very rewarding climb because he managed to reach the top! The culture was again quite different.
When Dr Gopwani isn’t working on the island he works as a sports administrator for the Barbados swimming association and looks after the only Olympic sized swimming pool on the island.
“I like to swim a lot and part of my duties is to make sure the centre runs well.”
The Barbados Swimming Association pushes swimming in Barbados forward. It got its first Olympian swimmer in 1996 and since then it has continued to produce Olympic swimmers.
“Relaxation is not the right word, I guess it’s a change of focus, but it’s what I like to do.”
One of the highest points in Dr Gopwani’s career was attaining his fellowship degree in surgery. Dr Gopwani said that he doesn’t have a photographic memory and found his studies challenging; however, he would encourage fellow Barbadians to become doctors.
“It is very rewarding. You are not only able to live a nice lifestyle, but you also feel that you are doing something important that helps relieve pain.”
Dr Gopwani encouraged his daughter to follow in his footsteps because “it’s a wonderful profession that helps a lot of people.”
Dr Gopwani gave up his full time Senior Consultant post at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, but has all intentions of seeing patients in the public sector free of charge.
He has written to the Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) to spearhead an outreach service for Ear, Nose and Throat services at the polyclinics, sponsored by the ENT Department at the QEH.