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Dr AC Cyrus: A living legend

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On July 6, 2017, Dr AC Cyrus launched his latest publication entitled, “A Harvest Richer than Gold: Odyssey of A Caribbean Surgeon.”

In a profession where the precision of the surgeon’s scapel may be the difference between whether a patient lives or dies, Dr Cyrus’ description of his career as an odyssey is particularly apt. For quite simply, Dr Cyrus’ career is a chronicle of more than 40 years of his exceptional service in the field of Caribbean and Vincentian medicine, a field defined in its earliest years by a deficit of empathy, expertise, and elemental resources needed to bring therapeutic relief to the sick, the injured, and the dying in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

By the time Dr Cyrus began his service in what he often refers to as the Colonial Hospital (now the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital) he correctly intuited that the colonial order had constructed and maintained a medical system reflective of colonial priorities and deeply resonant of the racial sensibilities of our slave based history. The denial of Black humanity and the lack of compassion that characterized the medical regime of Vincentian slave society were equally visible in the post slavery medical universe that Dr Cyrus would confront. Mortality and morbidity rates, deaths in childbirth, longevity rates, these crucial indices of the health of our society remained abysmal when compared against comparable outcomes in Europe and North America.  

Dr Cyrus’ career has therefore been at the very epicentre of a medical revolution that would transform these vital statistics between 1964 and 2017. Case in point: in 1964 when Dr Cyrus entered the Colonial Hospital as a surgeon, Vincentian life expectancy rate stood at 62 years. Today in 2017, Vincentians can expect to live 75 years. This extraordinary increase in Vincentian life expectancy is a consequence of many factors.  One of them is certainly the improved medical treatment Vincentians would achieve within this time, of which Dr Cyrus became its most prominent name.

Dr Cyrus approached his practice as mission, first, of course, to the patient who came under his care. But equally important was his commitment to constructing a set of medical protocols that sought to standardize the delivery of medical care in SVG that would ripple across the entire medical universe.

Vincentians would quickly become aware that we had a medical giant in our midst. Patients from every walk of society would seek out his expertise, as he gave substance to his guiding principle of respect to each patient who he declared allowed him access to the privacy of their bodies and the sacredness of their lives. The dignity that Dr Cyrus would bestow on his patients would be a far cry from a colonial era that denied them such respect. 

We now live in an era of multiple medical specialities, quite unlike Dr Cyrus’ early years. No doctor today may have the opportunity to replicate his evolution into a doctor of many specialities. But they do have the opportunity to serve selflessly, to treat their patients with respect, and to save lives.  And if they do so, they would be honouring the legacy of Dr AC Cyrus, a bona fide living legend of St Vincent and the Grenadines. 

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