By Jairo Rodrigues
Coming from an existence of working in the Georgetown Public Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and doubling as the hospital’s gender-based violence point person, Dr Vivienne Mitchell-Amata was far more accustomed to scrubs, hospital gowns, healing, practising emergency medicine and listening. Yet today, she wears, with pride, not just her stethoscope, but the Ms Guyana Renaissance 2012 Crown.
According to the doctor, her interest in the Ms Guyana Renaissance Pageant began three years ago when she was invited by her former classmate to join the audience. Little did she know then that three years later she would be not just on stage as part of the pageant but winning the title.
In an interview with The Scene, she commented what it means and how she plans to use it. “This crown is an opportunity for me to be an advocate for the youths,” she said. “I am very passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of the Guyanese populace. I would like to educate people on their health, having a solid education protects you from a lot of diseases,” she said.
The new queen also expressed her desire to make the United Nations Rights of the Child more public to the nation. “Guyana has signed the agreement which means it is incorporated into our Constitution. It should be advertised more,” she said. She described society as heartbreaking and depressing given the high numbers of rapes, domestic violence, health fatalities and other devastating factors.
It is her lifelong passion to improve Guyana’s healthcare sector: to have better quality healthcare, more specialists, better resources and systems nationwide. As a doctor, she said, she tackles challenges head on and it is her personal motive to inform patients, families and the general public of their rights regarding healthcare.
Vivienne is the Chairperson of the hospital’s Quality Improvement Committee, which looks at how to better staff mannerisms, patient care and comfort and general hospital professionalism. She said, “My immediate desire is for the hospital to have workshops on quality improvement lessons to all staff. This would be beneficial not only to staff, but all patients. I am trying to get financing for in-service training and pre-service training which I hope to get imbedded in the curriculum, being kind and compassionate to patients is a general must.”
And just hours after the interview with The Scene, Dr Vivienne Mitchell-Amata – Ms Guyana Renaissance 2012 was re-elected to the Medical Council of Guyana to serve another two-year term.
For 16-plus years, the queen has been struggling to lose weight. She tries to keep fit since she hails from a family with a history of hypertension and diabetes. To her the pageant was the perfect window of opportunity for a whole new lifestyle. “My battle was to get into shape for years, I just needed to get in the rhythm of a new lifestyle, regain my competence and renew my faith in God. I have achieved that and I am on the road to a more fulfilling life.”
She mentioned that she has a personal trainer who always kept her motivated while she received a lot of encouragement from her family and the staff at her workplace.
She described the entire pageant experience as memorable and the perfect start for change. “My whole life routine before the pageant was: work, work, work, school, work, home, supermarket – I had no life outside of that. The pageant was something to look forward to; it was an eye opener and a whole new world.”
She said self-motivation came to the fore and her strength surfaced. The pageant then became her new incentive to finally get serious about her goals. Her mind was always set for the opportunity to expose her concerns and speak about them. Now that she is Queen she has the platform to start the wheels in motion.
The pageant also saw her getting back on the piano after 20 years and swimming which she has recently started doing again. “I achieved personal dreams. The crown is a photo shoot to show my grandchildren – I can accomplish my goals at any time.”
Vivienne made it her personal goal to play the piano as her talent/cultural piece in the pageant, not having struck a key in 20 years. “I was nervous, very nervous because I hadn’t played this thing in years and it was the most emotive part of the evening. But after I was finished I breathed a sigh of relief and it was smooth sailing from there.”
A successful doctor and advocate of the healthcare system for over a decade, Dr Vivienne Mitchell-Amata was born in 1965 and spent most of her childhood jumping from Matthew’s Ridge, Berbice, Georgetown, Barbados, Jamaica and Connecticut.
From scores of childhood memories, her fondest and most vivid was spending time in Matthew’s Ridge in the North West District. She recollects living on top of a mountain looking down on the green carpet of forest surrounding her, she remembers travelling in a school bus and passing a huge snake and going by speedboat to Port Kaituma.
The eldest of three children, she grew up in a happy, religious, wholesome family. She saw herself as the role model for her younger siblings, and recalled that her parents were never strict, but were good examples to their children and she always modelled herself after them.
Her father is a doctor and while the children were growing up, he was a postgraduate student of medicine which is the sole reason for her many travels as a child. She said he was the first local doctor to be posted to the North-West District. Her mother was an administrative representative at the University of Guyana. She describes her sister as her twin since they can finish each other’s sentences and share thoughts; her brother was more of the baby.
Out of all her experiences and travelling, the worst was when she was spending time in Connecticut, all because she was ‘different’. This is the reason she never wanted to raise her children in the United States because of the negative pressure she bore as a child.
Her mother came from a large family; she has lots of aunts and uncles and around 20 cousins whom she loved playing with as a child.
She has always taken her education seriously which proved successful as she matured. While attending St Gabriel’s Primary School she was among the top pupils at the then Common Entrance. She was the final winner of the Gobin’s Interschool Quiz competition before it concluded in 1976. She attended the Bishop’s High School, earning three CXC Subjects, six GCE ‘O’ Levels and four ‘A’ Levels – her subjects ranged from the basic math and English to foreign languages, Music, Additional Maths and Applied Science. She then attended the University of the West Indies where she was accredited a Bachelor of Medicine, a Bachelor of Science, a Diploma in Anaesthesia and a Doctorate in Medicine in Anaesthesia. She moved on to the University of London where she graduated with a MSc in Public Health.
Vivienne said that her main influence and driving force in life is the late Wangari Maathai – the first Kenyan and African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Beautiful, strong, remarkable woman she was. Her life story was about empowering women in a society where women were always struggling against odds. She herself set up a programme which empowered other women while at the same time preserving the environment.
As a woman in Kenya she was looked down at because of her gender – she did the impossible: got a university education, ran for presidency, fought for equality and planted trees after seeing years of vegetation destruction and deforestation in a land she once saw as green and mighty,” Vivienne said of Maathai.