A Day in the Life of a CE: Shirley Lo-A-Njoe

BY JAMIU BUSARI (@JOBUSAR)

Shirley Lo-A-Njoe
Pediatric cardiologist, pediatrician
Clinician Educator
Department of Pediatrics
Curaçao Medical Center
Curacao

What is your clinical background?

Shirley Lo-A-Njoe, MD, PhD (student), is a pediatric cardiologist and pediatrician born in Surinam, raised in the Netherlands, and currently practicing at the department of pediatrics, Curaçao Medical Center. After completing her medical training in 1987 at The University of Groningen in the Netherlands, she underwent her residency training in pediatrics at the Universities of Groningen and Amsterdam and completed her pediatric cardiology fellowship from 2003 to 2006 at the Center of Congenital Heart Disease (CAHAL) in the university clinics of Leiden and two centers in Amsterdam.

An impressive past – and future!

Dr. Lo-A-Njoe began her work as a pediatric cardiologist in Curaçao in 2006 and is involved in the education of local trainee nurses, medical students undergoing clinical clerkships in Curaçao as well as residents from universities in the Netherlands and Belgium. Additionally, she acts as visiting consultant in pediatric cardiology to 6 (Dutch) Caribbean islands and Suriname and is a clinician educator at the university of Groningen.

In addition to working as pediatrician and in the youth health care sector of Curaçao, St. Maarten and Saba for almost a decade, Shirley has also been a PALS instructor with the American Heart Association for the professionals of all the islands for around 20 years. She is also an advocate for Family Centered Care with the RMHC Curaçao and RMHC Global. Her other educational activities include collaborating with professionals from Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean to organize regular regional conferences on congenital heart disease.

Even with these many roles in place, Shirley is currently pursuing a PhD in Unraveling the Genetic Cause of Congenital Heart Defects in the Caribbean at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

No such thing as a typical day

When describing how she splits her time across her clinical and non-clinical responsibilities, Shirley estimates she spends 70 per cent of her time on clinical activities, which includes includes non-invasive imaging, treatment and guidance of patients and parents who go abroad for additional treatment. She divides the remaining 30 percent of her time across education, research and administrative tasks. “But,” she adds, “that’s on paper – because I am lacking hours every single day!” She describes each day as a “different day”, regularly involving flying out to work with gynecologists and/or pediatricians on other islands such as Aruba.

Leading by example

Dr. Lo-A-Njoe refers to her diverse career as having “the best of two worlds”. In addition to her clinical work, she enjoys combining teaching with research, developing medical protocols tailored to specific local health care needs and expanding the development of clinical and research activities. While she admits it can indeed be challenging, she would not want it any other way, saying her career brings her so much joy and inspiration.

As a person who continuously strives to give 100 per cent attention to the different aspects of her work, Shirley’s biggest challenge is “trying to safeguard my boundaries […] in the process of trying to reach my maximum goals.” And what is her ultimate goal? “To make a difference by leading by example as a person, clinician, medical educator and researcher.”

Three tips for junior CEs: Find a mentor, follow your passion and build networks

  1. Look for a mentor, it is so much fun to have one and they have your best interests in mind.  Some of my mentees for example are successful professionals in their respective fields. After more than 10 years of being their (overseas) mentor, some of them have graduated to become subspecialists with PhDs, but still reach out to me for advice when they are at crucial cross-roads in their career.
  2. Follow your passion: don’t follow the path others have made for you, if necessary, go alone, think, and work outside the box.
  3. Build networks and seek collaborators. From my experience, collaboration with others is a major key to success and fun.

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