By Sueann Wickham
In the realm of medicine, miracles are often attributed to the dedicated hands of doctors who possess not only exceptional skills but also an unwavering commitment to their patients. Dr. Ronette Goodluck Tyndall, a neurosurgeon born in Guyana, epitomizes this combination of expertise and compassion. Recently, she performed a life-saving surgery that has been hailed as nothing short of divine luck.
The extraordinary procedure involved a Jamaican young man, Lamar Nephew, who fell victim to a tragic assault weeks ago, where a five-foot spear from a fishing gun pierced his face. Dr. Goodluck Tyndall, alongside a multidisciplinary team in Jamaica laboured tirelessly to remove the spear and save the patient’s life.
Reflecting on the success of this endeavour during her interview with the Guyana Standard, she emphasized the crucial role of a well-prepared and swift-acting team. “This success story involved a fast-acting and well-prepared team that was getting all the necessary things for prompt and safe removal,” she recalled.
Mental and emotional preparation for such a critical surgery pushed Dr. Goodluck Tyndall to rely on her extensive training and experience.
Such greatness on her part could be could be traced back to her younger days. Even then, she knew that she was destined to become a neurosurgeon. “I knew since high school that I was going to be a neurosurgeon or a teacher,” she reflected.
Dr. Goodluck Tyndall’s journey to becoming a remarkable doctor started in Charlestown, Guyana, where she grew up. From an early age, her passion for learning and excelling in academics was evident. She attended St. Joseph High School, where she distinguished herself as the best-graduating student. This drive for excellence continued as she pursued her undergraduate studies in medicine at the University of Guyana, where she once again claimed the honour of being the best-graduating student for the academic year 2009/2010. In recognition of her exceptional achievements, she was awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award.
Following her undergraduate studies, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall embarked on her postgraduate journey in neurosurgery at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, in Kingston, Jamaica. Her insatiable thirst for knowledge led her to further expanding her skills through specialized fellowships. In 2017, she completed a Pediatric Neurosurgery Fellowship at British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, followed by an Open and Endovascular Neurosurgery Fellowship at Vancouver General Hospital in 2021.
The recent life-saving surgery, which garnered widespread recognition and the label of “divine luck,” epitomizes the culmination of Dr. Goodluck Tyndall’s extensive training and unwavering dedication.
The success of this surgery was not a mere stroke of chance but the result of years of education, hands-on experience, and an unwavering pursuit of excellence.
While her journey has been marked by numerous milestones, she remains humble, grounded, and committed to her patients.
The neurosurgeon testified that throughout her career, she has encountered countless cases that have shaped her approach to medicine and patient care. She said the trust that families place in medical professionals to restore their loved ones’ health is not to be taken for granted.
“I always remember that the family of every patient has put their trust in us to get them back home in the best state of health,” she emphasized.
When asked to pinpoint the memorable moments or experiences that have shaped her approach to medicine and patient care, she was keen to note that it would be impossible, as every unique case has contributed to her outlook on providing the best possible care to her patients.
Being a woman in a male-dominated field has also presented its own set of challenges for Dr. Goodluck Tyndall. But none was ever capable of defeating her.
In fact, she overcame every obstacle by setting her own high standards, working with integrity, and proving her worth through exceptional skills and dedication. “As a woman in a male-dominated specialty, it meant sometimes you had to work twice as hard for the same recognition,” she explained, adding, “I have found that setting your own standards, keeping them, and working with integrity would always get me over those humps.”
Speaking of her recent life-saving procedure, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall acknowledged the significance of medical advancements and innovative techniques in its success. “For this case, being able to perform a digital subtraction angiogram was most useful in the pre-operative planning,” Dr. Goodluck Tyndall explained. She further highlighted the importance of teamwork, emphasizing effective communication and collaboration among the medical team.
“Teamwork was indeed the dream work,” she affirmed. “Our team was communicating from the patient transfer call. Teams involved were accident and emergency, anesthesia and intensive care, fac-io-maxillary, ophthalmology, maintenance team, and neurosurgery. This was all led by our senior medical officer and neurosurgeon, Dr. Carl Bruce.”
Currently, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall practices at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica, where her exceptional surgical skills and compassionate approach to patient care have earned her a stellar reputation. She also gracefully navigates the intricacies of her profession while embracing the joys of motherhood. As a devoted mother, she cherishes her role in raising her three-year-old son, harmonizing the demands of her career with the blessings of family life.
According to the neurosurgeon, maintaining a work-life balance is vital in the demanding field of medicine, and she finds solace in spending quality time with her family. “I spend most of my time with my family when I’m off from work to keep the balance,” she shared. “Whether it’s going to the beach or trying a different restaurant, my family and my very patient husband have been my 24/7 and 365 days support, and I am extremely grateful for that.”
As an accomplished and respected doctor, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall offered valuable advice to aspiring doctors, particularly those from underrepresented communities, who are determined to make a significant impact in the medical field. “My advice to aspiring doctors would be to be persistent, work hard, choose your path, and try your best to stay on it,” she stressed.
“Always be compassionate and don’t lose that human connection with each patient you meet on your journey. Most importantly, believe in yourself and do not give up! These are the things that will help you to get there, stay there, and excel.”
In addition to her surgical prowess, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall is actively involved in ongoing research and initiatives aimed at improving medical practices and patient outcomes. Currently, at the University Hospital of the West Indies, she and her colleagues are focused on offering endovascular treatment for craniospinal vascular abnormalities such as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations. They are also initiating a stroke programme aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality caused by major vessel occlusion through mechanical thrombectomies.
Despite the challenges and demanding nature of her profession, Dr. Goodluck Tyndall remains motivated and passionate about medicine. She draws inspiration from her patients and their outcomes. “We are excited about the good outcomes, but the not-so-good ones also motivate us to go back to the drawing board and improve,” she stated. This constant drive for improvement fuels her passion for the medical field.
Looking ahead, Dr. Ronette Goodluck Tyndall envisions a future where she continues to enhance and deliver first-class neurosurgical care on a regional scale. She aspires to be better than she was yesterday, constantly pushing the boundaries of her capabilities and making a lasting impact on the lives of her patients.