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New Year's Honour

This New Year's sole honours recipient in the Cayman Islands is Dr. Virginia Hobday, family physician and Medical Director of Cayman Hospice Care, who has been made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

When Dr. Virginia Hobday came to work in the Cayman Islands back in 1998 from her medical practice in Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK), little did she know of the lasting impact she would have in the care of terminally ill patients here.

It is for her tremendous contributions to hospice care that Dr. Hobday has now been made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). She is the only New Year's honour recipient from the Cayman Islands in 2015.

"It was entirely unexpected but I am truly humbled and honoured to receive it," she says. She adds that she has a great regard and respect for the awards, and that her father received an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his work as a vet in Africa.

After she took up a full-time physician's position with the local Public Health to work in the district clinics, she also became involved in voluntary work as the Honorary Medical Director of Cayman Hospice Care when Dr. Helen Hughes returned to England in 2001.

She had been interested in hospice care since qualifying in 1986 from St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, especially after her mother was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph glands.

Dr. Hobday had also always been a tremendous admirer of the work of Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern day hospice care movement, and was very pleased to meet Liz Walker, Dr. Saunders' goddaughter, who is a nurse and long-time resident of the Cayman Islands.

Today, as Hospice Care Medical Director, she works with the palliative care-giving team whose sole aim is to make the lives of end-stage patients as comfortable as possible, especially in their homes and with their families. To ensure she was best equipped for this task, she obtained certification in palliative care from the UK.

With her customary modesty and good nature, Dr. Hobday attributes the reach and impact of hospice care in the Cayman Islands to the whole team - from the nurses and carers, the fundraising and administrative staff to committed board members and of course the volunteers.

Only patients with life limiting illnesses are referred to the team either by private or public sector doctors, nurses or by word of mouth. The main goal is to make their lives as comfortable as possible, free of charge, using specialized medical and allied kinds of care including music, acupuncture, physio- and massage therapies. "We try to provide holistic care in ways that work with the interests and the likes of the patients," Dr. Hobday says.

At the same time, hospice personnel also prepare family members through education and counselling for the pain of seeing their loved ones deteriorate, and to accept the inevitable when it comes, she explains.

Her much loved younger brother's passing due to stomach cancer in October 2014 has given her further personal insight into what a hard road it is for all involved. "I truly know the pain of watching a loved one die and appreciate how important it is to be at home with family," she says.

Fully aware of the importance of professional education in this field of work, Dr. Hobday introduced to the Cayman Islands the Caribbean Palliative Care Conference, which provides continuing education to medical personnel, through eminent local and overseas speakers.

Additionally, the conference also gives an opportunity for family members, friends and the general public to learn more. She especially acknowledges the support of the local Health Services Authority (HSA), Baptist Hospital in Miami, and Johns Hopkins in Maryland in promoting the medical specialty locally. Furthermore, she thanks her colleagues in the Cayman Islands Medical and Dental Society, of which she is the new president, for supporting Hospice Care.

At any given time, the team works with 20-25 patients, including children and young persons, with life-threatening cancer or facing end-stage heart disease, renal failure, neurological conditions, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

While 95% of the patients are cared for in their homes, the team can also offer care for a few at their two-bedroom facility beside the Pines in George Town. Once a month, the patients meet for a lunch club outing at the Conch Shell House, which takes them out of their homes for a bit of food and fun.

She was very pleased when she could foster a programme in which students from the local medical college and overseas take part in the provision of care. "It is great that we can introduce young people to the challenges of palliative care early on in their training," she says.

She enjoys the close relationships she has with the nurses and the team as well as working with other medical colleagues to maximize the best care for the patient. "It is an honour to be accepted so readily and intimately into the homes of the families we work with. Despite the sadness we encounter, the work is very rewarding. We personally gain so much from it and learn from every situation as they are all different. " she comments.

Dr. Hobday is very thankful to work with the Cayman Hospice Care nurses headed by Felicia McLean and three other full time nurses and two carers Heather Huizinga and Gloria Reid who have been with Hospice for over 10 years. She acknowledges the help of her medical partner Dr. Denise Osterloh, and Ms Jennifer Grant-McCarthy, the fundraising manager.

She is in awe of Mr. Derek Haines' efforts through Rotary to raise a million dollars fora new facility for Cayman Hospice Care. "He has inspired the staff, board members and the entire community and his legacy will be felt for generations to come," she says.

She equally appreciates the dedication and contribution of time and talents of the board members, some since inception 14 years ago, which is vital to the proper governance of the charity. Board chairman Chris Duggan's father - and patron Jeanette's husband - Nick was a founding member and was cared for by hospice before his death, she notes.

What she is also truly thankful for is the complete support, love and understanding that she receives from husband Richard (who is the Mosquito and Research Control Unit pilot) and sons John-Ross (13) and Harrison (11), which enables her to work both demanding jobs at her private practice and at Hospice Care.

She further thanks her mother who lives in the Highlands of Scotland. She and her late father have been constant inspirations to Dr Hobday, her six brothers and one sister. She credits them with the emotional support and love needed for the work that she does.

She adds that her family's large menagerie -- all rescued animals including currently six dogs, one cat, five chickens, two rabbits, 12 budgerigars, one exotic parrot and a goat -- also brings balance to a busy life.

Clearly, Dr. Hobday has a lot of kindness to give and rejoices in giving her best to the Cayman Islands community.


For further information contact: Bina Mani