Dr. Latoya Shonell Gooding is a beacon of hope to many cancer-stricken patients in Guyana. She goes above and beyond to ensure they receive the best care as they battle this deadly disease. Her kindness has touched many families and helped most of her patients through those dark days. She was compelled into the field of medicine, specifically Oncology, following the death of her grandfather to prostate cancer. According to Dr. Gooding, he was given no form of treatment for the disease during his attendance at the clinic for two years. A woman of few words, Dr. Gooding is very passionate about her patients and families, making sure that they are not faced with the same fate as her late grandfather. A proud resident of Bartica Region 7, she is the fourth of seven siblings and credits her large family for her success.
During her early years, Dr. Gooding attended St. John the Baptist Primary School in Bartica but left her hometown and her family to attend high school in the city. As a student of Central High School, she was unsure of her place in the world but had a fair idea of what she wanted to do in life. At age 17, she started working at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation but resigned after obtaining a scholarship to study Medicine in Cuba. Upon her return, Dr. Gooding continued working under the healthcare system but this time as a medical practitioner. This wife and mother is currently pursuing her masters in Oncology in Brazil and is working assiduously with the Giving Hope Foundation, an organization she founded, to help raise awareness and funds for treatment for persons living with cancer.
Dr. Gooding is the perfect example of the quote, “be the change you want to see in the world.” Through her foundation, she has helped many families including children who lost their parents to cancer to cope and adjust. She even formed support groups for cancer patients and survivors to motivate and encourage each other throughout their struggle. Earlier this month her foundation wrapped up a five days Bereavement Camp at Madewini for children who lost their loved ones to both cancer and suicide.
GGR caught up with this dedicated humanitarian to chat about her personal journey as an oncologist.
Through your work you wear several hats. What are some of the roles you play in your community and beyond.
I am a Medical Practitioner in the field of Oncology, President and Founder of Giving Hope Foundation, Medical Director of Beacon Foundation, and Pageantry as the Assistant Franchise Director of Miss Earth Guyana Pageant.
What motivated you to pursue a career in Medicine?
I’ve always had a passion for helping others, however due to the death of my grandfather, the late Mr. James Gooding to prostate cancer, I was compelled to pursue a career in medicine, specializing in Oncology.
We all know that the cost of medical care can be quite expensive, preventing many from seeking medical care. What inspired you offer free screenings to the community?
The fact that my grandfather received no form of treatment for prostate cancer during the 2 years he was attending clinic, also seeing too many young women being diagnosed with late stages of cancer and dying (especially breast and cervical cancer), I started conducting free monthly cancer screening across Guyana.
What would you say is your proudest accomplishments to date?
I’m proud of a few accomplishments. First, my son, Master Tyron Stephens. Next, achieving my degree in Human Medicine at age 24, being the Founder and President of a non-profit organisation at age 27 and now pursuing my masters at age 29. I was also awarded by Ministry of Public Health for my outstanding performance in the visual inspection with acetic acid (via) in 2017.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?
To be the change I want to see. Don’t wait on anyone to create that change because I may wait for eternity.
Who are mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are?
My father, Mr. Franklyn Gooding. He was always there to support me. I can recall many nights when I am up very late studying for CXC exams, he was up just sitting there or sleeping in the chair as my company.
What challenges, If any, have you encountered during your journey to becoming an oncologist?
The challenge of being bullied into the business stream, but I pushed back and was accepted into the science stream. I was told there is no oncology department at the hospital and that I was going to waste my time and potential, that I will only be seeing five (5) to (6) patients per day since they are no patients. I stood firm and said that I am not going into another specialty. Today we have a very active oncology department where we (the doctors) attend to over fifty (50) patients per day.
I was also told by a supervisor “you are just a GMO (government medical officer), so you cannot make certain decisions, nor rally for improvement of patient care and better work environment. Due to my advocacy we now have a very functional department, patients have better patient care, receive their treatment in comfort and privacy instead of previous inadequate examining rooms and work space.
What advice would you give a young girl/woman who wants to pursue a similar career?
If the dream is big, the details don’t matter. It really doesn’t matter where you come from, with hard work and determination you can achieve your dream.
What would you say is the essence of a woman who rocks?
The essence of being a woman who rocks lies in her ability to motivate others and to inspire people positively. A woman who rock is also a person who has achieved beyond her circumstances and the expectations set by society.
What’s next for you or what are you most looking forward to?
I look forward to completing my Masters in Oncology degree, followed by a Ph.D in Oncology and increasing the size of my family.
When asked what one word describes her, Dr. Gooding proudly said “Phenomenal” and we concur. This phenomenal woman has found her true calling in her commitment to helping others regardless of their circumstance. She definitely rocks!