Jedidiah Williams (‘20), commonly known as Jed, is from Guyana which is located in South America. Williams a biology major and an international student. Anyone who knows Williams knows this: you’ll never be bored or short of conversation, and he’s always willing to help out.
He described his upbringing as being “indirectly parented.” His parents worked in the church— his father in different pastoral positions at their church, and his mother on the worship team and in the women/children’s ministry. They grounded him and his siblings in sound, doctrinal Christian beliefs. While they left room for their kids to ask questions about God, Williams had already come to believe at a young age that what his parents had taught him was what he truly believed. He had witnessed how God moved in the life of his family and discerned a lot through that. Williams never gave his parents cause for concern. He was well behaved and well-read for his age.
“I didn’t have storybooks; I had anatomy books. I had learned all the stages of gestation when I was like ten years old.” Williams had always been interested in the human body, since a relatively young age. When he was eight years old, he went to the hospital with his mother because his brother and baby cousin were sick.
“The hospital looked exactly like you’d picture a third world hospital to look. There was a little desk with registry books and a nurse sitting in the corner. It was poorly lit, there was chipped paint and a frustrated nurse.”
They entered the emergency room where there were two or three rows of benches of children and concerned mothers. Williams sat between his family and a man who had a giant blood-stained bandage on his head. There were sick people everywhere waiting for assistance. Some were sitting on benches, others were lying on beds.
“I remember my mom trying to get the attention of a nurse but being ignored. I just kept thinking that this wasn’t right. Like, I understand that these people need help, but especially children. How can you let a child sit here for hours and not receive treatment?”
So, he asked his mom what kind of doctor treated children, and when she told him that they are called pediatricians he said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
Period. No questions asked. He had his heart set on it since that day and is blessed to have the support of his family as well.
One thing that many international students at Covenant College understand is that their families expect them to go into a field that promises high-paying jobs, such as medicine or law, if given a chance to go to college, especially in America. They firmly believe that education, and especially higher education, is a privilege and should not be abused. You should focus on making the grade, that way you can make enough money so you can provide for your family and community back home.
“When I went to The Bishop’s High [the highest ranked school in Guyana] they focused heavily on character versus achievement. So, for me, I didn’t just want to be another doctor. I wanted to be a good doctor. I wanted to go to America to study because I knew that Guyana wasn’t producing highly ranked doctors, but doctors that could just do stuff. I wanted to go to America because I wanted to make a difference.”
For Williams, it was never about the money. While he does want to help children, he recognizes the broken system in Guyana and how bad the statistics are in the country.
Guyana is a third world country and according to World Bank and Eurostat, it has a population of about 777,859 (2017). Problems such as infants and mothers dying during labor are more common there than in America, where medical advances make this significantly less likely. Nation Master documented Guyana’s infant mortality rate at about 36.76 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011. In comparison, according to the CDC, America had an infant mortality rate in 2011 of about 6.07 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. These entries give the number of deaths of infants under one years old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year.
Williams's desire to pursue this profession is fueled by of the lack of resources, trained professionals, updated training for professionals, and people who care in Guyana.
“It has been something that I’ve wanted to do since I was young. But over time it’s just something that I feel God has been affirming me to do in bigger ways than I expected.”
He remains rooted in prayer and often asks that God reaffirm that this is what He wants him to do. He did not want this dream to become an idol, especially with others around him suggesting he consider other fields of study. Because Williams is such a people person and deeply invested in his spiritual walk, it is natural for people to suggest that he go into ministry. Williams, however, is genuinely fascinated by the medical field; therefore, he is following this call without much resistance. God provided the finances to allow him to attend school abroad which was an answer to prayer in a time when he was helping more at home after his parents split up.
For him, becoming a doctor is more than a passion. He knows God is pulling him into this because there are very few who have the same call as him in Guyana. He wants to learn all he can from other advanced systems to help mend a broken one.
Williams is uncertain on when God will call him back to practice in Guyana, but he explains there’s no rush because he doesn’t want to be another mediocre doctor trying to make a difference. He wants to be a neonatal specialist.
“Right now there’s exactly one neonatal specialist in the entire country,” Williams said.
While he could be successful and live a good life in America, he recognizes that he’s not needed here as much as he is back home. But unfortunately, as an international student, he feels that he is at a disadvantage and is uncertain about how to make things happen for himself.
“If I was in Guyana, I would have been ballin’. Internships? I could get that. I know how the system works over there. I went to a good school. I know people. I can get things done there. But here, I don’t know how to get an internship. If I get one, where am I staying? How will I get there? Many medical schools look at people in their state, then their region, then the country. After they’ve filled 40 of 50 positions, then they look at people from all around the world that have studied in America.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of international students equates to about 300 of 2,000. For Williams, it seems like the odds are stacked against him, especially because medical schools do not look at the back story.
But he rests assured that until God gives him a new assignment, he is to remain faithful and diligent in his present one, without complaining about it. He trusts that in the case of a new task, God will open those doors. But until then, he rests in the truth that God has already provided and that he is to remain faithful in the waiting.