Rhonda McIntyre

Family is the cornerstone of life for our associate dean of Medical Sciences, a humble mentor who rises to the challenge with anything deemed impossible to crush preconceived notions. “They told me it was impossible to get a residency in Canada as a foreign medical graduate,” laughed Rhonda McIntyre, MBBS, FAAP, FRCP(C), recalling her desire to pursue a North American residency. “I don’t take no very easily. If you tell me no, then you’re challenging me.”

Rhonda didn’t stop at just applying through the usual route to Canadian residency programs. As an international medical graduate, she knew it would be more difficult and could lead to rejection but she was armed with a competitive edge and years on the job as a pediatric medical officer. So, she went around the system and directly to the source — calling the program director. “I took it one step further. He said, ‘we’d love to interview you.’ I had worked in pediatrics for five years in an international setting and had well-rounded experiences.” Just as she learned growing up and what she’s instilled in her own children — “It is important to be prepared and stay determined to succeed. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Finding Her Caribbean Soul Mate

Born and raised on the island of Dominica, the middle of seven children attended a Catholic, all-girls high school, which transitioned to a sixth form college and became coed. That’s when she fell in love with her now husband. Sharing 35 years of marriage and three children, Rhonda speaks fondly of her high-school sweetheart. “He wooed me over and showed me he was a strong character with sound ethical values and principles.”

When she turned 18 years old, Rhonda began her medical studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and completed clinical rotations in Barbados before finishing an internship in Port of Spain General, Trinidad. “The hospital there provided quite a robust experience. It was the busiest hospital I had ever worked at with an extremely busy emergency room.” A few years later, Rhonda and her husband headed back to Dominica and welcomed two children before they moved to Canada so she could start a residency in pediatrics. In her second year, the couple added to the family, and when the youngest turned three years old, they moved back to Dominica.

Initially considering obstetrics and gynecology as a specialty, Rhonda changed to pediatrics to avoid a hectic schedule while raising a family. “It didn’t quite work out as expected as the on-call was even more hectic working in the NICU.” She remained passionate about pediatrics, thriving on emergency-type work and but also enjoying her role as an advocate, advisor and counselor for her patients.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Throughout the years, Rhonda has exceled in every aspect of the medical world — from delivering care to patients to engaging with medical students. She said many roles have fulfilled her purpose including mentoring young physicians as a department leader as well as developing academic programs and leading global health programs as an educator. “There’s something special in watching future physicians and young clinicians learn and grow and being part of their development. It has been truly a privilege to contribute to and shape education for future physicians and to ensure they benefit from the early integration of the foundational sciences and appreciate the clinical perspective.”

As a mentor, Rhonda offers a positive approach and encourages students to overcome barriers. “I say, ‘let’s see how we can work around this problem.’ I look beyond problems and always seek solutions to work through difficult situations. If one door appears closed, I discuss options in finding alternatives.”

Rhonda has long proposed similar strategies with her own children, now in their 20s and early 30s. “I wanted to raise perfect kids. I was driven to give them the best of everything and equip them with the tools to ensure a well-balanced life — making sure they had a lot love, passing on what I had in my own life. I wanted them to achieve their full potential as they made their choices in life. And I wanted to see them flourish by teaching, sharing, modeling and exposing them to everything that would enrich their lives. As a family, we enjoyed the outdoors and nature and there was no shortage of fun activities. There was also a strong focus on education.”

Highly Driven, Successful Children

Though she’s humble about her children’s success, Rhonda definitely has bragging rights. Her eldest son studied at Harvard and Stanford and now works as a product manager at Facebook. Her daughter finished undergraduate studies in comparative literature at Harvard, taught in Abu Dhabi, finished Yale Law and is now a climate change lawyer at the Sabin Centre, Columbia University. Her youngest son earned a double major in psychology from the University of Toronto and is pursuing clinical psychology. Proud of her children, Rhonda said, “my family is my oxygen and gives me purpose every day.”  

That family also includes her siblings, who pursued careers in medicine, veterinary medicine, politics, agriculture, information technology, banking and finance. Rhonda recalls having a happy childhood with parents who raised their children to respect others and value education. Weekends were full of quality family time and fun outside, with Sundays at the beach. There were also chores, including care for their respective pets. Rhonda oversaw the rabbits and helped her father manage paperwork for his poultry business. “My sisters and brothers would tease me and call me the secretary because I would take care of the books and keep track of the business — it was all good training I value today. Our home was one balanced by adventure and exploration and grounded in responsibility and commonsense.”

Great Role Models

Her parent’s generosity was well known throughout the community, and Rhonda and her siblings witnessed an outpouring of graciousness — helping neighbors as well as feeding and caring for children in need. “They were warm and embracing. They appreciated other human beings, treating everyone with a deserving level of respect and dignity no matter who they were. Employees were valued as part of the family.”

Rhonda credits her parents for instilling her with a strong sense of self and ability, which led her to the field of medicine. “Being raised in a home known for its generosity and kindness to others and the nurturing to succeed through dedication set the stage for my career.” And now she enjoys mentoring others who wish to pursue medicine.

“I care about the young and vulnerable. Life can be unfair to some, especially those who have no control over their own destiny. I have a keen interest in looking out for the marginalized and overlooked. I want to leave behind a legacy of giving everyone an equal opportunity to be included and to succeed. I oppose unfair privilege and like to see everyone given the chance they deserve.”

 

Rhonda’s Fun Facts

  • Enjoys spending time with her family, either in person or on the phone
  • Loves reading — “it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy solitude”
  • Entertains friends and loved ones, inviting them to ‘break bread’
  • Loves the Caribbean — “I love the warmth and sincerity of the people; Caribbean people naturally care for others and our community spirit is truly special. This creates a safety net that puts me at ease in the Caribbean. I also really love our close access to nature and no fuss, no pretense approach to life.”
  • Treasures leading global health electives for students to international locations such as Nairobi and the Dominican Republic — “I saw poverty at a level that renewed my appreciation of life and drove me to do more for the underserved. I experienced their suffering and saw a whole different side of the human experience and it made me view medicine differently. It was a life-changing experience.”
  • Lives to Help Others:
    • Founding member and president of The Dominica Children’s Heart Fund, which funds tertiary care services for children with critical medical problems
    • Founding member of Doctors in Our Circle, which assists in rebuilding Dominica’s health sector after Hurricane Maria

 

Rhonda’s This or That

  • Become an Animal—bird; “to be totally free”
  • Have a Superpower — “change how people think — it would be a privilege to redirect mindsets to harness positive energy for social change”
  • Celebrity for a Day — Oprah Winfrey; “she’s skilled at having great conversations and sharing inspirational stories”
  • Described by Others as — calm, friendly, caring, professional, easy going
  • Advice to Her 15-Year-Old Self — have more fun, be bolder in diversifying interests

 

Rhonda’s Bucket List

  • Visit Southeast Asia
  • Develop a program for Caribbean teenage girls directed at empowerment and self-esteem building
  • Take one more trip to the Boiling Lake in Dominica
  • Learn to sail
  • Enjoy a device-free retirement by the ocean, surrounded only by the sounds of nature

 

Rhonda’s Fast Favorites

  • MoviesThe Lion King “is a beautiful story of family, loyalty, challenges, fun and love”
  • Music Genre — reggae / pop in her younger years
  • Songs — “I Feel Good” by Beres Hammond
  • Quote — “I see closed doors as a redirection to possibilities and opportunities.”
  • Books — Sophie’s Choice
  • Actor — Denzel Washington; “He’s such a great actor; you forget that he is not the character.”
  • Compliment — “You are the most wonderful mother and woman I know. I am so appreciative of being on the receiving end of your love.” — a recorded birthday message from her son
  • Advice — “Reach for the sky. You can be anything you want to be.”
  • Caribbean foods — stuffed crabback / callaloo soup / stewed crabs / roast breadfruit / roast suckling pig

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2021-2022, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 96% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2022-23 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2021-22 who were active applicants in the 2022 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.