"Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is love of humanity."
It may have been a famous saying of Hippocrates, but it is also the motto by which Dr Joel Teelucksingh lives.
Dr Teelucksingh was born to Rev Daniel Teelucksingh and school teacher Joycelyn Teelucksingh in Chaguanas.
As many may know, his father was also an independent senator from 1991 to 2000.
To this day, he remains proud of his father's contribution.
"The love for humanity, justice, fairness. He had principles and he was a very principled man, he still is a very principled individual."
He said the combination of positive attributes propelled him to be the man he is today.
"There was always a deep desire by both my parents to help others and to serve and that love for service and helping the community, helping humanity in general, those values had been instilled in me from very young."
His family was also firmly entrenched in the Presbyterian Church, not only his father but his uncles and cousins are reverends as well.
But religion wasn't the be-all and end-all of their daily lives.
"It was a relaxed atmosphere. It is not that you always had to be in church but naturally so, you gravitated towards church activities, it was enjoyable."
He said the family was also active in sports.
Prayer and sport aside, the matriarch of the family ensured that the children maintained an education.
Teeelucksingh has an older brother, Jerome, who is a lecturer in history at UWI (University of the West Indies) and a sister, Angelica Rachel, who is a High Court Judge in the Eastern Caribbean.
He started his journey into medicine at Presentation College in Chaguanas where he ventured into the Sciences.
He admitted that he wasn't sure he wanted to go into medicine even after getting a national scholarship in 1996 and started working at the Mt Hope Medical Sciences Complex.
"But when we started interacting with patients, realisation dawned, I think I had an epiphany, it is something some people would call a moment of clarity. So when we started interacting with patients and seeing the difference that could be made in the lives of people, apart from just the medicine but the doctor/patient connection, the realisation dawned upon me at that point that this was something I found endlessly fascinating. It sparked a fire within my soul at that point that this was my calling."
After completing university, he got a job at the San Fernando General Hospital for a few years, then went to the United Kingdom (UK) for specialisation in internal medicine, diabetes and endocrinology.
The work begins
He spent five years there before returning home to work in the public sector as a specialist.
While he continued serving in the public sector, he also opened up a private practice in Chaguanas.
One of his main mantras when dealing with his patients is not just writing prescriptions but to properly explain to them the nature of the problem.
"I've found them to be very receptive, they have been willing to listen."
He explained that when doing a consultation he likes to have a relative in the room, especially with elderly patients, to get them involved in the process.
"Usually a lot of these encounters is to gain trust initially. So that the doctor-patient bond, that relationship is strengthened. By the time they leave the patient is more likely to take their medications, is more likely to adhere to lifestyle advice, they trust the doctor now so they are more likely to return as well."
He said he always tries for his patients to leave "satisfied."
In fact, he said, a lot of his patients "have become family."
Admittedly, as a doctor there are challenges.
Teelucksingh said keeping people away from "herbal doctors" is one of them as well as dealing with patients who have googled diagnosis and remedies.
He also expressed the hope that resources would be more readily available to patients in the public health care institutions.
Teelucksingh is also the scientific adviser to the Diabetes Association of T&T.
Besides that, he does lectures for doctors and people around the country. This is his way of giving back.
His satisfaction also comes when people come back to him to say they have learned something from him.
"One of the key things about a good doctor is that he must also be a good teacher."
His advice to the public
As part of his teachings, he also advises people on how to maintain good health, especially with the plagues of diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.
"Like everything else, lifestyles remains the pillar. Diet, exercise, stopping smoking, limiting alcohol and reducing stress."
He recommended chatting regularly with your doctor and doing check-ups.
The doctor said in this time of COVID-19 families should take the time to exercise together, and once restrictions are lifted, continue doing so.
From a governmental level, he said, there must be a system in place to ensure that medications are available, blood tests and scans and freely available and that the waiting times to access these are reduced.
But, "prevention is really the watchword when we are thinking about these NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases)."
He said diseases that would typically affect older people are now affecting the younger generation.
"So focused education in schools" is needed.
Ask the Doctor
Another part of his role in educating the public. Teelucksingh started as a guest on several medical shows on local television stations until he was asked to co-host a medical show on IBN (Islamic Broadcasting Network) in 2010.
"The feedback was brilliant and a lot of people enjoyed it."
Given his knowledge and experience, he was asked by CNC3 to be a part of a show called "Ask the Doctor." The show was born when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and allows people to call in to get answers to the many burning questions about the virus.
"Many people had questions. A lot of patients at the hospital, at private practice, a lot of doctors and health care workers also had questions."
He said it allows him the opportunity to stay abreast of all that is taking place with the evolving virus.
"The nice thing about it is that persons had an opportunity to call in and ask, whether online or on the Facebook page, and getting some of the answers with more clarity, with a little bit of explanation on something topical, relevant."
Overall he aims to always be accurate, given the fears of the population towards the virus as well as the many myths that circulate about it.
"I was actually surprised at the initial response and the positivity of feedback from friends, family, even strangers who were so happy."
Teelucksingh said the eventual plan was to expand the show to all aspects of medicine, not just COVID-19.
"Ask the Doctor" airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm for one hour on CNC3.
Teelucksingh the man
Outside of his professional and media standings, Teelucksingh simply enjoys spending time with his family. He lives in central Trinidad with his wife, Neela, who is also a specialist eye doctor. He and his wife make time for exercise, even if it's just walking their dog, Max.
"So I find time for exercise, prayer, we still read a lot, hiking. In terms of hobbies, we like to travel when we get the opportunity."
His siblings still live nearby and his parents still live in the family home in Chaguanas. "I see them almost every day. That bond has been maintained."
Teelucksingh said the balancing of work/life relationship is of utmost importance.
His advice to those who want to live fulfilling lives: "Be fearless in what sets your soul on fire." Medicine, he said, "sets my soul on fire."