Adventist pastor Kemar T.J. Douglas scored a rare feat by completing his medical degree while pastoring a district of five churches.
During that time, he baptised more than 200 individuals. He has oversight of 2,100 church members.
After four years of study, Douglas is doing internship at May Pen Hospital. He graduated on October 30 from the Caribbean School of Medical Sciences with honours and received the Chancellor’s Award for Academics and Leadership.
“The balancing wasn’t easy,” said Douglas. “I pledged my life to God, the gospel ministry, and to take care of my family, and I had to make sure none suffered, even if I couldn’t do everything. I just had to rely on God, my wife, and elders to help out where I just couldn’t because of time constraints.
“To be honest, I had no time for studying. I just tried to learn everything in class, and what I didn’t understand or grasp, I would listen to the audio while driving between appointments or home.”
First elder for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Linstead, Joyce Tennant Stewart, has high praises for Douglas’ ministry.
“He is a hard-working and mission-driven pastor. He is extremely dedicated to equipping members and others to rightly divide the Word of God,” she said.
After graduating from sixth form at Calabar High School with three ‘A’ Levels, Douglas attended Northern Caribbean University where he obtained a bachelor of arts degree in religion and theology in 2001 and, in 2011, a master of arts degree in religion. He also completed a doctor of ministry in leadership degree at the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary in 2017.
If already so accomplished, why become a medical doctor?
Douglas shared that the desire to be a medical doctor had always been present, though he acknowledged that he has always felt a call to ministry. He said what finally led him to pursue medicine was a deep conviction from God that now was the time.
“At my graduation from the doctor of ministry degree, I felt that I had done all that the Lord had required of me academically to serve in His cause and Church, but in greeting persons after the ceremony, one of my fellow ministerial graduates who knew my passion for health and wellness said it was now time to pursue medicine,” said the pastor.
“I laughed, but then another ministerial colleague from the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists told me that I should think seriously because if I can, I should, because it would be an assistance to the church and ministry,” explained Douglas.
Douglas described his journey as one of God opening doors and charting new paths.
“I remember when I went searching to find a school to resit my ‘A’ Levels, because even though I had passed, it was insufficient for a scholarship. After several attempts to find a school, I enrolled at Maths Unlimited, where I did biology, chemistry and physics – Units 1 and 2 in one year instead of two, and no Sabbath classes, and passed both with grade one.”
Besides getting the grades, Douglas believes God had other plans.
He said that a teacher who also lectured at the Caribbean School of Medical Sciences introduced me to the School of Medicine. He soon learned from the registrar that he could start the programme without doing the entrance exams.
Though he had no way of financing his tuition, the teacher committed to helping him win a scholarship.
“I got a partial Government of Jamaica scholarship and then the Students’ Loan Bureau started offering loans to the school for the first time, and that helped,” said Douglas.
Navigating work, school and ministry has been a tough journey, he admitted. Douglas also emphasised the many times he stood up for his faith during the pursuit of this career.
“Often because of my biblical convictions, issues of Sabbath, creationism, and health reform led to tense moments, as I would never compromise on my faith for school-related activities. But in the end, all came to respect my convictions, even if they don’t agree with them, to the point where when a lecturer would mention a class on Sabbath, the class would respond, ‘It is Sabbath so Kemar can’t attend. Can it be shifted, and if not, notes or recording shared?”
Douglas credits studying to have focused his mind to fully appreciate the health message of Ellen G. White, a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and her admonitions.
“Studying has also helped me to feel self-actualised and deepened my reliance on God. This season saw God working miracle after miracle for me and opening doors I never thought existed, let alone opening,” Douglas said.
“Health and wellness is a felt need for all, and God has prepared me to serve His church and the community in a manner that blends the mind, body and spirit.
Douglas has pledged his life to ministry, but has committed to also utilise his training to benefit fellow congregants and others.
“I have no intention to stop pastoring, I love teaching and leading God’s people. However, I am now in my first year of training after medical school, as an intern at the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon, and I am looking forward to getting my licence so that I can see patients and be able to assist them in achieving and maintaining optimal health,” he said.
Pastor Nevail Barrett, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Central, said he was fearful that the pastor would not have made it.
“Our concern was if he could manage family, pastoral work and study, bearing in mind that to study medicine is not an easy task. Well, he is now an Adventist prodigy and he proved it to us by doing exceptionally well with all the challenges,” Barrett said.
Since June 2022, Douglas has been serving as the health ministries director for the Central Jamaica Conference and senior pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Portmore. He thanks his colleagues, church members, and leaders for their support.