What institutions did she attend?

  • Mt Alvernia High School, Jamaica
  • Immaculate Conception High, Jamaica
  • The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica- BSc in Biochemistry/Zoology, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)
  • Long Island Jewish Medical Centre/Albert Einstein School of Medicine, USA, Residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Northwestern University/McGaw Graduate Medical Centre, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago- Friedman-Keiser Fellowship in Intervention Spine and Sports Medicine

Other Achievements

  • Former president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association
  • She accompanied the Jamaica athletics team to the 12th International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF)
    World Championships in Berlin, Germany.
  • Champion Female Athlete (Victrix Ludorum), The University of the West Indies Intercampus Games 1996
  • Co- founder of The UWI Sports Medicine Clinic


She has worked with some of the Caribbean’s well-known Olympic and World Champion athletes.


She is a former member of Jamaica’s national cricket and football teams.


She has participated in motor rallies, and enjoys running and playing squash.

Paula Dawson (Date of Birth: 23rd Mar 1970)

Caribbean Women in STI

Dr Paula Dawson is the only licensed rehabilitation physician, or physiatrist, in Jamaica, and only one of three throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. She has introduced to her homeland new techniques in fluoroscopic interventional spine treatment and spasticity management with Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections. These techniques help people with back pain and in rehabilitating patients with neurological diseases including cerebral palsy, brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury. Within the region, she leads efforts to develop physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), and the sub-speciality of spine and sports medicine in particular.

Dr Dawson is a lecturer at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica. She firmly believes that rehabilitation medicine should be an integral part of medical training and medical care. As a result, she introduced PM&R to the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the university, and hopes to develop a residency and fellowship programme there. Her ultimate goal is to set up a facility that provides a wide range of rehabilitation services, including neurorehabilitation, musculoskeletal, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, as well as prosthetics and orthotics.

She is passionate about offering rehabilitation care with a team approach, where the patient is the central focus. With this approach, a patient’s recovery is likely to be more complete. She states, for example, that a patient with brain injury who struggles with loss of speech, difficulty swallowing or weakness on one side, instead of being sent home, can receive early and proper rehabilitation. This comprehensive early intervention will afford them the best opportunity to recover from their disabilities. Rehabilitation, especially if started in the first three to six months, will ensure a better outcome.

Dr Dawson has been at the helm of a public awareness drive to educate Jamaicans about PM&R and available rehabilitative services. She advocates that medicine “adds years to your life”, and PM&R “adds quality to those years.”

In her quest to develop the practice of physiatry in the region, she has brought specialists to the shores of Jamaica to conduct clinics, workshops, training and public education conferences. They included two directors of interventional spine from the McGaw Medical Centre of Northwestern University, and a paediatric spasticity team from Gillette Children’s Specialty Hospital in Minnesota, USA.

Paula Urcelyn Agnis Dawson was born on 23rd March, 1970 at Curphy Barracks, Up Park Camp, Jamaica. She grew up in Kingston and Montego Bay, and remembers that she always had a love for the elderly and an innate desire to help them in some way. Throughout her life, she has participated in cricket, track and field, football and hockey. Her love for sports coupled with her wish to help others would eventually lead her to the field of sports medicine, which she feels was the perfect career choice for her. The most rewarding aspect of it for her is helping people every day and eventually seeing them recover.

Her personal motto is, “Just do it! If you have a goal, work at it one step at a time. Even if it takes a while and seems unattainable, take the first step and the other steps will be easier and quicker, and soon you will be running towards your goals.”


What is a rehabilitation physician?

A rehabilitation physician or physiatrist treats illnesses and injuries that impair movement in patients. These doctors are experts on bones, muscles and nerves, and attend to a wide range of physical problems, with the goal of decreasing pain and enhancing patient’s performance without surgery. They also offer care on how to prevent injuries.

Their patients include persons with musculoskeletal injuries, pain syndromes, sports injuries, cerebral palsy, and neurological conditions caused by stroke, brain injury and spinal cord injury. In many instances, these physicians work with a multi-disciplinary team to execute patient’s treatment plan, which can combine physical with psychological and vocational therapy.

Areas of Specialisation

  • Sports medicine
  • Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation
  • Paediatric rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injury medicine
  • Pain medicine
  • Hospice medicine
  • Neuromuscular medicine

What do I need to study?

At CSEC and CAPE: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics

Rehabilitation specialists are required to train for four years in medical school, followed by a one-year internship and three years of hospital residency with a specialisation in physiatry. Licensing by a recognised professional board is also a requirement to practise in the USA and UK.

What skills and traits do I need?

  • Compassion for others
  • Detail-oriented
  • Patience
  • Team skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

Famous Rehabilitation Specialists

  • Frank H. Krusen
  • Walter Zeiter
  • John Stanley Coutler