Long ago, establishing a world-renowned medical education institution in Grenada seemed like an impossible dream. Yet, on July 23, 1976, Charles Modica, Louis Modica, Edward McGowan, and Patrick F. Adams witnessed the birth of that very dream through an act of Grenada’s Parliament establishing St. George’s University School of Medicine. With a handful of students and faculty, classes at St. George’s School of Medicine began on January 17, 1977. The dream became reality.
Now, with more than 13,000 graduates—more than 11,000 of which are practicing medicine across the world—a campus that includes professors and students from over 140 different countries, and a clinical training program involving more than 60 hospitals in the US and the UK, St. George’s University has earned a worldwide reputation as a leading international center for medical education and a beacon of academic excellence. Today, over 6,000 students are enrolled and studying in 43 dynamic academic degree programs, including an AVMA COE accredited DVM program, and stand-alone and dual-degree graduate programs that include MBA and a CEPH-accredited MPH program.
For over 35 years, the University’s dedication to developing outstanding doctors has improved health standards and healthcare delivery systems throughout the world. The Unviersity’s innovative approach to medical training continues to attract students from across the world and distinguished faculty from the most prestigious medical institutions. There are currently over 2,300 SGU faculty members in all, with more than 400 based on the True Blue campus in Grenada, and over 1,400 clinical faculty members including more than 300 based in the UK.
Roots of Academic Excellence
Among the faculty first recruited to the University was C.V. Rao, PhD, who joined as part of the anatomy teaching staff and has been with St. George’s University ever since, and David Brown, PhD, MD, who was the first person to accept a faculty position with the new institution. In addition to his academic duties, Dr. Rao serves as Dean of Students and heads up wide-ranging support services. Dr. Brown is now Chair of Behavioral Sciences.
Other firsts for the University include Paul Cutler, MD, the first Dean of the University, Stephen M. Ayres, MD, the first Dean of the School of Medicine, and Stephen Weitzman, MD, the first Dean of Clinical Studies.
Geoffrey Bourne, MD, came to SGU from Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University, to serve as SGU’s first Vice Chancellor. Morris Alpert, MD, former professor of anatomy and clinical associate professor of surgery at Albany Medical School, joined the University to build the first part of students’ clinical training in St. Vincent.
Almost all of the founding faculty members had been educated either in the United States, Canada, Europe, many Commonwealth countries, and their broad range of experience has led to the creation of an innovative curriculum that would combine the best of the American and British medical traditions. Keith B. Taylor, FCRP, DM, retired professor of medicine at Stanford University, succeeded Dr. Bourne as Vice Chancellor. In the process, the Oxford-trained Vice Chancellor built a strong faculty, recruited from numerous countries, shaped graduate and undergraduate programs aimed at attracting students from developing nations, worked closely with the government of Grenada to ensure mutual cooperation, and oversaw the expansion of the True Blue campus. Dr. Taylor’s tenure was followed by the appointment of Peter G. Bourne, MA, MD, as Vice Chancellor of the University on July 1, 1998, following in his father’s footsteps. Dr. Bourne continued the legacy of his predecessor, with the campus expansion and continuing further growth of the undergraduate and research programs.
Largely because of its commitment to basic science teaching and faculty development, the University soon attracted distinguished visiting professors from some of the world’s most prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, McGill University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Rockefeller Institute, London School of Tropical Health and many more. Many of these scholars eventually joined the University on a permanent basis and worked, with the administration, to create new programs beyond medicine, such as joint degrees in public health and science. These new advances were instrumental to the University's growth and helped set new standards for medical education in the region. Naturally, St. George’s growing reputation attracted a new breed of international medical students. Just as the Founders anticipated their vision of the School, the students were committed to the life-long study and practice of medicine as well as the transformational power of medicine in improving existing healthcare delivery systems around the world.
For the Founders and the first students, the road towards success was not guaranteed. Indeed, they encountered some early obstacles and challenges.
The University endured in the face of Grenada’s infamous political event. As student enrollment in Grenada reached 630, a Marxist coup forcibly overturned the Gairy government in 1979. The new administration, commonly known as the “Revo,” and the University, needed each other.
By October 1983, the “Revo” had unraveled. Hard-line doctrinaire Marxists, led by Bernard Coard, staged an uprising at Fort George on October 19, assassinating Prime Minister Bishop and his ministers and massacring Grenadians who had come to free Bishop.
This unsettling development stirred the Caribbean and Washington. Including students, faculty, families and others, there were nearly 1,000 Americans on the island.
On October 25, at 5:00 am, “Operation Urgent Fury” began and suddenly, 6,000 US troops were in Grenada. Within days, the students were flown to safety and classes were temporarily suspended. No students were hurt but 19 American servicemen died in the assault. Unwittingly, St. George's University School of Medicine became a household name.
Within two weeks, temporary classes resumed at the Brooklyn campus of Long Island University and the Rutgers Medical School in Piscataway, and St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, both in New Jersey. Another campus was soon established in Barbados, West Indies. The Grenada campus re-opened on January 10, 1984.
By 1987, St. George's University obtained approval to conduct medical training in New York and New Jersey, making the University the first non-US medical school to gain approval in both states. The British Medical Council granted the School limited recognition in 1988, an act that opened doors to wide acceptance in the British Commonwealth countries, and broadened SGU's appeal as a leading institution for medical education and training.
International Medical Education
The School of Medicine currently has nine basic science departments: Anatomical Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Biochemistry and Genetics, Bioethics, Pathology, Microbiology, Pathophysiology, Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience, and Clinical Skills and seven clinical departments: Internal Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine and General Practice, and Pediatrics. The University’s commitment to research has resulted in an alliance with the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), an independent research institute located on the Grenada True Blue Campus and the recently established Medical Student Research Institute.
Medical students matriculate in the School of Medicine twice per year, in August and January. Students can take the first year of the MD program either in Grenada or in Northumbria, UK. The second year is taught on the True Blue Campus in Grenada. Dynamic Medical Selectives in Kenya, India, and Thailand are available to qualifying students, and further expose medical students to new health care delivery systems, extending their global perspective to traditional and alternative medicine. The last two years of the four-year program are conducted in over 60 affiliated hospitals and clinical centers across the United States and the United Kingdom.
As a result of the University’s innovative curriculum, strict focus on teaching, close professorial support and broad range of student services, the dedicated students and graduates of St. George’s University have developed a reputation for scholastic and professional excellence at every level. One key measurement of success has been the University’s performance on the US licensing examinations (USMLEs), which has been consistent throughout. Today’s graduates typically score on parity with US students on the USMLE Step 1 Exam scores, occasionally even surpassing them. St. George’s University students who took the USMLE 1 for the first time in 2012 achieved a 97 percent pass rate, marking the fourth consecutive year that SGU’s overall first-time pass rate on the examination surpassed 90 percent. These students have come to SGU from 37 countries, with Canadian students achieving an impressive 100 percent pass rate.
Indeed, the quality of St. George’s University students has led Professor J.G. Nicholls from the International School for Advanced Studies in Switzerland to say, “I have not found students of medicine with this high degree of openness, enthusiasm and high critical ability at Oxford, Yale, Harvard, Stanford or Basel.”
Commitment to Student Support
A central part of the St. George’s University experience is the commitment to student support services and individual academic development. The University supports over 50 student clubs on campus and offers a wide-range of extra-curricular selectives which can take students all over the world. The University’s large professional staff in the Department of Educational Services (DES) is dedicated to helping students learn better and helping teachers to teach better. DES teaches students how to study efficiently and make the most of their time. This complements teaching the teachers how to effectively utilize technology in the classroom. DES works closely with the Dean of Students to ensure that each student succeeds.
New Programs and Schools
While the SGU School of Medicine symbolizes the quintessential St. George’s University experience, the commitment to academic excellence led to new developments in other educational fields. In 1993, the University expanded its offerings in healthcare education by instituting graduate and undergraduate programs, and in 1996, it was granted a charter for the SGU School of Arts and Sciences and the SGU Graduate Studies Program.
There was an immediate and overwhelming response from the Grenadian people, as well as people in the region who were anxious to take advantage of this opportunity for tertiary education. The School began offering night courses in the Fall of 1996, and baccalaureate degree programs in January 1997. There are currently programs offered in international business, accounting, economics/finance, marketing, tourism and hospitality management, management, life sciences, marine biology, liberal studies, management information systems, and information technology.
Reflecting on the dynamic growth and broad range of academic offerings, Dr. The Honorable Keith Mitchell, former Prime Minister of Grenada, noted that with each passing year, St. George's University becomes more involved at the community level, as well as providing new learning opportunities for our young people. This is because the University recognizes the needs of a developing country.
The SGU School of Veterinary Medicine, which was established in 1999, signals the University's evolution as an international institution and reaffirms its commitment to offering a broad range of opportunities in the medical field. The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) granted full accreditation to the St. George’s University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program for seven years in September of 2011. Veterinary Anatomy, Histology, Embryology, Physiology, Parasitology, Virology, Pharmacology, Large Animal Medicine, Ethics/Jurisprudence, Small Animal Surgery Pathology and Immunology are just some of the courses available to students.
That same year, SGU’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine began its initiative to become a center of excellence for public health teaching, research, community advancement and service both locally and in the region. Since its inception in 1999, it has been committed to improving the health and well being of populations, communities, and individuals throughout the world. Effective July 1, 2010, St. George's MPH program became a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited regional leader set to produce public health practitioners and researchers for the Caribbean and rest of the world. St. George’s University’s Public Health Program is offered within its schools of medicine and veterinary medicine. Students may earn independent MPH degrees or joint degrees, such as the MD/MPH and the DVM/MPH.
Practicums have been conducted at more than 180 locations in 32 countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and North and South America. The program offers a graduate global public health curriculum for a Masters Degree of Public Health (MPH) or dual-degrees in MPH/MD and MPH/DVM.
Another academic milestone in the University's history was the establishment of the research institute leased to the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF). In 1993, the University began an MD/MSc program wherein students work on investigative projects, write a thesis and are awarded an MSc degree while studying for their MD degree. At WINDREF, research work has included epidemiology, anthropology, virology, conservation ecology, marine biology, and in particular, public health issues that affect Grenada and the surrounding region.
In 2010 St. George’s University launched two online MBA programs. The MBA-in Mutli-Sector Health Management and the MBA in International Business are the first degrees created and offered exclusively online by the University, with two one-week residencies in Grenada.
Central to the University's evolution over the years has been the major architectural development of its main campus, which covers the True Blue peninsula in the southwestern corner of Grenada overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
A quick glance at this majestic campus city and its pastel-tinted neo-Georgian buildings reveals nothing of its humble beginnings. The first class actually studied in a convention center leased by the government to St. George's University. This facility could not accommodate all of the students, so some of them moved to Grand Anse, which became the second campus.
Back on Grenada, the University launched an extensive building project that would ultimately create the impressive new True Blue campus. The $250 million USD state-of-the-art, idyllic campus is an international symbol of architectural and academic excellence. Over 65 buildings create the perfect environment in which to learn, investigate, play, and make lifelong networks of colleagues and friends from around the world.
As one of the leading education centers in the Caribbean, St. George's University has been an active and vital member of the community.
St. George’s contributes over US $100,000,000 annually into the Grenadian economy in the form of salaries, hotel accommodations, housing, recreation, food, construction, goods and services, advertising expenditures, and charitable contributions. The staff, faculty, students and visitors, all the activities associated with living and doing and buying n Grenada, added to the direct contributions of the University and has bolstered the economy.
The research programs of St. George’s on-campus affiliate, the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), have improved personal and public health as well as areas of the economy, in Grenada and the Caribbean. The University contributes to the purchase of hospital equipment and general welfare each year and provides salary supports for its educational programs at the hospital.
The University employs over 600 Grenadians, with that number increasing as new professionals are brought on staff for the School of Arts and Sciences.
The University community is involved in many community outreach programs, running fundraisers for local charities, ecological programs, education programs, health fairs, and other activities that benefit our neighbors. The University has sponsored and underwritten numerous programs in the social services arena, including charities such as Orphans and Elderly Fund, Bel Air Home for Abused Kids and the Grenada Heart Foundation, which has facilitated heart surgeries free of charge for over 200 children and adults in Grenada. The students organize health fairs around the Island every semester, helping to identify health problems for hundreds of Grenadians, and the annual reception for Orphans and Elderly Fund continues to raise money and awareness for the cause.
Above all, St. George's University continues to play an important role in producing outstanding doctors, striving to improve healthcare systems regionally and globally, and promoting the highest goals of the medical profession. Since 2005, the University has granted over US $70 million in scholarships to Caribbean students, many of them Grenadian, and they have gone on to study medicine, veterinary medicine, business, public health, and nursing, among others.
St. George’s has a long, proud, and verifiable history of academic success across all of its schools and programs. We invite you to learn more about our students, their academic performance, and our accreditations and approvals.