Celebrating 10 Years of Beyond Spice Family Weekend

Photo: Visiting families gather at the University Club for a Family Weekend Sunset BBQ.

Edie Reeves left her home in Nashville, Tennessee and traveled over 2,000 miles to visit her son, Cody, a first-term student at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. Not only was it her first time visiting Grenada, it was her first time out of the country. Still, she made the journey, along with many other families from North America, the Caribbean, and Europe to attend SGU’s 15th Beyond Spice Family Weekend.

“This experience has been phenomenal. It’s more than I ever thought it would be,” said Mrs. Reeves. “From exploring the island on the heritage tour to witnessing my son put on his white coat, I could not be prouder of him. I would recommend that all parents check out SGU’s Family Weekend.”

Celebrating its 10th year since establishing Family Weekend, SGU continually looks forward to opening its doors to host students’ families who’ve come to visit the country and campus that their students now call home. The bi-annual family weekend festivities include guided campus tours; a historical sightseeing tour of Fort Frederick, the famous Grand Etang Lake, and the 30-foot Annandale Waterfalls; and lunch at Belmont Estate, a fully functional and historic plantation, among other activities.

Photo: An aerial view of Grand Etang Lake, one of the tour stops during Family Weekend.

Additionally, SGU family members are not one-time visitors. Anna and Anthony Rubano made a second trip from Bethlehem, Connecticut to visit their son, John, an incoming med student, who followed in the footsteps of his cousin, Nicholas Verdura, MD SGU ‘05. The couple arrived a week in advance to soak up as much sun, sea, and sand in the Isle of Spice before attending the momentous School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony.

“We’ve visited Grenada twice now; the campus is beautiful and every time we come back it seems to be expanding” said Mrs. Rubano. “It’s been an emotional day, but we are very proud of our son because he has worked so hard to get here. He learned about SGU through his cousin, who’s a surgeon specializing in minimally invasive surgery. After shadowing him for some time, John decided that he also wanted to become a doctor at SGU.”

Yet, Family Weekend is not a venture that only benefits SGU but has a large impact on the Grenadian economy as well, since many family members stay at local hotels, purchase handmade items from local vendors, and dine in local restaurants.

“We love hosting SGU families during Family Weekend,” said Glenroy Boatswain, Online Marketing Manager, True Blue Bay Boutique Resort. “The influx of visitors to Grenada and to our hotel and restaurant in particular has provided a much-welcomed boost in our occupancy rates. We usually see a 15-to 20-percent increase.

“The families also seem to really enjoy our daily themes when dining at our restaurant, which include Tuesday Grenadian Night, with live steel pan music, and Mexicaribbean night on Fridays, serving up Mexican and Caribbean dishes and salsa dancing, which both seem to be a big hit.”

“It is heartening to see the growth of our Family Weekend activities. From inception, it was designed to give our visitors an opportunity to learn more about Grenada and the University along with having meaningful interactions with our top administrators,” stated Colin Dowe, Associate Dean of Enrolment Planning. “The face-to-face engagements and sharing of stories has brought this part of our community closer together and argues well for building stronger relationships as we collectively support our students in realizing their various academic and professional aspirations.”

Family Weekend Fall 2018 is set for August 30 – September 2. Learn more about the festivities by visiting the Family Weekend webpage or by emailing familyweekend@sgu.edu.

– Ray-Donna Peters

Photo: Families gather for photographs following the January 2018 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony.

Future Nurses Welcomed at Spring 2018 Induction Ceremony

Joining the largest group of health care professionals, the Class of 2021 was recently inducted into the School of Arts and Sciences Nursing Program at St. George’s University’s third Nursing Induction Ceremony.

The future nurses were presented with lamps, a symbol of the care and devotion administered by nurses, and recited the International Council of Nurses Pledge along with the practicing nurses in the audience.

“You have done well thus far; however, the journey continues,” said Kathleen Collier, MPH SGU ’09, Master of Ceremonies and Clinical and Simulation Instructor, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, SGU. “Please understand that life is full of complexities and the road to success is never easy. There will be obstacles along the way, but don’t get bowed down to circumstances rather make circumstances bow down to your power and perseverance.”

These words resounded with Kalifha Morris, a new inductee of the SAS nursing program. Ms. Morris too faced tough circumstances that caused her to walk away from her dream of becoming a nurse 10 years ago. However, she didn’t let them defeat her. She moved from New York to Grenada and spent the next five years trying to get her start in the nursing profession.

“To get into the SGU nursing program has been like a dream come true. I feel like I am meant to be here, and I’ve got big plans for my nursing career,” said Ms. Morris. “I decided to become a nurse about 15 years ago because I found that I’m always helping somebody. I’m always putting the needs of others before myself, sometimes to my own detriment, but I can’t help it. I find that I always feel the desire to help someone in need.”

The evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Debra Porteous, Head of Nursing and Midwifery, Northumbria University, shared insight from her more than 35 years of experience teaching in a professional nursing/healthcare practice setting with the class of aspiring nurses. Relating the characteristics of a nurse in order to be successful, she stressed the importance of a caring nature, empathy, adaptability, communication, a strong work ethic, and both physical and mental endurance.

“Nursing is a truly inspiring and thoroughly rewarding career like no other,” she said. “However, for all of the amazing things we experience on a daily basis, there are also tough parts to deal with, like stress, long hours, and struggling to make time for family. Yet despite these struggles, nursing is full of exceptional people that do amazing life-changing work.”

“Nursing is a noble profession filled with wonderful people, and with the support of each other, you can go on providing great care to vulnerable patients all over the world,” added Dr. Porteous.

Uniquely structured, the nursing program at St. George’s provides an opportunity for students to be taught by professors from both the School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as international visiting professors. In addition, student nurse training experiences include working at the Grenada General Hospital, lab work at SGU’s Simulation Center, and community-based learning opportunities. Currently in their third year, students of the Class of 2019 will end their training with the completion of regional and international licensing exams, and become fully fledged Registered Nurses as approved by the Caribbean Nursing Council.

Behavioral Sciences Professor Honored for Epilepsy Diagnosis Research

Another example of St. George’s University’s increased emphasis and commitment on research, the University’s Dr. Karen Blackmon was recently selected by the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) to receive the 2018 Laird S. Cermak Award, a distinction that recognizes the best research in the area of memory or memory disorders.

“It’s very encouraging to see that the research efforts of faculty and students at St. George’s University are being recognized internationally,” said Dr. Blackmon, an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at SGU. “This award calls attention to an active and thriving research culture at SGU, and I am grateful to be a part of its continued advancement.”

A New York State licensed clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Blackmon conducted this research along with her colleague, Dr. Thomas Thesen, an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology, Neuroscience, and Behavioral Sciences at SGU, as well as Michelle Kruse, a third-year School of Medicine student currently on clinical rotations in New York.

Their work titled, “Temporal lobe gray-white blurring and Wada memory impairment in MRI-negative temporal lobe epilepsy,” utilized quantitative MRI technologies to characterize the neuroanatomical features of an epilepsy subtype that is challenging to diagnose and treat.

“Our research showed that subtle abnormalities at the cortical gray and white matter junction are associated with a distinct pattern of memory impairment, which could lead to improvements in diagnosis and surgical planning for people with this disorder,” added Dr. Blackmon. “We are hoping that our research demonstrates the value of combining MRI post-processing methods with neuropsychological assessment to increase precision in epilepsy diagnosis.”

The International Neuropsychological Society, founded in 1967, is a multi-disciplinary, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing communication among the scientific disciplines which contribute to the understanding of brain-behavior relationships. INS holds two meetings per year that provide a venue for cognitive and clinical neuroscientists from around the world to share their research and increase their understanding of the driving forces behind cognition and behavior.

The award honors the contributions of Dr. Laird S. Cermak, the former Director of the Memory Disorders Research Center at Boston University and Editor of the journal Neuropsychology, who dedicated his career to studying cognitive impairments that result from brain damage.

– Ray-Donna Peters

Grenada Named “Destination of the Year” by Caribbean Journal

The sun rises over Grenada’s capital city of St. George’s.

Caribbean Journal has named Grenada as its 2017 Caribbean Destination of the Year, calling the Spice Isle “one of the region’s hottest places to visit.”

The Journal credited Grenada’s booming hotel development and a certain “x-factor” for earning its top billing in 2017. Visit caribbeanjournal.com to read more about the distinction and other travel award selections.

It is only the latest recognition for the island. In 2012, the Spice Isle took home two of Scuba Diving Magazine Reader’s Choice awards, finishing first in the Caribbean/Atlantic region in the “Advanced Diving” and “Wreck Diving” categories. A year later, National Geographic Traveler listed Grenada as one of its 20 “must-see places” to visit, calling its capital, St. George’s, “one of the prettiest towns in the Caribbean.”

Since 2008, Grenada has warmly welcomed thousands of visitors for St. George’s University bi-annual Family Weekend festivities, during which students’ families and friends get an insider’s look into life as an SGU student, learning about all that the campus and island have to offer.

Mini-Med School Plants Seeds for Grenada’s Future Physicians

Medical students can often point to the moment when their interest in medicine was sparked. By hosting a mini-medical school on general wellness and sickle cell disease for students from Westmorland Secondary School, the St. George’s University Chapter of the Student National Medical Association hoped to plant that seed in their minds and hearts as well.

During the visit, WSS students explored the field of medicine with interactive healthcare lessons, including learning how to take a pulse, identifying signs of anemia, and listening to a heartbeat.

“Children love this kind of hands-on approach to learning,” said Mrs. Meredith Swan-Sampson, Head of the Science Department at Westmorland Secondary School. “The mini-med school generated more interest in the medical field within the students by providing insight into the profession. Our students learned more about what it’s like becoming a doctor and all that it entails from a student perspective.”

In addition to a presentation on sickle cell disease by the members of SGU’s Internal Medicine Club, the students also learned about the components of the blood, conducted physical examinations, and received a lesson on how to perform CPR. At the end of the day, the visiting students took part in a mini-graduation ceremony, receiving certificates of participation and the added treat of being allowed to take photos in the white coats of the SNMA members.

“While in Grenada, we wanted to find more ways to interact with the youth and help encourage them to become doctors as well,” said Danae Brierre, SNMA President. “The purpose of SNMA-SGU Chapter is not only to promote medicine in the underserved communities but also to help influence the students of our host country through our outreach and education programs like the mini-med school. We’re here in Grenada becoming doctors and we want to show them that as Grenadians they too can become doctors here at SGU.”

With the mission of diversifying the face of medicine, SNMA chapters based at allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in the US are designed to serve the health needs of underserved communities and communities of color. Additionally, SNMA is dedicated both to ensuring that medical education and services are culturally sensitive to the needs of diverse populations and to increasing the number of African-American, Latino, and other students of color entering and completing medical school.

Outstanding Achievements Celebrated Within the School of Veterinary Medicine

In a celebration of excellence, honoring faculty, staff, and students for outstanding achievement, the School of Veterinary Medicine hosted the bi-annual SVM Awards Ceremony in November, at Bourne Lecture Hall. Fifty-seven different awards were presented to faculty and staff who demonstrated remarkable service and commitment to the veterinary school, and to students who demonstrated exceptional academic achievement, professionalism, and work ethic.

“It’s such an important aspect of the School of Veterinary Medicine to honor the very special achievements of faculty, students, and staff. It brings the whole community together with a sense of unity everyone feels,” stated Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “We really are one family and it’s great to be a part of this joyous occasion. I think that the students in particular will have long memories of this evening and I look forward to sharing in many more of these kinds of celebrations.”

One of the ceremony’s highlights included the Zoetis Excellence in Research Award being given to Dr. Sonia Cheetham-Brow, an Associate Professor and Course Director of Veterinary Virology in the Department of Pathobiology at SGU. The award honors those who demonstrate excellence in original research, leadership in the scientific community, and exceptional mentoring of trainees and colleagues in any discipline of veterinary medicine. In addition to recognizing recipients’ outstanding research and scholarly achievements, the award also comes with a US $1,000 honorarium.

“Research can be challenging—results don’t always show what you expect and it may take some time, but it can also be very gratifying, especially when your efforts are recognized.” commented Dr. Cheetham-Brow. “My enthusiasm and passion for research is something that I also try to pass along to my students, and hopefully winning this award will show them that the hard work you put into research doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Additionally, the spotlight also belonged to third-year veterinary student Melanese Edwards, who won a grand total of four awards for the evening.

For upholding the character and values of the School of Veterinary Medicine, she was awarded the SVM Alumni Award; followed by the Outstanding Colleague Award for Term 6, an award that is voted on by the classmates of the recipient. She then received the George B. Daniel Award, a Student Government Association (SGA) award, selected by representatives of the vet school to be given to a sixth-term candidate who best demonstrates the ideals of leadership and service of the SGA. And lastly, the PAWS Recognition of Service award, which is given to a sixth-term student who has demonstrated leadership, professionalism, and service as a facilitator for the upcoming Term 1 students.

“Words cannot truly express how honored I am to receive these awards. I certainly did not expect them, but I am forever grateful,” said Ms. Edwards. “I am truly humbled that my peers and the faculty and staff see the potential in me. That I have made a positive impact on their lives and they chose to nominate me for these awards was an overwhelming feeling that brought tears to my eyes.”

Ms. Edwards has moved to Auburn, Alabama where she is completing her clinical training at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. After its completion, she plans to apply for an internship, and eventually move on to a residency in the hopes of specializing in ophthalmology.

SAS Lecture Series Discusses Effects of Parental Migration

Meschida Philip introduces her documentary at Patrick Adams Hall.

Meschida Philip, Grenadian filmmaker and founder of Meaningful Projekts Creative Group, recently showcased her documentary, “Scars of Our Mothers’ Dreams”, as part of St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences Open Lecture Series. The film, which offers a unique and intimate glimpse into the complexities of parental migration through the lenses of children left behind, was followed by a spirited panel discussion with the mix of faculty, staff, students, and the general public in attendance at Patrick Adams Hall.

The lecture was a collaborative effort between SGU’s Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the University of the West Indies Open Campus.

“I wanted to start a conversation by looking at how children are emotionally affected when a parent is gone,” said Ms. Philip. “In most cases, we tend to focus on the financial gain—that parents were leaving to make better lives for their children. But what about the importance of nurturing the emotional connection between a mother and her child?”

Years after her own personal struggle to overcome the feeling of childhood abandonment, Ms. Philip returned to Grenada to share the stories of others with similar childhood experiences, describing how their lives were impacted after their parents migrated.

“I wanted to examine not just the economic benefits of a parent migrating but how we the children were affected emotionally and psychologically,” stated Ms. Philip. “Also, I wanted to find out if there were any common themes between myself and other people that affected us from childhood into adulthood.”

“Migration is a hot button issue right now that has both local and international appeal,” said Dr. Damian Greaves, Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. “In the past, the focus would usually be on the great economic benefit to the Caribbean in terms of remittances from the diaspora. However, I thought it was very important to highlight Ms. Philip’s unique perspective when addressing an issue that is so little talked about but has such a large effect on so many in our Grenadian community.

“The purpose of this lecture was not only to start the conversation but also to bring an awareness to bear on the Grenadian public, that there are people who have been scarred psychologically and emotionally by the migration of their parents, who through no conscious and deliberate fault of their own, thought that they were building a better life for their children but were unaware of what transpired in their absence,” added Dr. Greaves. “Our hope is that when looking at the issue of migration we can be mindful of the social policies that are needed in order to affect change at the state level.”

The Therapeutic Value of Hypnosis

Throughout the history of hypnotherapy, stage hypnotists have awed and delighted onlookers with their ability to control their subjects’ minds. There have been consequences however; many believe that stage hypnosis, often seen as humiliating its subjects, has undermined the credibility and therefore the therapeutic benefits of clinical hypnosis.

Dr. Zoita Mandila, Hon. Secretary at the British Society of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis (BSCAH), recently presented a CME lecture titled “Clinical Hypnosis – Changing from the Ordinary to Extraordinary” at St. George’s University. A dental clinician for more than 17 years, Dr. Mandila and her colleagues at the BSCAH described clinical hypnosis as the safe and responsible use of hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology for its therapeutic value when treating an array of psychological, emotional, and physical problems.

“I have been using clinical hypnosis for the past six years and I have to say it has changed the way I practice,” praised Dr. Mandila. “My goal here is to allow clinicians to see that hypnosis is really a tool for them. It could change the framework that they use in the clinical setting. This tool can help them to improve their relationship with patients, and how they perform their clinical treatment—allowing the patient to be much more relaxed and achieve a faster and easier recovery.”

According to Dr. Mandila, it is important to understand the difference between stage hypnosis, performed for entertainment in a club or at a party, and clinical hypnosis, induced in a private office setting for therapeutic benefit. The clinical hypnotherapist relies on his or her knowledge of the human psyche, a caring and compassionate manner, an understanding of the phenomena surrounding hypnosis, and clients who are prepared to accept help with the change they seek.

Additionally, she explains that hypnosis can’t make you do anything unwillingly. Hypnotherapists can’t change a patient’s beliefs and behaviors with a snap of their fingers. Dr. Mandila maintains that the patient is in full control at all times.

“The stage hypnotist uses hypnosis for entertainment. We do it to help people. We do it to make them better, which is a much more humanitarian scope for it,” she stated. “The techniques are a little similar, but we provide the best care for our patients.”

AMSA Conference in Grenada Dives Into Medicine That Matters in 2017

SGU AMSA’s President, Judy Wong (far left), and SGU AMSA Executive Board Members greet conference guests.

The St. George’s University-led chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) brought together a combination of expert facilitators and physicians-in-training during its 2017 AMSA International Conference in Grenada. Assembled for only the second time outside of the United States, the two-day conference, held October 21 and 22, focused on “Preparing for Medicine that Matters,” providing attendees with an opportunity to explore current issues in medicine, build clinical skills, and connect with peers and other healthcare professionals.

“The conference provided a networking opportunity and a chance to educate our students outside of a classroom setting,” said Judy Wong, SGU AMSA President. “In particular, the Practicing Physicians Panel allowed students to have their questions answered about various specialties and the road to pursuing them.”

In addition to more than 15 dynamic clinical skills sessions, students experienced an interactive exhibit fair that showcased medical technology that will shape their future practice. The conference also featured a keynote address by Dr. Marios Loukas, Dean of Basic Sciences at St. George’s University, and Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine. Other guest speakers included: Rebekah Apple, Director of Student Affairs and Programming, AMSA National; Elizabeth Ingraham, Assistant Vice President, Communications and Outreach at the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates; and Dr. Anthony Orsini, Neonatologist, Orlando Health, and Founder of the Breaking Bad News Foundation.

“This year’s speakers not only shared insights on residency preparedness but also techniques for having tough conversations, such as delivering bad news to patients and providing help on how to navigate ethical dilemmas that challenge physicians today,” said Ms. Wong.

Brushing up on anatomy and building clinical skills with an ultrasound lab.

St. George’s University Awards Scholarships to 122 Incoming Students

Legacy of Excellence and Chancellor’s Circle Legacy of Excellence scholarship recipients gather for a group photo on the upper True Blue Campus.

St. George’s University has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarships to 122 members of the School of Medicine’s incoming class of 2021.

“Here at St. George’s, we aim to help talented students from around the world achieve their goal of becoming doctors, irrespective of their social or economic backgrounds” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “Our scholarship recipients are enormously accomplished and we are excited to welcome them to school this fall.”

Seventy-nine incoming students received Legacy of Excellence Scholarships in recognition of their strong MCAT scores and records of academic excellence. St. George’s has offered these $60,000 scholarships for more than a decade.

Forty-three students received the Chancellor’s Circle of Legacy of Excellence scholarship, an $80,100 award for those with undergraduate GPAs of 3.7 or higher, science GPAs of 3.5 or higher, and MCAT scores of 506 or higher. St. George’s has offered these scholarships for the past eight years.

“We believe financial need shouldn’t stop aspiring physicians from serving their communities,” said Dr. Olds. “We hope that these scholarship recipients will graduate from St. George’s determined to bring their newfound medical expertise to areas most in need.”

This year’s recipients join more than 5,000 students who have received academic scholarships from the University. In total, SGU has granted more than $100 million in scholarships.