Spring 2017 Class Begins Journey as Future Veterinarians at School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony

At the Spring 2017 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony on January 28, the newest class of St. George’s University students donned their newly received white coats and collectively recited the Oath of Professional Commitment. Like the more than 1,200 veterinarian graduates of SGU had done before, they dedicated their professional future to the thorough and ethical care of animals.

“The White Coat Ceremony is one of my favorite events of the year, and I am thrilled and honored to be here to share this day with you,” enthused keynote speaker Douglas A. Freeman, Professor and Dean of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Canada. “The White Coat Ceremony is our opportunity to formally induct you into the profession and to welcome you as colleagues into the amazing and wonderful veterinary medicine community.

“This profession has evolved from farm animal care, to equine care to small animal care, and you too must be resilient as you evolve throughout your veterinary medical career,” advised Dr. Freeman. “There are many jobs available in the veterinary profession, from academia and research to the military and industry. You may try a lot of different things. You don’t have to choose just one path. So as you embark on your journey of lifelong discovery, I wish you great success.”

Alumnus and Master of Ceremonies Heather Douglas, DVM SGU ‘06, knew exactly how the matriculating class felt as first-term students, and counseled them to make the most of the opportunity to study at SGU. Dr. Douglas is now the owner and veterinarian at Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, Minnesota. She said that, through the commitment of her professors, colleagues, and the welcoming community, she gained invaluable opportunities and a deep-rooted love for the Spice Isle.

“Being in Grenada and attending this University gave me a wonderful opportunity, and I feel I am successful in my career in veterinary medicine because of SGU,” shared Dr. Douglas, President of Douglas Animal Hospital and Visiting Professor at St. George’s University. “You too have everything you could possibly need right here to become a successful veterinarian.”

Attending his first-ever School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony was Dr. Joseph Childers, recently appointed Provost of St. George’s University. He welcomed and congratulated the students on this next step they were about to take and, although not a veterinarian himself, connected with the students through his area of expertise—literature.

“Some of the greatest literature that was ever produced—works by Anna Sewell, George Orwell, and Jack London—are actually written by the point of view of an animal,” Dr. Childers said. “This was emblematic of who we are as human beings and our connection to the animal world. We are absolutely dependent on our animals, and who will speak for them, who will communicate with them?

“I recognize the importance of seeking an MD and the importance of what people do as medical doctors but they have a distinct advantage, they are able to communicate directly with their patients,” added Dr. Childers. “ You are called to something a little bit higher, a little bit more noble and I think in many ways much more self less. You’re advocating for creatures that cannot advocate for themselves, the creatures that we depend on. You have a double responsibility to not only deliver that kind of care and compassion but also to be those advocates. I think this speaks to the core of humanity and I congratulate you on your choice and I welcome you to St. George’s University. “

Dr. Chadd Tindall, an alumnus from the very first class of the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999 and currently the Director of the SVM Office of Career Guidance, attended the ceremony. In addition, Dr. Austin Kirwan, Assistant Dean of UK Affairs in the School of Veterinary Medicine, who took the opportunity to robe his son, Elliot, now a first-term veterinary student.

“It was a fantastic experience. It was a long journey to actually get where you are and you would never believe that your child would be following so closely in your own footsteps but I think it brings home what SGU is actually all about,” Dr. Kirwan said afterward. “We are one family, it’s one nation, it’s one health, it’s one medicine, and it’s an absolute privilege. I graduated on that stage with my MBA from SGU and I’ve introduced my son to the veterinary faculty and school on that same stage, so it was a fantastic moment.”

The School of Veterinary Medicine accepted its first class in August of 1999, followed six years later by the installation of the first international chapter of Phi Zeta National Veterinary Honor Society on campus, the Alpha Delta Chapter. In September 2011, the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education announced its full accreditation of the St. George’s University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program for seven years. Five years later, in October 2016, the American Animal Hospital Association gave its stamp of approval, accrediting the SVM Small Animal Clinic for two years, making it only the second practice outside of the US and Canada to earn the distinction.

St. George’s University Welcomes Newest Class of Future Doctors at Spring 2017 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony

An ocean away and in a two-week span, the Spring 2017 class of St. George’s University took their Oath of Professional Commitment, the first step in their journey to becoming physicians, at the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies in the United Kingdom and Grenada.

Students in the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program ushered in the spring term with a ceremony held at Domain Hall on the campus of Northumbria University on January 13. They will spend their first year of Basic Sciences in the UK before joining the Grenada class in Spring 2018.

Delivering a touching keynote address to this year’s entering class was Dr. Gerard Corcoran, recently retired Lead Clinician for Cancer Services at Aintree University Hospitals in the UK. He reflected on the growth of SGU, having arrived in Grenada in 1979 and working one year in the General Hospital and at St. George’s University School of Medicine.

“Back then as a young 28-year-old, many of the students at St. George’s were my age and I was really impressed by all of their varied backgrounds,” Dr. Corcoran said. “Some had previous occupations, others had military experience, some had not studied sciences and others had endured quite a lot of hardship before coming here. But rather than looking at this as a disadvantage and a roadblock to their progress, I actually think that, for the future doctor, this different life experience was an advantage and not only for themselves but for our profession. It has been delightful for me to watch the University flourish over the years, and so in this its 40th year, I hope the Class of 2017 will continue to prosper.”

“Please take an interest in each other and share your experiences,” he added. “While in Grenada try to gain some insight on what it means to provide healthcare in a low resource country. And, never forget that universal access to health care is something that still has not been attained. There is a worldwide shortage of primary care physicians and also health professionals and SGU is to be commended for its efforts in trying to offer up opportunities for people from different countries to train here to become doctors.”

Also present at the ceremony was the Honorable Mr. Nickolas Steele, Minister for Health and Social Security. He welcomed the newly enrolled medical students and congratulated them on their choice of such an admirable profession. The Minister implored the students not only to work hard to acquire their degree but to also take the opportunity to make a difference to Grenada because their time spent in the Spice Isle will surely make a difference to them.

In Grenada, students and their friends and families filled Patrick F. Adams Hall for the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony on January 27. Dr. Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83, a member of the fifth entering class at SGU, served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. In addition to his professional career as an emergency medicine physician at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, NJ, Dr. Bonanno has a second career as a media personality. He hosted a 30-minute medical television show and was the Chief Medical Consultant for a New Jersey station for more than 10 years.

As an alum, his involvement with SGU has included interviewing candidates for admission, teaching students and residents, and becoming re-involved with the SGUSOM Alumni Association two years ago when he was elected President. He arrived in Grenada 38 years earlier, and never ceases to be amazed at the development of both the country and his alma mater.

“Although many things have changed since I was a student at SGU, one thing has remained constant and that is you, the students,” said Dr. Bonanno. “We all arrive here with a chip on our shoulder because of those that said we couldn’t do it. But I’m here to show you that you can do it and you will do it.”

The School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony has coincided for the sixth straight term with Beyond Spice Family Weekend at SGU. Students’ family members enjoy a fun-filled weekend of activities, exploring Grenada’s rich cultural heritage and getting a taste of life at SGU before attending the special ceremony, which serves as an affirmation of commitment to their studies and marks the beginning of their medical career.

Dr. Kenneth R. Bridges, Expert in Sickle Cell Research, Delivers Annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture

More than 100 years ago, sickle cell disease was discovered while two doctors examined Grenadian-born Walter Clement Noel. One of the world’s leading authorities on the disease, Dr. Kenneth R. Bridges, Founder and Director of the International Sickle Cell Anemia Research Foundation, delved into this disease, and its treatments, in his keynote address at the annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture on January 18 at St. George’s University’s Bourne Lecture Hall.

“Sickle cell disease is the world’s most common single gene disorder,” said Dr. Bridges in his address. “However, the disease is not simply a blood disorder but a systematic disorder that affects every part of the body. Tell me which area of the body you’re interested in studying and I will tell you what sickle cell disease does to it.”

Sickle cell disease is a disorder of the blood caused by an inherited abnormal hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein within the red blood cells) that causes distorted (sickled) red blood cells leading to tissue and organ damage and chronic pain.

The current treatment of sickle cell disease focuses on treating symptoms while the more challenging and expensive treatments like disease modification therapies remain underutilized, including a promising new drug treatment called GBT440, which causes the inhibition of polymerization of deoxygenated sickle cells.

“The GBT440 drug was specifically and carefully designed to fit into this one area of the body where it stops the abnormal hemoglobin cells from sticking together in the first place, which is at the very start of the problem,” explained Dr. Bridges. “Now with the help of our colleagues here in Grenada, we’re hoping to recapitulate this treatment in a much more profound way and to really deliver on the promise made to Walter Clement Noel 100-plus years ago in that we will now be able to effectively treat this disorder.”

Dr. Bridges received the MD degree from Harvard Medical School, and subsequently trained in internal medicine and hematology in Boston, at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals, respectively. Following medical subspecialty training, Dr. Bridges worked on the biology of cellular iron metabolism for three years at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. He later returned to Harvard as a member of the Hematology Division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he reached the faculty rank of Associate Professor of Medicine. During this time, Dr. Bridges also maintained active clinical work and established the Joint Center for Sickle Cell and Thalassemic Disorders at the two aforementioned Boston-based institutions, emphasizing bench-to-patient translational research.

WINDREF and St. George’s University have long attracted world experts on climate change, health needs, and drug abuse and addictions, among other topics to its various lecture series. Past speakers have included Dr. Robert C. Gallo, best known for his role in the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Dr. Ruth Macklin, a bioethics pioneer; and renowned cardiologist Dr. Valentin Fuster.

The annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture is named for SGU’s second Vice Chancellor, whose vision and dedication to the international growth of St. George’s University led to the creation of the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) in 1994; was instrumental in instituting the School of Arts and Sciences in 1996; and whose memory was honored with the creation of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program and the establishment of Keith B. Taylor Hall on the True Blue campus in 2007.

St. George’s University Celebrates 40 Years of Excellence in International Education

St. George’s University’s highly anticipated 40th anniversary celebration kicked off with a weekend of festivities for which all those who helped author its incredible story—everyone from the faculty and staff to its more than 17,000 graduates — were invited.

SGU’s impact on health care, veterinary medicine, business, and many other fields has been felt both near and far. Close to home, SGU hasplayed and continues to play a large role in transforming the country of Grenada. In addition to contributing millions of dollars to the country’s economy, it is also one of the largest employers of Grenadians on the island, second only to the Government of Grenada. Similarly, SGU is also responsible for transforming education in the region, offering a tertiary education opportunity that has resulted in 1,200 Grenadian alumni, with more than 200 MDs.

Beyond the Isle of Spice, St. George’s University has graduated more than 14,000 physicians and over 1,200 veterinarians, helping to address doctor shortages in the United States, Canada, and around the world.

Dr. G. Richard Olds, who hopes to continue that proud tradition as the University’s inaugural President, welcomed family, friends, and colleagues to a special investiture ceremony at Patrick F. Adams Hall during kickoff weekend. Attendees included Grenada’s Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade, Prime Minister Dr. the Right Honorable Keith Mitchell, Baroness Howells of St. David’s, founding members of SGU, parliamentarians, and diplomats. They included Dr. Timothy White, Chancellor, California State University, who delivered the evening’s keynote address, expressing that, in Dr. Olds, SGU had chosen the right person to lead it into the future.

With more than 70 percent of SGU doctors having gone on to practice primary care, many in areas of need, during his address, Dr. Olds reinforced his and the University’s commitment to addressing the primary care shortage and maldistribution of doctors in the US and worldwide.

“I feel privileged to lead St. George’s University at a time when we are doing more than ever to address the shortage of doctors worldwide,” Dr. Olds said. “Our graduates are fulfilling SGU’s mission to shape the future of our world – especially in communities worldwide that most need quality health care.”

SGU also welcomed back members of its charter class who started class at St. George’s University School of Medicine on January 17, 1977. They joined longtime administrators, faculty, and staff, including retired bus driver, Whitley Courtney, the University’s first-ever employee, at a special Founders Dinner in L’Anse aux Epines hosted by Chancellor Charles R. Modica, one of four of SGU’s founders. Other events included a Charity 5K Fun Run, for which more than 100 runners raced from Founders Library to the Grand Anse campus, tours of the True Blue campus, and a library archive exhibition.

Kickoff weekend festivities were punctuated by a Parade of Nations, for which more than 1,000 students, faculty, and staff celebrated SGU’s cultural diversity. In its 40 years, the University has welcomed individuals from more than 140 countries, and to celebrate, parade participants wore their national colors and waved flags of their native countries on their way through lower campus.

 

Kickoff weekend was only the beginning to a yearlong celebration of SGU’s 40 years. For more information and to register, visit www.sgu.edu/beyond40.