Annual St. George’s University Knowledge Bowl Finals Held on March 31st

sgu knowledge bowl stage 2007Continuing with last years overwhelming success of the first annual Knowledge Bowl, SGU will again host the final round of this dynamic, academic quiz competition. This year’s competition will feature traditional male rivals Presentation Brothers’ College and Grenada Boys Secondary School.

The final match will be held at Bell Lecture Hall on SGU’s True Blue Campus on March 31 at 2:00 p.m. The competition will be broadcast live on Grenada Cablevision Community Channel 6.

The Knowledge Bowl is designed to provide an arena for healthy academic exchange between fourth and fifth term students from Grenada’s secondary schools. This exciting contest will test the participants’ knowledge as they prepare for regional exams. This year’s competition began on February 3rd, when the first six competing schools faced each other for the preliminary round.

The competition was organized and sponsored by SGU and Grenada Cablevision Community Channel 6, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

The material for the quiz questions came from the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council (CSEC) syllabi in the areas of science, information technology, the arts, and humanities. Students also had to have general knowledge of geography, Spanish, food and nutrition, culture, sport, and current affairs. All fourth and fifth term students have to take an external exam as set forth by the CSEC at the end of the year. The quiz competition directly reflects what the students need to study and know for the exam so its purpose is two-fold. It helps not only the participants study for the exam, but also the students watching the competition.

Each team consists of five players, two back-ups, and a coach (teacher). The five team members of the winning team will be awarded a computer system and $500 (US) starter bank accounts, while their school will receive $10,000 (US). The second place team will also receive bank accounts, with a $5,000 (US) donation to their school.

Published 3/29/2007

“From the World to the World – 30 Years of Global Innovation”

30th Anniversary ParadeClear blue skies, a warm sun and a truly bright and picturesque day heralded the start of a beautiful celebration of St. George’s University’s Commencement 30 years ago. “From the World to the World – 30 Years of Global Innovation” is an apt theme for a year-long festival that will honour the unification of people, culture and ideals from across the globe. So much has been accomplished since the first day of classes on January, 17th 1977, and it was a fitting beginning for a year which marks the end of one era and heralds the dawn of a future filled with optimism.

The special day began with an Alumni Breakfast and Dedication Ceremony for “Charter Hall”, a new 735-seat facility that will serve as a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the University’s very first students. “Spice Infusion” – a grand campus party and concert for members of our SGU community, friends and alumni followed. It began with a parade of countries and what a spectacular sight it was to witness the carnival of colors as members of our SGU family gathered at the lower True Blue campus. They came out in their numbers sporting hats, waving flags and wearing the colours of 136 nations of the world. They represented the nationalities from which our faculty, staff and student body have hailed over the thirty years of the University’s existence. The parade ended with a global salute where each representative sounded-off their country’s name and planted their flag at the front of the 30th Anniversary stage.

While declaring Spice Infusion open Provost, Dr. Allen Pensick expressed his joy and pride with the course of the University’s development and the chart for the way forward. Chancellor Modica too expressed his overwhelming fulfillment in seeing his dream and that of the other Founders actualised. Emotions swelled during an unexpected presentation that evening by University Administrators. Witnessed by Grenada’s Governor General, Sir Daniel Williams, Prime Minister Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, parliamentarians, diplomats and other special guests, Chancellor Charles R. Modica became the first inductee to the Order of the Mace, a special award celebrating his phenomenal leadership of SGU from its inception.

It was the climax of an evening which paid homage to individuals and organisations under whose continued care the University flourishes.

Award Recipients:

  • Service Award
    Mr. Victor Benjamin
    Mr. Whitley Courtney
    Mr. Fred Mark
    Mr. Neville Mark
  • Diamond Service Award
    Mr. Christopher Belgrave
    Dr. David Brown
    Mr. Henry Edgar Moore
    Dr. C. V. Rao
    Mr. Carlyle Stafford
    Ms. Jane Sutter
  • Partnership Award
    The Government & People of Grenada
  • Good Neighbour Award
    Grenada Electricity Services
    The Royal Grenada Police
  • Community Service Award
    Fund for Orphans and Elderly
    Grenada Heart Foundation
    Mr. Alexander Paddy Ross
  • Student Humanism Award
    Mr. Ahmed Feras Al-Khalid
  • Research Award
    Dr. Calum Macpherson
  • Visionary Award
    Mr. Andy Belford
    Ms. Margaret Lambert
  • Founders Award
    Dr. Charles R. Modica
    Mr. Louis Modica
    Mr. Patrick Adams
    Mr. Edward McGowan

Colour, dance, food music and theatre from around the world all helped to create the perfect start for the SGU community to celebrate its internationalist growth over the last 30 years. And some say…it just keeps getting better. Stay tuned.

Published 1/29/2007

January 17th Marks the Beginning of The 30th Anniversary Celebration

30th Anniversary LogoThe stage is set, so to speak, for the highly anticipated opening day of the 30th anniversary celebration of SGU. January 17th will kick off a year-long celebration marking The University’s astonishing road to academic excellence and innovation.

The celebratory theme- From the World, to the World – 30 Years of Global Innovation – is infused throughout the day and years events, reinforcing SGU’s commitment to international medical education. The bell above the Bell Lecture Hall will ring 30 times to launch the festivities.

The day begins at 7am when respected alumni and faculty attending the event are welcomed at a breakfast hosted by the University. At 10AM a groundbreaking dedication ceremony for the 720-seat lecture hall at the Lower True Blue Campus will be named for SGU Alumni.

A festive parade full of cultural splendor will begin at 11AM with flags from all nations and students and faculty in their native dress being featured along the route. This impressive display of international unity is representative of the University’s foundation and future.

All participants are invited to attend an exhibition and concert immediately following the parade. Popular Latin music by well-known local bands from Grenada and St. Vincent will add to the festivities. An emotional rendition of “We Are The World” will befittingly end the afternoon.

The celebration continues that evening at 7PM with an Award Ceremony recognizing individuals whose efforts have contributed to the University’s unprecedented growth. Attendees will be honored for years of contribution, community service and external contribution, with an additional award bestowed to the founding members of the University.

Grenada Hosts the 24th Biennial Caribbean Veterinary Medical Association Conference (CbVMA)

The Caribbean Veterinary Medical Association Conference (CbVMA) was held for the first time in Grenada from November 8-10, 2006. SGU School of Veterinary Medicine and the Grenada Veterinary Medical Association were excited to host this prestigious event.
Group Photo at the 24th cbVMAThis year’s conference, “Veterinary Medicine: What is the Future?” brought together veterinarians and scientist from all parts of the Caribbean, Canada, The United States and The United Kingdom to address issues that affect the Caribbean region. A select group of over 150 professionals, including 50-70 students, had the opportunity to network, share ideas and participate in three consecutive days of outstanding education programs on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. This was also a wonderful opportunity for Grenada to exhibit and promote the exceptional facilities of the SGU campus. According to Dr. Raymond Sis, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, the 24th Biennial CbVMA exceeded all of his expectations.

The event began on Wednesday, November 8th with an impressive opening ceremony that included welcome addresses from Dr. Eugene Rennie, President of Grenada Veterinary Medical Association and Dr. Allen Pensick, Provost of SGU. Introductory remarks were then presented by Dr. Sis. This conference offered local government officials an opportunity to participate as well. The conference was opened by Senator the Honorable Adrian Mitchell, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Public Utilities, Energy and MNIB.

Each day of the conference featured a series of lectures on topics including aquatic and avian veterinary medicine, re-emerging infectious diseases, anesthesiology, dentistry and public health. The invited plenary speakers are renowned experts in veterinary medicine. This year’s speakers and their topics included:

Dr. Richard Halliwell, Professor Emeritus, Veterinary Clinical Studies, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, UK: “Whither Veterinary Medicine: Challenges and Opportunities”.

Dr. Tom Nemetz, Dentistry Practice, South Athens, Animal Clinic, Athens, Georgia: Overview of Small Animal Dentistry.

Dr. Scott Echols, Director of Avian Medical and Surgical Services at the Westgate Pet and Bird Hospital in Austin, Texas: Collecting Diagnostic Samples in Avian Patients.

Dr. Gerald Johnson, Faculty of Atlantic Veterinary College of the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada: Aquatic Veterinary Medicine: Awash with Opportunities.

Dr. William Novak, Chief Medical Officer of Banfield, The Pet Hospital: Anesthesiology Workshop.

Dr. Howard Evans, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University: Marine Life of Grenada.

Dr. J.P. Dubey, United States Department of Agriculture: The Economic and Public Health Impact of Toxoplasmosis.

Following opening ceremonies, day one continued with the increasingly important subject of animal dentistry followed by a dental wet lab held at the SGU Campus. Hands-on wet labs were planned for conference participants to develop their skills and knowledge in emergent fields of veterinary medicine. Refreshment and lunch breaks were provided each day by several high profile industry sponsors including Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Novartis Animal Health, Pfizer Animal Health, Bayer Animal Health, Merial and Philbert Thomas. A welcome reception was held that evening at the SGU Campus which featured cultural performances by local group Tivoli Drummers and the Grenada National Folk Group.

The second day opened with an analysis of the recent epidemics of West Nile Encephalitis, Foot and Mouth Disease, Avian Influenza, Canine Influenza, Classical Swine Fever and Bluetongue. The afternoon session focused specifically on avian medicine and the challenges facing CARICOM countries and the preparation for an outbreak of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza). An avian medicine wet lab focusing on collecting diagnostic samples in avian patients was offered to participants. Later that afternoon, a feature lecture and workshop introduced the best anesthesia practices for small animals.

The final day’s itinerary included several concurrent programs on aquatic veterinary medicine, small animal practice guidelines and management and public health issues. Final remarks from Dr. Rennie, President of Grenada VMA, and a farewell banquet at the Aquarium Restaurant closed the conference.

Dr. Sis acknowledges the dedication of all who helped make the conference a success. “The many benefits that were derived by all who participated were made possible due to the diligence and cooperative team effort of each member of the local arrangements committee,” said Dr. Sis.
The committee included the following colleagues from The School of Veterinary Medicine, Grenada Veterinary Medical Association and WINDREF Research Institute:

Dr. Raymond Sis
Dr. Eugene Rennie
Dr. Bowen Louison
Dr. Calum Macpherson
Dr. Ravindra Sharma
Dr. Tara Paterson
Dr. John McKibben
Dr. Claude DeAllie
Dr. Buxton Nyack
Mrs. Meg Conlon
Mrs. Lisa McCartney

Dr. Sis gives special thanks and commendations to Mrs. Lisa McCartney, conference coordinator, who played a major role in the success of the conference. SGU and the Grenada Veterinary Medical Association look forward to hosting another CbVMA Conference in the near future.

Published on 11/21/2006

30th Anniversary Celebrations Planned From the World, to the World – 30 Years of Global Innovation

Campus Shot 2006On January, 17 2007, SGU will host an Anniversary Celebration in honor of the day that the Charter Class began classes 30 years ago. This party will begin a year-long celebration marking the University’s 30th anniversary, a milestone that marks an astonishing road to academic excellence and innovation. The celebratory theme of the title highlights SGU’s commitment to international medical education.

The University is getting ready for its eagerly anticipated birthday party. The bell above the Bell Lecture Hall will ring 30 times to launch the year of festivities. SGU students will be given the day off to enjoy all the activities planned on campus. SGU graduates from all the schools will also be invited to partake in the opening ceremonies.

Throughout the year, highly publicized events, ceremonies and public lectures will be conducted, all designed to reward those whose efforts have allowed the University to flourish, and to provide a platform for speakers to stress the importance of global awareness in education in today’s world.

The opportunity to recognize and award staff, faculty and others for distinguished service will also be incorporated into the year’s events.

A festive calendar of the year’s celebration is being finalized. Stay tuned – it will be posted soon.

Published on 10/27/2006

President of World Veterinary Association welcomes new Vet Students at White Coat Ceremony

Dr. Leon H. Russell, President of the World Veterinary Association, welcomed a new class of veterinary students to St. George’s University during his Keynote Address at the White Coat Ceremony held on August 22, 2006.

Dr Leon RUssell Speaking at SVM 2006 White Coat78 new veterinary medical students (22 men and 56 women) from seven different countries were welcomed to St. George’s at the 14th White Coat Ceremony of the School of Veterinary Medicine. To an audience filled with family, friends and faculty members, the new students pledged their commitment to the field of veterinary medicine.

Dr. Russell welcomed the students to veterinary medicine and urged them to try their hardest. “The next three years will require your dedication, perseverance and hard work to build on the educational foundation you already have,” he said. “You will have a great adventure within this profession, but it will continue to take great effort from you to succeed.”

Dr. Russell also talked about the significance of the white coat and the white coat ceremony, saying that it represents professionalism – an obligation that is inherent in the practice of medicine. He provided a descriptive analogy of what the white coats symbolizes. The three pockets of the coat “contain empathy, integrity, and productivity.” The five buttons represent these actions: “love what you are doing; love your colleagues, respect and appreciate your fellow students and your faculty; love your family; love and care for your patients; and love to plan for your future.”

Woman Receiving White Coat at SVM 2006Chancellor Charles R. Modica also welcomed the students to SGU, encouraging them to succeed in their goals and strive for greatness. Dr. Raymond Sis, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, addressed the veterinary medical students, and welcomed them to Grenada and to their new noble profession. “You must honor the sacred trust and privilege that society places in medical professionals, cognizant that the standard is an ideal we must continuously aim to achieve,” he added.

Dr. Russell serves as a professor at Texas A&M, teaching epidemiology, biostatistics, toxicology, veterinary anatomy, public health, food science, medical microbiology and immunology. He held leadership roles in the Texas Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Chosen by the AVMA Board to represent the U.S. at the World Veterinary Association (WVA), Dr. Russell was elected Vice President in 2002. In 2005, he was elected President of the WVA at the 28th World Veterinary Congress.

Dr. Russell earned his DVM at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. He received his MPH from Tulane University and his PhD from Texas A&M University. With his professional interests in epidemiology, food toxicology and mycology, Dr. Russell entered academia as a teacher and researcher. He has represented his professional on state, national and international levels throughout his career.

Students Clapping at SVM 2006 White Coat Ceremony

Published on 09/07/2006

St. George’s University Anatomy Students Succeed at the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA) Annual Meeting

SGU had a contingent of 22 Anatomy students, accompanied by Associate Professor Marios Loukas, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA) in Milwaukee from July 10-15, 2006. Armed with four oral and 18 poster presentations, the SGU group was a large, positive, – and winning – presence.

Group Photo at the AACA

Two of the SGU students, Jorge Bentacor and Lisa Cadoo, won the Sandy C. Marks Jr. award for their poster presentation entitled “The clinical anatomy of the greater and lesser splanchnic nerves.” Competition for this award was extremely high with 55 students from different medical schools, including Albert Einstein, Mayo Clinic, Michigan State University, University of Toronto, competing for it.

Dr. Marios Loukas, a longtime attendee at the AACA meetings, had never been accompanied by so many qualified and dedicated students. “The group showed an amazing degree of professionalism but most importantly a high degree of knowledge and dedication,” Dr. Loukas said. “We were by far the best group of students both scientifically and socially; we were a big presence.” The SGU students were the largest group of medical students from one school to ever attend the AACA annual meeting.

In order to be able to attend, the students had to meet certain criteria: Honor students with no failing grades, and they had to have done significant research. They also had to be eager to attend. The 22 students met before a Congress earlier in the year, submitted their abstracts, presented their work, and were chosen to be delegates.

Campus Shot of the Anatomy Building

In addition, Dr. Peter Abrahams, Professor of Anatomy, at SGU, was the honored member of the AACA for 2006, the highest form of recognition from the association. In addition to teaching part time at SGU, Dr. Abraham also teaches at Cambridge University as a Fellow of Girton College. His devotion to anatomy, medicine, art history and the developing world are evidenced in his clinical practice and many activities in all of these areas.

“I would like to thank all the people that helped us performing our research and most importantly believed that we could win this important award,” Dr. Loukas concluded. “The students of SGU were the best ambassadors of the school and provided to the Anatomical World the proof of the high quality students St. George’s University attracts and produces.”

Please visit AACA’s website for more information on this year’s meeting and the award: http://www.clinicalanatomy.org/news.html

Published on 08/31/2006

New Class of Medical Students Take Oath at White Coat Ceremony

St. George’s University School of Medicine officially welcomed a new class of medical students on August 21, 2006, at the White Coat Ceremony. The proud and eager students received warm welcomes and words of wisdom from many at SGU as well as this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. David Muller, Dean of Medical Education at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

Student Given White Coat 2006361 students from 29 different countries around the world gathered at Grenada’s Convention Center with white coats in hand. During the ceremony the students were clothed in their coats by medical professionals and they took a professional oath, promising to act with integrity and in an ethical manner during their training and careers in medicine. The White Coat Ceremony marks their official entry into medicine.

Chancellor Charles R. Modica welcomed the students to St. George’s and wished them well as they begin a “great and noble career.” He pointed out that the path they have chosen “carries with it a profound obligation of service to others.”
The SGU alumni Master of Ceremonies was Francis McGill, MD, SGU ’81, Associate Dean of Clinical Studies, US, at SGU.

During his keynote address, Dr. Muller urged the students to remember what it was that attracted them to the profession of medicine. He cautioned that there would be many distractions along the way, that one of the occupational hazards of being a physician, ironically, is becoming inured to the needs of the patient. A physician must always remember the patient’s humanity and respond to the totality of his or her needs, as well as those of the family. Patient care must be kept foremost in each physician’s mind and practice. (For the full version of Dr. Muller’s keynote address, please click here)

Dr. Muller, MD, received a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MD from New York University School of Medicine. He completed his Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he spent an additional as Chief Resident. Upon completing his training, Dr. Muller co-founded and directed the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors Program, which is now the largest academic physician home visiting program in the country. In May 2005 he was appointed Dean for Medical Education.
Students Reading at White Coat Ceremony 2006Dr. Muller’s recent honors include the Department of Medicine’s Ruth Abramson Humanism in Medicine Award in 2005, induction into the Gold Humanism Honor Society in 2004, and the Casita Maria Community Builder Award in 2002. Dr. Muller is Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Education and is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine.

Following the Keynote Address, the medical students took their oath of professional commitment, promising to be responsible, professional, ethical, and honorable during their careers as physicians. Afterwards, a reception was held for the students and their families.

Published on 08/25/2006

The 9th Annual Prague Selective Comes to a Successful Close

The 9th Annual Prague Selective came to a close on July 28, 2006, and the 120 first- and second-year medical students from around the world returned home from the Czech Republic. These students studied medicine for three weeks in Prague – gaining a unique clinical experience in this beautiful eastern European city.

This popular clinical Selective, an SGUSOM course registered with the International Health Medical Education Consortium, has become the largest of its kind in the world.

Prague

Prague

Its founder and dedicated director is Martin Stransky, MD, SGU ’83, who began the Selective with the goal of enhancing and broadening the thinking process of future physicians at a crucial stage in their training. Entitled “Introduction and Exploration of Issues in Clinical Medicine,” the Selective, according to Dr. Stransky “should not be approached as a third year clinical experience, but rather as a cultural, ethical, and educational experience.”

Instructed by 40 local faculty members and physicians, the students spend mornings rotating in clinics and hospitals, where they are able to scrub into surgeries and see first hand the way hospitals operate in a different country. In the afternoon, the students attend academic seminars conducted by medical professionals; these seminars are structured to allow the students to learn how to think about cases and medicine in general.

One of this year’s highlights was an afternoon session with the American Ambassador to the Czech Republic, William J. Cabaniss. At the end of the course, the students take an exam, and, upon successful completion, they receive credits on their medical transcripts.

Half of the 120 students were from St. George’s University. Others came from as far away as Tasmania. Many were from US medical schools, including SUNY Upstate, SUNY Downstate, SUNY Buffalo, University of California at San Diego, and Dartmouth. There were students from Puerto Rico and Canada as well.

“We had a huge amount of press coverage this year, more so than in previous years,” Dr. Stransky said. “The program is growing so much each year that we’re planning on expanding it to other cities in the Czech Republic next year. We had more than 100 people on the waiting list.”

The Prague Daily Monitor wrote a story on the Selective.

“Word of mouth and recommendations is what has made the Prague Selective so popular,” Dr. Stransky said. “Feedback from students has been positive over the years and this is what makes the program so successful.”

For more information on the Prague Selective, visit sgusom.hyperlink.cz and for more information on Dr. Martin Stransky, and to contact him, visit www.narodni.cz.

Published on 08/15/2006

St. George’s Graduation Commencement Address 2006 Dr Richard EW Halliwell

My warmest congratulations to each and every one of you!

This day marks the culmination of aspirations and dreams that all of you have had for many, many years. And I am sure that the path for some of you has not been an easy one. It is also the culmination of the dreams and aspirations that parents, family, loved ones and other supporters have had for you. Their support, given unstintingly and often involving considerable sacrifice has been crucial to your success. So on this very special day, we pay tribute both to you, who mastered all of the knowledge and clinical skills required of you, and also to those whose help and support has been so crucial to your success.

Some years ago, you made the decision to join the St George’s family. Your graduation today is not the end of that relationship, but it marks a new beginning as an alumnus. The St George’s family is noted for a very special spirit and esprit de corps. All of you went through the trauma of hurricane Ivan, that could well have seriously disrupted your studies. But your administration worked night and day to make alternative arrangements. In my case, as a visiting Professor, I had to trade the beach of Grande Anse for the cornfields of Manhattan Kansas. And however high my regard is for that august institution, and for the generosity and welcome that its staff extended to all, for someone coming from Scotland in November, it just wasn’t quite the same thing! But the spirit of camaraderie that was evidenced by displaced students and staff alike was nothing short of remarkable. There was an absolute commitment and determination to overcome the serious setback. And, of course, you succeeded. The true spirit of St George’s was never more evident than at that traumatic time. I urge you to continue to embrace this spirit in the years ahead. Keep in touch with your classmates, with other alumni and with the administration. In so doing you will help to maintain something very special for future generations of students.

Medicine and veterinary medicine have much in common – indeed some maintain that there is but one medicine, only with different branches for different mammalian species. Both professions, of course, are held in the highest esteem by society as embodying the finest characteristics as caring professions. But gratifying though that is, it places upon each and everyone of you an awesome responsibility – that of upholding the traditions of integrity and of high ethical standards that have made our two professions such pinnacles amongst society. The future will not always be easy. There will be difficult times when you will be faced with difficult decisions. But when struggling over which course of action you should take, be guided by the reasons that made you aspire to your career – which I am sure was desire at all times to do your very best to improve the health and welfare of the patients committed to your care – be they animals or human beings.

And then both professions are devoted primarily – either directly or indirectly, at the betterment of human health. The veterinary profession, of course, is charged with ensuring the safety and quality of foods of animal origin. But the very substantial health benefits that pet animal ownership conveys on their owners are less well-recognized. These benefits translate into substantially lower incidences of many common ailments, with cost savings in health care, and improved contributions to national gross domestic products that are measured in the billions. Then the stress relieving effects of pet ownership have been shown to very significantly lower the morbidity and mortality in patients with coronary artery disease, and pet-facilitated therapy is increasingly employed to enhance the quality of life for sufferers of chronic diseases. Yes, people can become allergic to their pets, but genetic engineering has now enabled the removal of the gene encoding for the major cat allergen from that species. There is also evidence that exposure of potentially atopic children to pets early in their life, lessens the likelihood of the development of severe allergies to other environmental allergens later in life.

And the study of comparative medicine can unlock secrets surrounding puzzling diseases that affect both man and animals. For example, both suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. There are anecdotal reports that this disease may be transmitted from dog to man, or vice versa. Yes, the reports are indeed anecdotal, but how many anecdotes are required – all suggesting the same thing, before a call for in depth investigations is answered.

In fact the value of the study of comparative medicine has been well-known for many years. A prime example was the remarkable observation of Edward Jenner in 1790, that people who contracted cow pox from milking cattle were apparently immune to small pox. This provided the basis for the vaccine that enabled the eradication of this appalling disease from the planet. But sadly not all zoonotic diseases are of such direct benefit to mankind. Indeed the past two decades has witnessed the emergence of serious diseases that continue to challenge both our professions.

Firstly, I mention that peculiarly British creation – bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE or mad cow disease. This has the potential to cause the invariably fatal new variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in people. Although thus far less than 200 people have succumbed to the disease world-wide, the variable, and very long incubation period of the different genotypes makes it impossible to predict the ultimate impact with any certainty. The disease has been exported from the UK to many countries, and entered the USA via Canada. But is unclear how the calf born last year in Texas acquired the infection. Not only does BSE have implications for human health, but the economic ramifications for the US have been profound, with losses of export markets in Asia worth $10 billion annually.

Then there was the saga of SARS, or severe acute respiratory disease. The infection was caused by a coronavirus that it was believed had mutated from that carried by civet cats and/or raccoon dogs. But the true reservoir has now been shown to be the Chinese horseshoe bat. This disease caused close to 1000 deaths worldwide, with most concentrated in Asia, but with a significant outbreak in Canada. The disease has been eradicated from the human population, but whether or not it will re-emerge remains to be seen.

But the impact of SARS pales into insignificance when one considers the possible impact of the avian influenza strain H5N1. This virus appears to be endemic in a number of Asian countries, and shows highly variable biological activity in different species. Thus some duck species can act as carriers, whereas in swans and apparently also in cats, it is usually fatal. Deaths in humans are currently numbered in the low hundreds, but the reported mortality rate is alarmingly high at 50%. However one must emphasize that the disease surveillance in some Asian countries is such that one has little idea of its true incidence, and of how many mild or subclinical cases may have occurred. Thus far, it does not spread readily between humans, but it only requires a single point mutation to enable it to achieve rapid spread. When one realises that the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which killed some 50 millions world-wide originated in the same way from a mutation of an avian disease, the possibilities of a pandemic are truly alarming. They are even more so when one realises that the 1918 epidemic had a mortality rate of only 2%.

Yes, new diseases are indeed emerging at an alarming rate, and it is quite certain that they will continue to do so. Of these new diseases, it is estimated that 75% have zoonotic potential. So it was never more important that our two professions work together as one. Only by an ever closer partnership can we face and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. It was also never more important that public investment in health research is increased. And this investment should not be limited to expenditure in any one country, for disease knows no boundaries.

Your graduation today is not, of course, the end of learning – it is merely the beginning of a new phase of learning. Learning in our professions continues until the day we die, or we leave the profession. You are all fortunate enough to be faced with a plethora of opportunities in the years ahead. There are many branches, many specialties of medicine and veterinary medicine open to you. But do not readily discard the very important role that the general veterinary practitioner has, or that the family doctor has. These are indeed the backbones of our respective professions. And do please consider the possibilities of a research career. But remember also that many of the most important original observations have been made from practice. So, irrespective of whether you are in basic or clinical research, or in whatever type of medicine or veterinary medicine you end up, you all have both the ability and the potential to advance knowledge. So maintain and develop your problem-solving skills. Approach your cases with an open mind. Foster and develop your spirit of enquiry. Discuss your cases with your peers and colleagues. Develop the concept of self assessment, learn from your experiences, from your mistakes, and document your observations.

And amongst you, it is certain that there are future leaders of your respective professions – leaders who will play a role in your professional organisations, and who will influence government in shaping the health care policies of the future.

So, let me conclude by emphasizing that you are all today on the threshold of exciting careers – of careers that offer you an unparalleled and unique breadth of challenges and opportunities. You have been well-prepared for them.

Enjoy your careers, rise to the challenges, seize the opportunities, and may I wish each and everyone of you more than your share of good luck.

Published on 08/08/2006