St. George’s University Welcomes 560 Students at Spring 2013 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies

Students in St. George’s University School of Medicine and the University’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program waited with excitement, exuberance, and a bit of apprehension. In two ceremonies, in two countries, the Spring 2013 class of 560 medical students took their first step in the journey that is medical school.

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It is a milestone that SGU graduate Leslie Griffin, MD, MPH ’08, vividly recalled when as a new medical student she began her medical career at St. George’s University. Dr. Griffin, now a clinical faculty member at University of Tennessee Family Practice, put the feeling into words as the master of ceremonies at the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony in Grenada on Monday, January 21.

“You chose a medical school that will not only provide you with an excellent education, but with access to experiences with diverse medical systems and cultures,” Dr. Griffin said, “Over the next four years you will create lasting relationships that will help you as you advance though the trials of being a medical student on towards residency and beyond.”

Delivering a spirited and passionate address, keynote speaker Charles Twort MA, MD, FRCP, FRCPE, a consultant physician in general and respiratory medicine at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals, described the White Coat Ceremony as a symbol of humanism and the coat as a cloak of responsibility, trust, and purity.

“You’re amongst the greatest and the brightest of the crop; however you have a responsibility as a future doctor to link your academic intellect with your care for individual patients,” Dr. Twort said. “The donning of the white coat is a symbol of respect and trust from your patients, but this respect must be earned and kept.”

Emphasizing communication as the key to success, Dr. Twort continued, imploring students to “listen to your patients without interrupting and give them information in words they can understand. Avoid medical jargon so your patients can confidently and collaboratively make decisions with you about their healthcare.”

The entering class of students in Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars program took their professional oath in a ceremony at Domain Hall within the Northumbria Students’ Union building in Newcastle, UK.

Dr. David Pencheon, the director of the National Health Service (NHS) Sustainable Development Unit, was the keynote speaker for the evening. He explained that patients demand two important qualities from their doctors. First, they must be a strong communicator, particularly by listening thoroughly to their patients’ experiences, abiding by the phrase “Trust me, I’m your patient.”

Second, he insisted that doctors must build and foster lifelong relationships with their clientele, serving as a resource for their patients. Doctors will first do something to a patient, then for a patient, and through forming a strong bond, then ultimately with a patient.

In addition, Dr. Pencheon insisted that the future doctors must distinguish and relay the causes of health, a quality as crucial as seekin g the causes of disease.. Looking ahead to the future, Dr. Pencheon explained the world needs leaders who rank global health foremost among their priorities. He said that doctors shine in critical times, but such situations would not arise if budding issues were addressed before they became a widespread problem.

Addressing the incoming students at the white coat ceremony in Grenada thirty-six years and four days after the School of Medicine accepted its first class; St. George’s University Chancellor Charles Modica referenced the humble beginnings of the University. Despite its many changes throughout the years, he stated, “One thing that hasn’t changed is the true desire in classes such as this, to become physicians and to serve fellow men, and that’s what we’re all about – pursuing dreams and making them happen.”

Aspiring Rider Turned Horse Vet Relishes Role

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Growing up in Colorado, Dr. Kirsten Traul, DVM ’04, admits she had similar dreams to her fellow horse-crazy classmates, she wanted to be a professional rider. She couldn’t get enough of horses then, and her attitude hasn’t wavered, although she’s in a different albeit rewarding role as the attending veterinarian at Premier Breeding Services, a large equine reproduction facility in southeast Denver, CO.

“It is fascinating to me because no two days are alike,” said Dr. Traul. “Every day has something unusual to it that makes me stretch and grow as a veterinarian. I really enjoy working with horses, particularly with the foals. It’s kind of a mix of being an OB/GYN and an emergency room doctor. It is fun.”

Her affinity for horses started at age eight and she was a competitive rider throughout junior high school and high school. “A woman in the neighborhood who had a horse farm let a bunch of us kids go and ride and play with the babies,” Dr. Traul recalls. “She got me completely hooked on horses.”

Her love of horses evolved into a desire to care for them in the most intense way possible – as a veterinarian. She enrolled at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine to pursue that dream and took advantage of learning from a faculty that was both renowned and diverse. She fully embraced the Grenadian culture and appreciated the knowledge and accessibility of the professors.

“SGU taught me to think through a diagnosis and to ask the right questions,” Dr. Traul said. “The experience was very hands-on and that helped you developed good observation skills.”

“One of the best things about SGU is the fact that it isn’t a US school. It makes you think in a different way, and makes you a better vet.”

Located just outside the SGU campus, the Elisabeth McClellan Small Animal Clinic provides outstanding care to the Grenadian community while also serving as a venue to teach St. George’s University students the clinical skills necessary to be successful in the profession.

Dr. Traul completed her clinical rotations at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine in early January 2004. She was hired by Washington State CVM’s anesthesia department immediately after graduation. In 2006, she and her husband moved to Colorado where she was appointed to the Premier Breeding Services staff. By Dr. Traul’s estimation, the organization breeds upwards of 300 mares a season, delivering 30 to 40, and stands between 15 and 20 stallions. In addition to basic reproduction services, she provides neonatal care, assists in the transfer of embryos and collects semen for shipping and freezing, as well as dealing with colics and other emergencies.

She runs a mobile veterinary service during the fall months; horses breed from January to September. In visits to her clients, Dr. Traul administers vaccinations, performs routine physical examinations, and responds to various emergencies. She is also a certified veterinary acupuncturist.

“One of the best things about SGU is the fact that it isn’t a US school,” Dr. Traul said. “It makes you think in a different way, and makes you a better vet. I enjoyed the experience very much.”

“Sea Grapes” Named Best In Show For SGU Photo Contest

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Hundreds of images were sent in from all over the world, and once again, the fifth annual “Focus: An SGU Perspective” Photo Contest has, in one way or another, captured the spectacular and international flavor of the St. George’s University experience. After the votes were tabulated, “Sea Grapes,” a photo taken by first-term veterinary medical student Lindsay Shephard, was named Best in Show.

Ms. Shephard captured the winning image while waiting to watch the sun set over Grand Anse Beach in August. The girl pictured was using a plastic bucket to catch sea grapes that her mother, higher up in the tree, tossed down to her.

“This picture has such an innocent feel to it,” Ms. Shephard said. “The girl was perfectly content to spend her afternoon with her mom picking sea grapes. It’s a reminder to enjoy the simplicities of life.”

She snapped the photo using her Canon EOS Rebel XS. Days later, Ms. Shephard was officially welcomed into the School of Veterinary Medicine at its White Coat Ceremony at Adams Hall.

All placewinners will be published in the 2013 edition of Mace, the University’s annual literary magazine, which also features stories and poems related to this year’s theme, “Vision.” You can also see them by visiting SGU’s Facebook page.

“From a diverse blend of students, alumni, faculty, and staff comes imagery from all over the world that reflects the SGU family’s unique makeup,” said Margaret A. Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning, University Registrar and Director of Communications and Publications. “The beautiful array of discoveries on display in this year’s photo contest demonstrates the full breadth of the SGU experience, whether it’s down the street from the True Blue campus or around the world.”

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS:

Categories and submission details for the 2013 Photo Contest will be announced during the Spring 2013 term.

MBA Degree Has Helped Grenadian Develop Charcoals Caribbean Grill

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Brigitte Assing and her colleagues shared a moment of joy this past spring. Having worked tirelessly to complete St. George’s Master of Business Administration program, the charter class graduated with their MBA in International Business.

Assing, who owns and operates Charcoals Caribbean Grill in Lance aux Epines, had only one regret—that she didn’t get her MBA sooner. It has made a world of difference.

“In retrospect it would have been great to have gotten it prior to opening the restaurant,” Assing said. “What I learned in the MBA program would have helped a lot. There are so many things that we probably wasted money on thinking we were doing the right thing.”

She and her husband Mark had always dreamed of opening their own restaurant and in 2009 Charcoals welcomed its first customers. Located approximately 1.5 miles from the St. George’s University campus and boasting an affordable menu of items that includes a mix of burgers, sandwiches, seafood, salads and more, Charcoals quickly became a popular spot among residents and St. George’s University students. They had their niche – tasty yet affordable fare.

“There are quite a few restaurants that are in a higher price bracket so we decided to offer healthy grilled food at affordable prices for families and students who are looking for a good value when eating out,” Assing said.

However, despite some early success, Brigitte soon learned that opening a restaurant and creating the menu were the least of the challenges she would face. Keeping the books, developing and launching an effective marketing program, and growing a loyal following made her realize that she needed some training in these areas if she was to make her family business a success. In 2010, she set off to earn her Master of Business Administration and in June 2012 was part of the charter class of MBA graduates from SGU.

“I had always wanted to get my MBA, but I just never had the opportunity. I thought it would be difficult to balance my studies with family and work, but SGU’s online format made it easier for me to accomplish my goals, “Assing said. “I realized that SGU was offering a great opportunity. I went forward with the degree and have never regretted it.”

The MBA program charter class included nearly a dozen students from around the world. Despite the online format, members of the charter class grew to become friends after meeting each other in Grenada during one of the residency weeks held at the beginning and end of the degree track.

“Even though we rarely met in person, we did meet often via our computer screens so I got to know my classmates and enjoyed working with them on projects,” said Assing, who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.

“It was wonderful being able to graduate with my team,” she continued. “We were all so proud to still be together. We had worked so hard over the past 18 months and could now point to our accomplishment.”

Since graduating from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality and Business management in 1991, Assing has spent more than 20 years in the field of business in management positions. She worked for nine years at Spice Island Beach Resort, and then in 1999, she joined Woodlands-based Creative Design Building Construction Co., Ltd., as an Administrative manager and was promoted to Procurement and Administrative Services manager in 2005. In that position she developed and managed the Administrative department and its budgets, oversaw all overseas and local procurement and distribution of all construction materials, including all new and ongoing construction projects at St. George’s University. During this period she was specifically involved in the rebuilding of SGU after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the campus in 2004.

Since 2009, Assing has been a business and hospitality guest lecturer at St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences. She is also on the board of directors at her alma mater, Westmorland Secondary School in Grenada. She and her husband of 17 years live in Lance aux Epines and have one daughter.

Bound For Down Under: Rachel Halbert Becomes First DVM Licensee in New Zealand

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St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has prepared Dr. Rachel Halbert well for her next adventure, which will take her across the globe. In January, Dr. Halbert will begin serving as Veterinary Technical Supervisor for the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, becoming the first-ever SGU DVM graduate to be licensed in the country.

The global education she received at St. George’s provided the Wisconsin native with a natural springboard for her professional horizons upon graduation. She attained her Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) concurrently, fast-tracking her for a career in a leadership role in veterinary medicine and public health, which she found to be a “much more satisfying route” compared to traditional veterinary medicine.

“Going to St. George’s gave me a global perspective on different disease processes,” Dr. Halbert said. “I valued having professors from all over; everyone had personal stories from where they lived, and the education reflected it as well. Just because something happens in the US doesn’t mean it happens someplace else, and vice versa.”

The Ministry, one of the largest veterinary employers in New Zealand, contributes toward the country’s long-term economic and nutritional growth by maintaining its agriculture, food, forestry, fisheries and marine industries. According to the Ministry, exports from the country climbed from $39 million to $44.2 million from 2010 to 2011, an increase of 13 percent. The sharpest increase by percentage (25%) came in the dairy sector, on which Dr. Halbert concentrated throughout her career in veterinary medicine.

She will be based in the port town of Timaru, located approximately two-and-a-half hours from the city of Christchurch. Her primary responsibilities will include maintaining humane conditions for animals, performing health checks and ensuring that communicable diseases aren’t introduced into the food chain or general population.

With more than 140 countries represented on the Grenada and UK campuses, St. George’s University is an international institution with a conscious international outreach. Just months before Dr. Halbert’s appointment in New Zealand, Dr. Lauren Havenga, DVM (SGUSVM ‘10), became the first SVM graduate to be licensed to practice in South Africa. The University is one of just 12 AVMA-accredited veterinary medical schools outside the United States and Canada. The University encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to take dual degrees in public health and/or business, leading to leadership roles in the professions.

As she embarks on her next adventure, when she must be prepared for anything that comes her way, Dr. Halbert is thrilled to have a solid foundation in place – the education she received at St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

“I’m open to whatever comes my way with time,” Dr. Halbert said. “I don’t have a clear vision of where I want to go from here, but I would love to see where this opportunity takes me. St. George’s prepared me to consider a world of opportunities.”

US National Academic Advising Association Recognizes St. George’s Department of Educational Services

The National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) announced that St. George’s University Department of Educational Services was selected as recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Certificate of Merit Award for its Supplemental Learning Program (SLP). Based in the US with members representing all 50 states and Puerto Rico, for more than 30 years the NACADA has supported academic advising and recognized higher education programs that contribute to academic advising and student-related support services. St. George’s is the first Caribbean institution outside of Puerto Rico to be recognized by the association.

The award was presented to the SLP unit in early October during NACADA’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado. “We are honored that NACADA has recognized the efforts of the Supplemental Learning Program,” said Dr. Adrian Havenga, Chair and Professor of Education Services.

The voluntary group sessions are held at least once a week, providing extra academic support for the larger classes offered at the University that are traditionally found to be more rigorous. Although available to all students, Dr. Havenga stressed how the program has been extremely beneficial for incoming students. “Even though it is not mandatory, students elect to use this resource—especially in the beginning of the semester when they are still finding their feet,” he added.

In addition to surveying students and faculty, the Department monitors attendance and performance scores to review the outcomes of the program and the progress of participants. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve and for new methods that will help our students master the material,” said Peter Slinger, Instructor of Educational Services, of the continuous evaluation that goes in to developing a top learning support program.

Since its inception in 2000, the SLP functions as an academic support group primarily for students in their undergraduate and preprofessional studies, including Arts and Sciences, Charter Foundation, Premedical, and Preveterinary Medical programs. In addition to the SLP, the Department of Education Services provides academic development and support services to students and faculty across all disciplines. Close to 100 percent of the University’s students—and many of the professors—in all schools avail themselves of the support offered through a variety of innovative programs, including time management, note-taking skills, and utilizing technology effectively in teaching and learning.

NACADA is US-based international organization representing 10,000 members from higher education institutions from around the world. Members include faculty, advisors, counselors, administrators and students. The goal of NACADA has been to honor individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising.

SGU Tops US Performance on USMLE Step 1

In 2010, SGU’s US and Canadian medical students surpassed medical school students in the US and Canada with a 94% first time pass rate on the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1. In fact, overall, SGU first time USMLE takers – students who were from 49 different countries – equaled the first time pass rate of 92% in the US and Canada for 2010.

“We are thrilled to be able to report this result,” said Chancellor Charles Modica of St. George’s University. “St. George’s has always had a strong commitment to teaching and learning – and this result only serves to reinforce our focus on training excellent doctors for the US, Canada, and the world.”

Margaret Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning considers St. George’s unique Department of Educational Services a cornerstone of the success SGU students have seen when taking the USMLE. “SGU’s success with student support services is borne out in the results we have achieved,” remarked Dean Lambert. “Our faculty is committed to excellence in teaching, both in Grenada and at our Global Scholars Program in the UK, and our commitment to student success supports our mission as an institution of teaching excellence.”

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*Excludes SGU
1. St. George’s University, Office of Enrolment Planning
2. United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) website as published in 2010 National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Annual Report

Grenada – Campaign for a Healthier Lifestyle

Campaign supported by Grenada’s Kirani James – newly crowned 400m world champion

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The campaign for a healthier Grenada – spearheaded by ‘Sport for Health in the Caribbean,’ with the support of the Government of Grenada and the Grenada National Olympic Committee—will be given added impetus as a result of national research findings involving 500 Grenadians, on their motivation for leading a healthier lifestyle. This was announced in London by Dr. Calum Macpherson, Director of Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF)—the research institute at St. George’s University.

A major objective of the campaign is to confront the challenges of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. The announcement made at the conclusion of the United Nations NCD Summit in New York this past September, “will enable us to develop a national database and measure results on whether the campaign has made a lasting impact among different age and sex populations throughout Grenada. And, if not, what needs to be done.”

Dr. Macpherson pointed out that “a recent study, in collaboration with Grenada’s Ministry of Health and the Grenada Heart Project, has shown that 80 percent of Grenadian women over the age of 25 are classified as obese. We seek to galvanize Grenadians in the battle for a healthier lifestyle and pass on the lessons learned to other Caribbean countries.”

Funds for the campaign were raised at the WINDREF dinner at the House of Lords last November, hosted by WINDREF’s President, Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, and Baroness Howells of St Davids, the only Grenadian in the House of Lords.

At the dinner Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Olympic Games Organizing Committee, spoke of the “power of the Games to inspire change, particularly for young people.” The role model and first sporting ambassador for the campaign is Kirani James, Grenada’s first gold athletics winner at the recent World Athletics Championships.

With the formation of the Sport for Health Committee in Grenada, including former Governor General Sir Paul Scoon and Speaker of the House of Representatives George McGuire, the campaign was formally launched in Grenada in March. Sporting ambassadors were appointed in Grenada’s 22 secondary schools to support sporting activities in their schools and local communities. The most successful sporting ambassador will be invited to attend the Olympic Games in London, a major incentive for the newly appointed ‘ambassadors.’

“The research study will involve the sporting ambassadors in selecting suitable participants,” said Dr. Macpherson. “We will also work with three fitness centers, or boot camps, run by the police, and students in the School of Arts and Sciences at St. George’s University. The idea is that there should be a competitive element behind the data collection from the various sources – with participants regularly weighed and measured and the figures being released to Grenada’s national news media.”

The campaign is being supported by leading former Caribbean sportspeople including Olympic gold medalist Tessa Sanderson; former leading footballers Cyrille Regis and Garth Crooks; and Jason Roberts from Grenada, who plays for Blackburn Rovers.

St. George’s University Earns US Accreditation for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program

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The American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) announced its full accreditation of the St. George’s University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program for seven years. This accreditation follows a self study by the School of Veterinary Medicine, and a site visit by a team of AVMA appointed reviewers in April of 2011.

According to the AVMA website, “accreditation by the AVMA COE represents the highest standard of achievement for veterinary medical education in the United States. Institutions that earn accreditation confirm their commitment to quality and continuous improvement through a rigorous and comprehensive peer review.” Furthermore, students graduating from an AVMA COE-accredited institution can be assured the education they receive meets a “competency threshold for entry into practice, including eligibility for professional licensure”.

Dr. Raymond F. Sis, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, led the accreditation efforts. Having joined St. George’s University in 2001 as a professor of Anatomy, and then being appointed Dean of the SVM in 2003, he has brought his knowledge and passion for veterinary medical education to his current role.

“Accreditation of the Veterinary Medicine program is a direct result of the hard work undertaken by our very dedicated faculty, administration, and staff members, “said Dr. Sis. “The AVMA site visit in April was the culmination of more than 10 years of dedicated veterinary education by faculty, administration, and staff that are second to none.”

The AVMA COE site visit team traveled to the St. George’s campus in April for a comprehensive review of the DVM program curriculum, physical facilities, equipment, clinical resources, and library and information resources as part of its assessment of the program’s readiness for accreditation. Admissions policies, faculty qualifications, and the number and quality of professional degree students in the DVM program were also assessed.

Citing the quality of St. George’s DVM program, Dr. Sis provided further comment on the accreditation process, saying, “Completion of our comprehensive self-study and the continuous improvements in curriculum, faculty and facilities helped our accreditation team effectively showcase our academic program to the site visit team. I am thrilled to have been a part of this rigorous process and happy to have our hard work validated through this accreditation.”

Graduates of SGU’s DVM program wishing to practice in North America will no longer be required to sit the examination given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates or the PAVE examination, and will now be required to take only the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) for licensing, as they have graduated from an AVMA accredited program in veterinary medicine. The accreditation decision is retroactive to the date of the council’s site visit on April 21, so all students graduating after this date are considered graduates of an AVMA COE-accredited institution.

The 2010-2011 pass rate for students of our school on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) was 96% (85/82) as compared to an 80% pass rate required by the AVMA Council on Education’s Outcomes Assessment standard.

Dr. Charles Modica, St. George’s University Chancellor, in conjunction with Dr. Sis and members of the SVM administration and faculty, announced news of the accreditation to current students at a jubilant SVM town hall meeting on campus. “Students who join our veterinary program with its international educational experiences will now benefit from belonging to an AVMA-accredited institution. We are proud of Dr. Sis and his faculty and staff.”

The date of the next site visit is 2018.

SGU Welcomes Fall 2011 School of Medicine Class in Grenada and the UK

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St. George’s University welcomed students to the School of Medicine Class of 2015 at its White Coat Ceremonies where 647 entering students in Grenada and 68 entering students at Northumbria University in the UK were cheered on by proud family members. Students were welcomed to the profession and to the University by faculty, staff, students and dignitaries. The students welcomed at Northumbria join SGU as part of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program and will spend their first year of basic sciences at Northumbria University before joining their classmates in Grenada.

At both ceremonies the students donned white coats which symbolize their entry into the medical profession and their commitment to upholding the duties and trust associated with practicing medicine and medical training—a commitment they reaffirmed with the recitation of the Oath of Professional Commitment at the ceremony.

Delivering an inspiring keynote address at the Grenada ceremony, Iona Heath, MD, CBE, MRCP, PRCGP, spoke on courage and joy, and how both are significant aspects of practicing medicine. Sharing insightful anecdotes from her own professional history, Dr. Heath counseled incoming students on having the courage to come close enough to patients that they feel seen and heard, to trust patients’ accounts of their own experience, to doubt the known, to tolerate uncertainty, and to be an advocate for patients. She also listed the joy and privilege of relating to the whole of humanity, listening to accounts of amazing courage and endurance, being able to make a difference in the life of her patients, having colleagues and friends around the world, and the joy which comes from the sheer intensity of the profession. In closing she wished the students success and “the courage that I have sometimes lacked and the joy that I have found and more”.

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Andrew James Johnson, MB BCh, FRCP delivered the keynote address at the Northumbria ceremony where he drew a unique parallel between the medical profession and theatre. Using the example of Shakespeare to demonstrate the communication needs between doctor and patient, Mr. Johnson imparted wisdom to the incoming students on the importance of avoiding jargon and using words that can be easily understood by patients. He also stressed the importance of reading between the lines when discussing health care with patients, relaying on body language and demeanor to understand a patients’ deeper anxieties. In closing he noted: ‘The smile as the patient leaves is the medical equivalent of the cheer of the audience in a theatre…. Medicine is a mix of art and science – communication is the art that makes science worth it for all!”

St. George’s University welcomes the incoming School of Medicine class in Grenada and at Northumbria and congratulates them on their first step in this noble career.