St. George’s University Medical Student Prospering after Leaving Home at Age 15

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There were times that Therese Jeter had hopped a train with no particular destination in mind. She’d run away from home at age 15, living off the street and without boundaries for a while.

Even while exploring the world, Jeter never lost her desire to gain an education. Now a third-termer at St. George’s University School of Medicine, “Tee,” as she is nicknamed, has quite a clear path in mind, and she believes she has found the right institution to take her there.

“I can’t imagine going to med school in any other place,” Jeter said. “This is the perfect setup for me. I love the material so much that all I want is more time, just so I can learn it better and learn more. When you work 15-17 hours a day at your job, it really helps to love your job. My job is studying and I love it. It reassures me that I’m in the right place.”

Jeter came to SGU in January 2012 from the University of Central Florida (UCF), from which she earned a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and microbiology, graduating magna cum laude. However, the aspiring doctor has come a long way since leaving her family’s Connecticut home.

“I don’t even know why I wanted to leave home so badly,” she said. “I think I was just in search of something different, some kind of freedom.”

It began a four-year stretch in which Jeter bounced from place to place, state to state. She embarked on cross-country expeditions that took her to 47 states, met countless people from all walks of life, and saw areas of the US that most people never get to see.

However, in the mid-1990s and with an eye on the future, she obtained her General Education Development (GED) certificate and years later enrolled at Daytona State College to pursue an Associate of Arts in Science. She graduated summa cum laude from DSC and it paved her way to UCF.

“The more I got into science , the more I realized how much I enjoyed learning and that I was really good at it,” she said.

Jeter thrived at UCF, and upon being accepted to St. George’s University, she leapt at the opportunity to explore the world even further, while earning a premium international medical education. She matriculated in January 2012 and is working toward becoming a cardiovascular surgeon or pediatrician.

Through SGU, she took advantage of a three-week selective in Prague, Czech Republic, last summer, where she dived further into her fields of choice, doing rotations in cardiovascular surgery and pediatric neurology. She recalls a trip through the European countryside by train, traveling to more than fifteen countries. She had been on long journeys by train before, traveling cross country on numerous occasions back in the States, but this journey was different. It was the first time that she had ridden on the inside of a train.

“Looking out the windows, seeing the world, I loved that I could sit back and appreciate what’s around me,” Jeter said. “People say you should stop and smell the roses and I make sure that I do.”

She’s taken advantage of numerous other opportunities available at SGU. Jeter is a Footsteps Buddy, helping first-term students acclimate to school and life in the Caribbean, has joined the Grenada Triathlon Association, and ran the Grenada Half Marathon in November. Jeter’s interests are as diverse as her experiences. She is SCUBA-certified, was president of the Women’s Rugby Club at UCF, played flute, bassoon, and bass clarinet for the Naples Concert Band, and has logged more than 1,500 skydives, as a member of the United States Parachute Association.

Jeter is drawn to working with individuals who are less fortunate. From 2007 to 2012, she served as the co-founder and director of food for Rock For Hunger, an Orlando-area not-for-profit organization that cooks for 150 needy people weekly. Since 2007, Jeter has been a counselor at Camp Boggy Creek, a summer camp for children with terminal illnesses or chronic conditions.

“All the things that I’ve picked up along the way molded me into the person I am today … there’s a reason I had all those experiences,” Jeter said. “I have the drive to put my experiences to use, to excel in medical school and to become a surgeon. I will be able to relate extremely well with my patients. Between what I’ve done, the places I’ve been, and the different people I’ve interacted with, all these experiences I’ve collected will enable me to be a better doctor.”

SGU Doctors Say Increased Mobility is the Primary Cause of Global Disease

More than half of doctors, veterinarians, and public health specialists responding to the first “One World, One Health, One Medicine” poll from St. George’s University believe that a shrinking world is more at risk for a pandemic caused by emerging diseases, as more people travel, and no city is now more than 24 hours distance from each other.

The international University recently polled its alumni from the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in response to a spate of news reports on new viruses and diseases, from Ebola in Africa, to West Nile fever in Dallas, TX, cropping up across the world.

Which of the following statements best reflects the reason for recent stories about Ebola in Africa, West Nile fever in Dallas, Texas, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Yosemite National Park?

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60% said “A shrinking world is more at risk for a pandemic caused by emerging diseases, as more people travel and no city is now more than 24 hours distant from another.”

23% said “Our ability to diagnose emerging infectious diseases is so much better than in the past and today causes of death are being better identified.”

12% said “There is not a greater incidence of emerging disease than in centuries past, just a greater dissemination of information through the internet and 24 hours news cycles.”

5% said “None of the Above”

Source: Poll of St. George’s University alumni conducted March 2013

St. George’s University’s State-of-the-Art Facility a Haven for Fresh- and Salt-Water Aquariums

Surrounded by water, Grenada has a deep appreciation for the sea, its inhabitants and the joy it can bring to the community. St. George’s University is doing its part to preserve the livelihood offshore and throughout the region with its state-of-the-art aquatic laboratory and marine center, which supports fresh- and salt-water aquariums and also houses equipment for lab work in microbiology.

aquatic lab

“The aquatic lab opens up all kinds of opportunities for research not just in infectious diseases but in aquaculture,” said Dr. Ross Peterson, an instructor of veterinary microbiology and aquatic animal medicine at SGU. “There is more and more of a push away from catching wild stocks and towards raising fish in a farm setting. Fish are pretty much the only food humans still get mainly by hunting and we are depleting that resource. My hope is that we can work on some of these species that are consumed, especially in the Caribbean.”

Custom-made by Waterline Systems of Prince Edward Island, Canada, the lab is home to tilapia and spiny lobster, the latter a feat made possible by salt water continually being pumped in from the ocean. “Our spiny lobsters are growing very well to the point where they are shedding on a regular basis,” said Dr. Hugh Ferguson, director of SVM’s marine program. “This is very unusual in a laboratory setting. Being able to keep these species inside the lab and not only have them survive but thrive is just wonderful.”

Although it is under the School of Veterinary Medicine, the lab is available for use by the entire University community and it currently facilitates several research projects. Dr. Richard Kabuusu is researching a mysterious die-off of tilapia at a farm in Ecuador with the tilapia at the lab here as his control subjects, Dr. Thomas Eurel is working on an innovative strategy to transplant corals, and Dr. Peterson recently conducted a study on land crabs from around Grenada. Several students are also conducting and assisting in research, and there is an elective where students are taught anesthesia and surgery for fish.

The aquatic lab was also the centerpiece for the first St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine (SGUSVM) Continuing Education (CE) conference, with the theme ‘An Overview of Aquatic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Practitioner,’ held from February 16-20, 2013. It was the first in a series SGUSVM will host in its bid to attain full CE provider status by mid-2014.

Conference participants involved in fish farming, small animal community practice, and those with an interest in exotic fish all found immense value in the conference. They earned CE credits and certificates of participation. Sessions on veterinary dentistry and surgery are scheduled for later this year.

“It is very important to keep practitioners aware of new programs, medicines and techniques,” added Catherine Wybern, coordinator for the conference. “It was very rewarding to see brilliant minds come together and share.”

Big plans are in store for the lab. Dr. Peterson hopes to soon see zebrafish, which are increasingly used in medical research, bred at the lab, as the tilapia were. He also hopes to see more work done in aquaculture, which can have an impact on food security and the Grenadian economy.

Bioethics and Public Health Research Project Awarded Wellcome Trust Grant

Two St. George’s University faculty members, Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson and Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci, have been awarded a US $8,000 Wellcome Trust Grant for their research project “Bioethics and Health in the Caribbean: Climate Change” which will investigate perceptions of Caribbean health professionals on the impact climate change is having on the health of residents in the region. Bringing together two medical disciplines – bioethics and public health – this research is a model for the value of cross-disciplinary collaborations.

news akpinar elci“The prestige of working with the Wellcome Trust is immense,” commented Dr. Cox-Macpherson, professor and chair of SGU’s bioethics department. “We are thrilled to have received this grant and hope that our project will start a major dialogue across the region among health professionals, public health professionals, policy makers, and the public.” The research will compare the larger and more industrialized island of Trinidad and the smaller and less industrialized island of Grenada.

Dr. Cox-Macpherson and Dr. Akpinar-Elci, associate professor and track director for environmental and occupational health in the Department of Public Health and Medicine, and director of St. George’s WHO Collaborating Center in Grenada, have already published a research letter in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 as part of this project. Extensive literature reviews have been completed and will be followed by data collection from focus groups. Their findings are scheduled to be publicized in seminars, symposiums, journals, reports, and via stakeholder consultation.

Named after pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust, which was established upon his death in 1936, aims to “support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities.” It is one of the world’s largest medical charities, contributing approximately $1 billion to the advancement of medical research. Learn more about the Wellcome Trust here.

MacLeese, DVM SGU ’10, Enjoying Rare Veterinary Ophthalmology Residency

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Jill MacLeese was certainly not thinking of ophthalmology when she enrolled in veterinary school. However, it did not take long for her to fall in love with the specialty, and her passion for ophthalmology has intensified ever since. Now a three-year resident at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island (VMCLI) in New York, Dr. MacLeese could not be happier with the path she has taken.

“The more ophthalmology I was exposed to, the more I loved it,” she said. “Many people tend to become uneasy when faced with ophthalmology cases but I’ve always been fascinated with the field.”

An ophthalmologic case of uveitis, or inflammation to the uvea portion of the eye, during her second year at SGU sparked her interest in the specialty. However, it wasn’t until her clinical year at North Carolina State University that her desire to pursue an ophthalmology residency was solidified. At the 2010 American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO) conference opportunity knocked in the form of a chance meeting with Dr. Noelle La Croix, DACVO, an ophthalmologist at VMCLI. Dr. MacLeese was granted a specialty internship in ophthalmology at the practice and in July 2012 began a coveted veterinary ophthalmology residency in a position that VMCLI made exclusively for her.

The position has her working on a variety of ophthalmology cases, predominantly treating small animals, while also examining horses, birds, rabbits and other exotic species. In addition, she works one night per week in emergency medicine and travels to the University of Pennsylvania monthly for ocular histopathology rounds.

“I love it here,” Dr. MacLeese said. “It’s very busy practice; I see approximately 15 to 20 cases a day, so I’m getting a lot of clinical experience.”

Dr. MacLeese has given back to the University by working as a student liaison representative, while also talking about her SGU experience at a number of the University’s information session. She feels strongly about speaking on the University’s behalf as it has laid the foundation for her professional success.

“I have always felt just as prepared as any of my veterinary counterparts from state schools,” Dr. MacLeese said. “I had a wonderful time in Grenada and wouldn’t change my experience there for anything in the world.”

A Record Number of Residency Positions Obtained for SGU Graduates

St. George’s University graduates have had a record year of achievement thus far in obtaining first-year US residency posts, making this the third year in a row the University placed more graduates in first year US residency posts than any medical school in the world.

Congratulations, graduates! Thus far (April 12, 2013) – and the list keeps growing – 789 PGY-1 positions in 18 different specialties were secured in the US by our graduates in 46 of the 50 states. In addition to the 18 Canadian graduates who secured PGY-1 spots in Canada, many Canadian graduates obtained US residency positions this year.

While the majority of the graduates this year are fulfilling one of the University’s goals of meeting the American Medical Association’s call for more primary care doctors around the country, 25 graduates secured residencies in emergency medicine, 56 in surgery, and 22 in anesthesiology. Others matched in a variety of different specialties, including one graduate who secured an orthopedic surgery spot.

Among the 2013 matches was Michael Melin, who looks forward to beginning his anesthesiology residency at the University of Washington School of Medicine this summer. Mr. Melin grew up 15-20 minutes from the UW campus and earned his bachelor’s degree from nearby University of Puget Sound. He set off to Grenada with hopes of returning to the Pacific Northwest and is proud to have been offered the opportunity.

“Matching at the University of Washington really was a dream come true,” said Mr. Melin, who had gone on 12 interviews for anesthesiology and pegged UW as his top choice. “It will be really nice to go back west – my wife is from the west coast and all of my family is there.”

SGU students also matched in programs located in three Canadian provinces, including Catherine Murray, who obtained a highly competitive diagnostic radiology residency at the University of Ottawa through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). The native of Winnipeg bolstered her resume by completing three radiology electives and shined during her clinical rotations at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit is proud to be able to continue her career in his home country.

“It’s very exciting to be going back to Canada and to be going to a great program,” Ms. Murray said. “I was told that radiology was very competitive, but felt that I was competitive enough. I felt very comfortable leaving Grenada with my knowledge base, and I think SGU students make a good impression wherever they go.”

St. George’s University USMLE Step 1 First-Time Test Takers Achieve 97% Pass Rate

St. George’s University students who took the USMLE 1 for the first time in 2012 achieved a 97 percent pass rate, marking the fourth consecutive year that SGU’s overall first-time pass rate on the examination surpassed 90 percent. These students have come to SGU from 37 countries, with Canadian students achieving an impressive 100 percent pass rate.

usmle 2008 2012

St. George’s 2012 performance on USMLE Step 1 was an improvement on the outstanding results from 2011, a year in which SGU first-time test takers achieved a pass rate of 95 percent overall and 96 percent among those from the US and Canada. By contrast, the first-time taker pass rate for students at US and Canadian schools was 94 percent in 2011, according to the USMLE website. US and Canadian schools’ pass rate for 2012 is still unavailable.

Designed to measure basic science knowledge, the USMLE Step 1 is comprised of more than 300 multiple-choice questions on topics ranging from the biology of cells and human development to the central nervous, musculoskeletal and endocrine systems, among others. A passing score on all three parts of the USMLE is required to practice medicine in the US.

St. George’s University Welcomes First International Veterinary Student Association Exchange Students

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After a ten-day visit to St. George’s University, 10 veterinary students from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, spoke fondly of their hands-on educational experience and the University’s True Blue Campus. The students visited the campus in November as part of the International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA) exchange program.

“While the program structures are somewhat similar, St. George’s provides a unique hands-on experience, on a campus that provides the perfect atmosphere for studying,” said Sisse Giehm-Reese, a sixth-year veterinary student from Copenhagen.

Furthering this observation, fourth- and second-year students Jasmin Bagge and Janne Roscnfeldt-Olesen, also from the University of Copenhagen, noted that classes at St. George’s are smaller than they’re used to, but very interactive.

The exchange students attended lectures, junior surgery labs, and participated in a goat handling lab at Belmont Estate, St. Patrick’s. When not in classes, they explored Grenada with a trip to Gouyave for Fish Friday and visits to some of the most historic and picturesque locations in Grenada.

“Veterinary medicine is becoming increasingly global. With this program and over 50 IVSA chapters, SGU students have an opportunity to gain valuable international experiences,” said Kristina Miller, a fifth-term veterinary student at SGU, and exchange officer for the Grenada chapter of IVSA. “Exchange students visiting here have a unique opportunity to be a part of a University that brings together students from around the world. It is the perfect place for students to gain an international experience.”

The Grenada chapter of the IVSA has participated in the bi-annual congress and symposiums hosted by the organization, but it is its first year participating in the student exchange program. Plans are in place to make the exchange program an annual event with the next proposed exchange with South Africa some time in 2013.

IVSA is a non profit, non-governmental organization operated by veterinary students from around the world, whose aim is to improve the international standard of veterinary education through the exchange of ideas, knowledge and culture.

Dr. Robert C. Gallo presents 2013 Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture at St. George’s University

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An overflowing audience in Patrick F. Adams Hall hung on the every word of world-renowned physician and scientist Dr. Robert C. Gallo at the fifth annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial Lecture/13th Annual WINDREF Lecture. Dr. Gallo, with his refreshing humor and calm demeanor, did not disappoint as he delivered a powerful lecture which received a well deserved standing ovation at the end.

Speaking on the topic “Viruses and Epidemics with a Focus on HIV/AIDS: Our Attempts to Control Them,” Dr. Gallo provided an overview of viral epidemics that have swept the globe over the last century.

“Humans have a 25- to 30-year attention span,” he said, explaining medicine’s shift in focus from researching infectious diseases to degenerative diseases within decades of conquering an epidemic. He pointed out that the number of medical graduates entering the field of virology was shrinking.

In 1980, Dr. Gallo discovered HTLV-1, which was the first of the human retroviruses to be discovered which caused a malignancy. Later in the decade, he discovered HTLV-2 and co-discovered HIV. Dr. Gallo provided the first clear evidence that HIV caused AIDS, and he and his team developed the first HIV diagnostic test. In the ’90s, Dr. Gallo and his co-workers also discovered the first natural inhibitors of HIV, which was instrumental in developing treatments for the infection. In addition, in 1986 he and his team also discovered the first human herpes virus in more than 25 years, HHV-6, which proved to cause the infantile disease, roseola.

Dr. Gallo’s groundbreaking work, widely accepted and revered today, was certainly not widely accepted in the 1980s and he was met with much criticism – and even ridicule – by members of his profession. “What is called translational research today was thought to be not academic enough, not intellectual enough,” he said. Dr. Gallo shared his experience swimming against the tide in the 1980s and relayed how he stuck to his guns, shattering many medical misconceptions of the time.

Dr. Gallo’s lecture also focused on HTLV-1 and HIV and what it will take to control these viral pandemics. “There are approaches to finding a cure, but as yet, no one has a cure for HIV or HTLV-1 … but we have good diagnostic tests today and treatment at least for HIV is having a positive impact on many people’s lives.” His mantra is to “test a lot, treat early and we can control the HIV pandemic – do it for the world, do it forever, until we find a preventive vaccine. This approach will take a tremendous commitment by governments and policy makers.”

In his lecture, Dr. Gallo also touched on the Global Virus Network (GVN) which he cofounded in 2011. The GVN’s mission is to ensure a rapid response to new or re-emerging viruses that threaten mankind, to bring together and achieve collaboration amongst the world’s leading virologists, and to support training of the next generation of medical virologists. He pointed out that several epidemics and global health disasters could have been averted if this network had been established earlier.

At the end of the lecture, Dr. Gallo was inducted as an honorary member of St. George’s University’s Gamma Kappachapter of the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society in recognition of the enormous contributions he has made to our understanding of retroviruses and to medicine and public health.

In her closing remarks, Baroness Howells of St. David’s, a member of the WINDREF (UK) Board of Trustees, thanked Dr. Gallo for his insightful lecture and reflected on the impact it would have had on such an assembled audience.

Dr. Gallo, founder and co-director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, has received numerous major scientific honors and awards, including the prestigious Albert Lasker Award, which he was awarded in 1982 and 1986. He was rated the most cited scientist in the world for two decades in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Institute for Scientific Information. Dr. Gallo was also ranked third in the world for scientific impact for the period 1983-2002. He has been awarded 30 honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Sweden, Italy, Israel, Peru, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Ireland, Jamaica, and Greece.

St. George’s University Medical Students in India

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Fifth-term medical student Anne Walker described the latest step in her journey to becoming an MD as “simply exhilarating.” Ms. Walker and nine of her colleagues journeyed to rural India in December 2012 for a two-week India Medical Experience Selective at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University Karad (KIMS).

“I was honestly a little nervous about my energy level and wondered how much I would get from the program,” she confided, “especially since I was traveling to Mumbai the morning after our last final. However, I was energized by what I found when I arrived—a group of wonderful doctors, residents and administrators who were welcoming and eager to teach us.”

At this state-of-the-art teaching hospital, the students benefited from first-hand patient experience in a region with a high incidence of oral and breast cancers.

“We were present during a patient interview where a woman presented with a breast lump that had been increasing in size,” Ms. Walker said of her first day at the hospital. “The doctor took the time to explain the essential parts of the patient interview, after which we were given the chance to palpate and analyze the lump ourselves. Four days later, we were given the opportunity to observe the mastectomy for this same patient.”

Buzzing with excitement, she remarked, “It is one thing to learn about ductal carcinomas and their proper treatment in a Robbins Pathology textbook. It is quite another thing entirely to participate in the care of a patient.”

Selective students gain experience with taking patient history, conducting physical examinations, outpatient and inpatient treatments, alternative health care delivery systems, and KIMS community outreach projects designed to educate patients on the prevention and management of disease.

The curriculum provides both a diversity and continuity of experience as the students rotated through the hospital following their cases to their completion.

“The hands-on nature of the selective allowed me to really absorb everything I was learning, and I believe my experience there will prove invaluable especially as I start clinicals this coming August,” Ms. Walker said. “I would highly recommend this selective program for future SGU students and would be happy to be an ambassador for it.”

The India Medical Experience Selective was launched in July 2010, and qualifying fourth-term medical students travel to The Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University Karad (KIMS) in June and December each year. KIMS is an 845-bed modern hospital with facilities for critical care, joint replacement, endoscopic surgeries, dialysis and more. Students have access to all state-of-the-art equipment at the Institute, including radio-diagnosis investigations: MRI, CT scans, mammograms, and color Doppler. St. George’s University students also join medical and dental students from diverse Indian backgrounds as well as students from other countries, working together in a hospital setting and living side by side on campus.