For Students, Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy Is a Glimpse of Their Future

For the past 16 years, St. George’s University’s Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy has provided college and high school students from around the world with an insider’s view of medical or veterinary medical school. This summer, more than 80 aspiring physicians and veterinarians were provided with insight into their future professions to help them make a well-informed decision before fully committing to such rigorous careers.

Successfully balancing a challenging academic program with extracurricular activities selected to highlight the culture and innate beauty of Grenada, the Summer Academy program offers courses that combine didactic lectures, small-group problem-solving sessions, practical lab work in state-of-the art facilities, and hands-on training through simulated and real-life situations.

Attending this year’s program was Pranav Lakhan, a 16-year-old student from Mumbai, India who traveled to Grenada from Paris, France. Mr. Lakhan enrolled in the Academy with hopes of interacting and gaining insight from existing students on what he would be experiencing in a few years when he enters medical school.

“I think the Summer Academy is an invaluable platform for aspiring medical professionals to get experience while still in school, which is an absolutely rare opportunity,” said Mr. Lakhan, who was one of more than a dozen Academy attendees who hailed from India. “We visited the labs for anatomy, suturing, and ultrasounds, which was mind blowing. I felt like I was a real medical student in medical school. Although the pressure may be a little overwhelming at first, it was still an amazing experience that just filled you with knowledge and all you had to do was absorb it. I think this program gives you a good indication of what medical school will actually be like. To any aspiring students that want to come here, it’s an absolutely surreal experience.”

Also, participating in the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy was 16-year-old Reet Kohli, a 12thgrade student also visiting from India. Coming from a family of doctors, Ms. Kohli has known since sixth grade that she wanted to become a doctor. Enrolling in the Summer Academy gave her a closer look into the practical aspects of the profession that she expects to pursue.

“This was my first time traveling alone, but once I got here it has been a really fun experience,” Ms. Kohli said. “I feel at home in Grenada. It is such a beautiful place. My parents were very supportive of me coming here and very happy that I was going to get this opportunity. In India, we are taught from the textbooks, so although we know what a cadaver is, to actually see one in real life was a truly great experience. Getting to wear a stethoscope, using all the equipment that doctors use and hearing the professors refer to you as ‘doctor’ is just an amazing feeling. This experience has given me more confidence that yes, this is what I want to do with my life. Putting on those scrubs, I can imagine myself living in them for the rest of my life.”

Heather Brathwaite, who has directed the Met-Vet Summer Leadership Academy for the last 13 years, has seen many of the students come full circle.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity and very rewarding to be able to see the students come to the program and then later come back as enrolled students at SGU,” added Ms. Brathwaite. “Many of these same students also come back to work for the Summer Academy while they’re studying at SGU.”

“One of the major goals of the Academy is to help students decide whether this is the path they want to choose,” she added. “With a mix of academic and fun activities, they go to lectures and labs just like our regular SGU medical and veterinary students do. They receive one-on-one attention, working closely with our actual SGU faculty who provide hands-on experience utilizing equipment and materials that most students their age would not have the chance to.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Graduate Named Resident of the Month at Marshall University

In July, St. George’s University graduate Thao Wolbert was named Resident of the Month by Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

On MU’s Twitter account, it was noted that “patients and every member of her clinical care team raved about Dr. Thao Wolbert’s bedside manner and knowledge of the human body, surgery and the disease process.” Dr. Wolbert is in the third year of a five-year surgery residency at MU, and is currently applying for plastic surgery fellowships.

Read the full story here.

Dr. Olds Discusses US Doctor Shortage on WUSA 9 in Washington, DC

Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University, visited with WUSA 9 in Washington, DC, to discuss the primary care doctor shortage facing the United States.

“There’s a general shortage of physicians because we don’t produce enough doctors in the US for our needs. Remember that we’re a growing country, but from a doctors’ standpoint, we’re an aging country, and when you get over 70 years of age, your need for physicians goes up astronomically.

“The primary care problem is that 30 percent of graduates of US medical schools go into primary care and the rest specialize. We need more than half of them to go into primary care. This primary care shortage is going to get considerably worse as the next decade rolls out.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation will be short up to 50,000 primary care doctors by 2030.

Health Education England and St. George’s University Reach Agreement on New Program to Fill Postgraduate Medical Training Programs in England

Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University (left), and Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England, sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will allow SGU graduates to undertake postgraduate training in England through the NHS’ Widening Access to Specialty Training program.

At a ceremony in Grenada, leaders of Health Education England (HEE), part of the National Health Service (NHS), and St. George’s University signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enable SGU School of Medicine graduates to undertake postgraduate training in England, with the first intake expected in the autumn of 2018. SGU School of Medicine is the only Caribbean medical school in a direct agreement with Health Education England for the first 18-month program to provide graduates for postgraduate training. The agreement is expected to facilitate 50-100 trainees annually from SGU School of Medicine entering the NHS in England.

This agreement establishes a pathway for a significant number of SGU School of Medicine graduates to join the Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST) Program, an initiative within NHS that recruits overseas postgraduate doctors, with a focus on ensuring they are able to enter general practice and psychiatry training programs, the expansion of both specialties being a key priority for the NHS. Sixteen SGU graduates will begin WAST in the next seven months, with many more in the application process.

Graduates will undertake one or two postgraduate foundation years, depending on prior experience, followed by entry into specialty training. This postgraduate training is recognized for licensure and given credit in the UK, the European Union, and Commonwealth countries.

“Our role is to ensure the health workforce in England can meet the challenges faced by the NHS, which includes the provision of services in underserved areas,” said Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive of Health Education England. “We are very impressed that graduates provided by SGU are of the high standard demanded by the NHS; I look forward to the first intake arriving in 2018.”

St. George’s University has graduated more than 16,000 physicians who have gone on to practice medicine throughout the world.

HEE Director of Global Engagement Ged Byrne added, “St. George’s students are well qualified and talented. We anticipate they will have great success in our postgraduate training programs and in practice in the UK afterwards.”

“This agreement highlights the increasingly important role played by SGU as an international institution in global health care,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU. “Our extensive network of partner universities and teaching hospitals around the world, including in England, ensures our students receive a comprehensive education in a range of clinical environments. This is reflected in the fact that we are the only Caribbean medical school to enter into an agreement with HEE, enabling our graduates to apply for the WAST program. England has one of the most stringent regulatory frameworks in the world, and that our graduates now have this opportunity is reflective of their caliber. We are delighted that this major development has taken place in the 70th anniversary year of the NHS.”

With intakes in February and August each year, most successful applicants will join a one-year postgraduate foundation clinical course in England, where they will improve the skills and competencies required for admission to specialty training. The program will typically consist of six months of psychiatry training followed by six months in an acute hospital setting. Upon completing the program, graduates will be eligible to apply for an Alternative Certificate of Foundation Competencies, after which they can apply for a three-year program of specialty training in England.

Commenting on the importance of the agreement for SGU in the UK, Rodney Croft, Dean of Clinical Studies, UK, said, “I am delighted that St. George’s medical graduates, some of whom have received clinical training in our 17 NHS affiliated hospitals in England, will now have the opportunity to return to England to practice—thereby helping to offset the numerical and specialty shortage of doctors we are presently experiencing.”

The location of training for those on the WAST program will be assigned by HEE, with most programs focusing on areas of acute shortage, predominantly in the Midlands, East, North and South West of England, Yorkshire, and the Humber. Successful applicants will be offered their highest available location preference.

“One of our central aims is to find ways to train doctors in the areas they are needed most,” said Dr. Olds. “The global shortage of medical professionals is exacerbated by maldistribution, both by geography and specialty. This agreement, which will encourage our graduates to train in family medicine and psychiatry in areas of England with the greatest need, is one example of how we are making a significant positive impact around the world.”

MD Grad Goes the Distance to Provide Health Care in Impoverished Communities Worldwide

No mission had quite an impact like the first one.

Jessica Willett, MD SGU ’13, fresh out of residency and eager to experience international medicine, joined the Flying Doctors of America team on a trip to Al-Mafraq, Jordan. There she helped to operate a pediatric clinic for Syrian refugees who were forced to travel south to escape their war-torn homeland. Many of their patients had experienced unthinkable trauma.

“The issues we heard about blew me away. They had physical scars as well as emotional scars,” she recalled. “We did as much as we could for them, even though we knew the trauma would affect them for the rest of their lives. Going into it, I didn’t really think about the impact that it might have, but I’m thankful that I went.”

While the experience might have shell-shocked some, it only fueled Dr. Willett’s passion for such work. Through the Idaho-based not-for-profit, which provides treatment to the most impoverished countries and communities around the world, she has since treated patients in remote portions of Fiji, in villages deep in the Amazon rainforest in Guyana, and at Palmasola Prison in Bolivia, where she and her colleagues provided correctional care for criminals and their families, all of whom live on the premises. She even coordinated a mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, providing much needed care just to Grenada’s north.

The experiences have changed her not only as a doctor but as a person.

“The more you know, the greater your perspective you have,” said Dr. Willett, an emergency physician at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, CA. “Being an ER physician, I had a little of that to start with; when you get a flat tire, I can say that it’s been worse and I’ve seen worse. But when you bear witness to these people’s lives and their stories, that feeling is emphasized.”

Her work with Flying Doctors feeds into Dr. Willett’s thirst for world travel. She has traveled to more than 40 countries, and like in life, her journey to medicine from tiny Rumney, NH, was very much a scenic route. As an undergraduate student at Ithaca College, she had designs on becoming a music teacher, but shifted paths to another passion of hers—health and physical education—two years in. Studying human anatomy opened the door to medicine, and after fulfilling her prerequisite courses, she applied to and enrolled at St. George’s University.

Dr. Willett thrived in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which students spend their first year at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. She further enriched her basic science and clinical training by participating in a tropical medicine selective in Kenya, and learning about healthcare methods in India as part of the medical experience selective in Karad. Even then, however, she had no idea the global path she was headed down.

Her involvement in Flying Doctors started as a curiosity—“I figured I would try it and see how it goes.” In two short years, she has not only provided care around the world but also joined the Flying Doctors inner circle, having been named to its 10-person executive board. In her new role, she has helped plan future missions to places like Ethiopia, Peru, and Tanzania, as well as return trips to Jordan and St. Vincent. Dr. Willett estimated that each trip cost around $2,000 for Flying Doctor volunteers, enough to cover costs ranging from transportation and food to lodging and supplies. They customarily bookend the missions with a day or two to plan and/or debrief, as well as relax.

Flying Doctors operates under the “Mother Teresa Principle,” seeking out and setting up in the world’s most impoverished communities. Its slogan: “Bringing hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.” In its 28-year history, the organization has embarked on more than 200 missions and treated over 185,000 patients.

“They are difficult trips,” she said. “In America, we have all the fancy machines, but on these trips, it’s almost like going back in time. Instead of focusing on technology and electronic technology, which take away a little bit from the practice of medicine, it’s really all about that connection—talking to people, examining them, learning about all these different social factors, and different types of medicine. Doing more with less and coming back to the states with that experience has improved our practice here.”

Dr. Willett has taken the reins of Flying Doctors’ return trip to St. Vincent, which she calls a “little known gem in the Caribbean.” In the inaugural visit in March, her team included two internal medicine doctors, an ophthalmologist, two dentists, and two dental assistants, all of whom collaborated with local health workers to provide medical and dental checkups, administer basic vaccines, and treat a wide variety of eye issues—by far the most abundant medical condition on the islands.

“It was great to be able to come back and use my knowledge of the Caribbean to help people in St. Vincent and on the adjacent islands,” she said. “Because of their exposure to the sunlight and dry heat, everybody had vision problems, but none of them wore eyeglasses or sunglasses despite them being so common and accessible. It’s amazing how powerful and life-changing they can be.”

“We want to see patients, but we also want to leave a community better than when we found it by connecting with people and fostering a little more ownership there,” she added. “If we continue to do that, if we empower the people in these communities, we can get to a point where they no longer need us.”

Until then, however, the Flying Doctors of America are prepared to provide care wherever it’s needed most.

“Some of these people are in places where they’ve been told or feel that they don’t matter, that they don’t deserve health care,” Dr. Willett said. “For us to come and tell them otherwise is really encouraging and overwhelming to them. We let them know that somebody cares. Somebody wants to hear their story.”

– Brett Mauser

St. George’s University’s School of Medicine Introduces College System

St. George’s University has entered a new era of medical education with a radical restructuring of the incoming classes in the Doctor of Medicine program.

Set to launch this fall, all incoming students will belong to one of nine Colleges set up to frame a learning community system with student wellness, interaction, and support at the center of the curriculum and student experience at SGU.

The mission of the system is to create a diverse collegiate environment in which students are comprehensively supported to develop and demonstrate the skills, knowledge, compassion, tolerance, commitment, and personal integrity required to be a practicing physician.

“I’m enthused about the foundation for success that this new system will create for our students,” said Charles R. Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s University. “Since we opened our doors more than 40 years ago, the University has always placed great pride on student success and the support they receive from faculty and their peers, and the new College structure will strengthen them both.”

Each College represents an academic family that supports the wellness of students and fosters the academic, personal, and professional development of its membership. Each will have its own director and associate director, as well as dedicated personnel for student support, including academic advisors, faculty, learning strategists, advisors, and other support staff.

The Colleges will also provide a sense of community, with each College having a dedicated master schedule of classes, and all small group work will be centered around the Colleges. College and intercollegiate social events and competitions will also take place throughout the year.

“The new College system will enhance the student experience here at SGU, not only in lectures and labs but as students live, work, and interact with each other, both on and off campus,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU. “We truly believe that it provides our students with the best chance to be successful in their studies and as they pursue their dream of becoming a physician.”

In addition, St. George’s University will also integrate a wellness program for students in their first term, featuring seven classes that cover such topics as lifestyle medicine, diet and nutrition, and test-taking strategies.

The nine Colleges were named after some of the most influential physicians and scientists in history, including:

  • Blackwell: Elizabeth Blackwell was a British physician who became the first woman to receive a Doctor of Medicine in the United States.
  • Curie: Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who pioneered research on radioactivity, and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences.
  • Fleming: Alexander Fleming was a Scottish physician-scientist best known for his discovery of  antibiotics.
  • Galen: A Greek physician and philosopher whose medical research influenced and developed the fields of anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and more.
  • Hippocrates: The Greek physician who is commonly regarded as the Father of Medicine.
  • McIndoe: Archibald McIndoe was a New Zealand-born surgeon whose tactics to treat burns during World War II revolutionized plastic surgery.
  • Metrodora: Greek physician who wrote one the oldest surviving medical text written by a woman and who was one of the first to suggest surgical treatment for both breast and uterine cancer.
  • Peabody: Francis Peabody was an American turn of the 20th century physician famous for his dedication to compassionate patient care, as well as his work on typhoid and polio.
  • Taylor: Keith B. Taylor was SGU’s second Vice Chancellor and one of the most cited gastroenterologists of his time. This College is reserved for students who enter SGU through the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program.

– Brett Mauser

Renowned Horse Owner on SGU MD Alumnus: He “Saved My Life”

Bloodhorse.com, one of the racing industry’s leaders in covering horse racing and breeding, told the story of how horse owner Robert LaPenta was hospitalized with a rare disease back in March. That’s when St. George’s University graduate Peter Saikali, MD SGU ’15, intervened. Then an internal medicine resident at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, Dr. Saikali suspected that Mr. LaPenta had contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

“You read about treatments for pneumonia and viruses, but if they don’t know which exact bacteria to give you, you are in serious trouble,” Mr. LaPenta said. “It was this really smart young doctor, Dr. Saikali, who saved my life. Thank God for his diagnosis. … I was about five hours from lights out.”

Mr. LaPenta said that he will honor Dr. Saikali’s heroic efforts by naming one of his 2-year-old horses after him.

Read more about Mr. LaPenta’s treatment on bloodhorse.com.

St. George’s University and Mahidol University Further Partnership With Joint Doctor of Medicine Pathway Program

From left to right, Mr. Phee Na Lamphun, Student Recruitment Manager for Thailand, St. George University; Dr. G. Richard Olds SGU President; Dr. Sarayut Nathaphan, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research, MUIC, Mahidol University; and Mr. Pete Fiaschi, Director of International Recruitment for Asia, St. George’s University

St. George’s University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Mahidol University International College (MUIC), Thailand, establishing a new medical foundation year at MUIC which is equivalent to the first year of the 5-year MD program taught at SGU in Grenada. Mahidol students who successfully complete this premedical year of study will be eligible to enroll in SGU’s MD degree program.

SGU has committed to award five partial-tuition scholarships per year, over a five-year period, to Mahidol students for admission onto SGU’s MD degree program.

The deal further strengthens the relationship between SGU and Mahidol University International College, following an earlier agreement in 2014 that launched a dual BS/MD degree between the two institutions.

“This Memorandum of Understanding builds on an already fruitful relationship with Mahidol University International College,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We know from experience that their students are dedicated and talented, and find studying at SGU an enriching experience. I am delighted that we have opened a new pathway for students to join our world-leading MD degree program, many of whom will do so with tuition scholarships.”

Dr. Phitaya Charupoonphol, Dean of Mahidol University International College, said: “Four years after the signing of our first agreement, our partnership with SGU continues to go from strength to strength. In choosing to offer scholarships to our students, the quality of our teaching has been recognized by one of the world’s leading international medical education. We look forward to many years of close collaboration”.

“We are excited about this opportunity where students in Asia can now begin their studies at a world class university with a pathway to an MD degree at SGU,” added Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost for International Program Development and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “In addition to a world class medical education, the clinical training opportunities available in the United States and UK provide SGU students with valuable exposure to a variety of healthcare systems.”

Pete Fiaschi, Director of Recruitment Asia, commented, “This is an extremely exciting 1+4 partnership which will enable Asia-based students to study the first year of a five-year MD program at a world-class University in Asia. We are delighted to offer this to students in Asia who would prefer a localized program in Thailand before embarking on their future in Grenada and then the US and UK for clinical training.”

St. George’s University Signs Agreement with Government of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

St. George’s University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The MOU “recognizes the benefits of mutual cooperation, and both institutions will now explore potential educational collaboration in medical related studies.” As part of the agreement, SGU will be listed on the Government of Fujairah’s website as a recognized education provider, meaning that SGU can now accept students from the Emirate of Fujairah.

The agreement, which is now in effect, expresses the commitment of both parties to increase access for the Government of Fujairah’s students to a US postsecondary education through SGU. The MOU further strengthens SGU’s relationship with the UAE, following last year’s announcement that the Ministry of Education had recognized the university’s MD degree program.

“I am pleased that students in Fujairah will now have the option of studying at St. George’s University in Grenada where they will receive a top international medical education,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU.  “The University will also benefit, increasing the diversity and breadth of experience of our student body.”

Adding his remarks, Mohamed Khalifa Alzyoudi, Employee Affairs Director, Government of Fujairah, said: “SGU is a world-leading institution, and I am very happy that our students will now have the opportunity to study medicine at their campus in Grenada. This MOU marks the beginning of a fruitful relationship, and I look forward to working with SGU to further our collaboration in the near future.”

St. George’s University’s School of Medicine draws students and faculty from 140 countries. Key to its success has been developing enthusiasm in students to practice medicine in their home countries, often in areas where physician numbers are low. Approximately 1 percent of all practicing doctors in the United States are graduates of St. George’s University, with that figure rising to around 15 percent of the physician population in Trinidad and Tobago, and 20 percent in Botswana.

Newest Class of Physicians Reflects on the Past, Looks Ahead to the Future

 

Before setting off for residency, St. George’s University School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians gathered at New York City’s Lincoln Center once more to celebrate the completion of one journey, and the beginning of another.

The newest class of physicians came from 44 US states, six Canadian provinces, and 51 countries from around the world. They join a network of more than 16,000 physicians who have earned their Doctor of Medicine degrees from SGU since the University opened in 1977.

“You’ve made sacrifices and you’ve persevered, and for that I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you,” said St. George’s University Chancellor Charles Modica. “I hope you know how proud you’ve made all of us, and how proud you’ve made your parents and friends. The world is full of all sorts of problems, and you’re the solution. You’re going to do well. I know that because  of your predecessors. You’ve earned this, you deserve this, and we love you for it.”

Graduates gathered at David Geffen Hall on June 9 and 10 for the commencement festivities, enjoying each other’s company two years after they departed Grenada for their clinical rotations.

“Going to SGU was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” added James Velasquez, MD SGU ’18, who will start his emergency medicine residency at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. “I received a great education, I loved the island, and because it taught me how to buckle down and study right, it got me ready for the next part of my career.”

All together, St. George’s University graduates will begin their postgraduate residencies in 43 US states, four Canadian provinces, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom next month.

Colleen Murphy, MD SGU ’18, will join Yale New Haven Health’s obstetrics and gynecology residency program at Bridgeport Hospital this summer. She chose OB/GYN because of how it combines surgery with continuity of care.

“It’s nice to celebrate with everyone else who was there along the way,” she said. “We all did it together, so it’s nice to end the journey together.”

Joining her on the journey was Philip Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, who not only gained an education at SGU but he also met his wife, classmate Jessica Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, during their first year of the Foundation to Medicine program. Married this past April, the couple is now off to New Jersey for residency, with Philip obtaining a categorical surgery residency at St. Barnabas Medical Center, and Jessica matching into a pediatrics position at Atlantic Health.

“Growing up on Long Island and coming from college in the Midwest, I didn’t know what to expect coming down to Grenada,” Philip Lettieri said. “There were definitely some times where it was tough, but looking back, I wouldn’t change anything at all.”

Jessica Lettieri appreciated all the opportunities available to her during her time as a student, including volunteering around the island, participating in the popular Prague selective, and completing clinical rotations in the same hospital where her grandmother worked over 50 years ago.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “It’s great to see people today that we started first term with, many of whom we haven’t seen in two years because they were on the other side of the country for clinicals. Today has been a great experience because we all did it together.”

In addition to the accolades showered in the 2018 class of graduates, the University also acknowledged the contributions of one of its longtime administrators and faculty members. Dr. Ted Hollis, who served as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2000 to 2017, was bestowed the Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Hollis came to St. George’s University in 1978 as a visiting professor before joining the faculty full-time as a professor in 1994.

“Dr. Hollis is responsible for enriching the learning environment of thousands of undergraduate students across the Caribbean and the Commonwealth countries,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU.

The University also presented Bruce Hebets, CEO of Borrego Health, with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Mr. Hebets took charge of a single, small Federally Qualified Health Center in Southern California and over the next 15 years built it into the fifth largest FQHC system in America, caring for nearly 500,000 residents of inland Southern California.

– Brett Mauser