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

St. George’s University Hosts First International Meeting of NIH Fogarty Program Administrators

This week, St. George’s University will host a conference for the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center grant administrators—the first ever outside the United States.

“We’re thrilled to host this year’s Fogarty International Center administrators meeting,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “This meeting is an opportunity for the world’s leading minds to collaborate and continue their efforts to produce revolutionary research on global health. It’s an honor for St. George’s to facilitate that work.”

Attendees will hear from a number of Fogarty grantees and will discuss a number of global public health initiatives.

Several St. George’s faculty members have received funding from the Fogarty International Center. Among them is Dr. Randall Waechter, Assistant Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Director of Research at SGU. He’s also Grants Administrator of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation.

In 2016, Dr. Waechter and Dr. Angelle Desiree LaBeaud of Stanford received a grant to investigate the threat of Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne viral disease, on children born during the outbreak in Grenada in 2014. Their work focused on how this disease may affect neurodevelopment in infants exposed to Chikungunya in tropical regions.

In 2014, St. George’s University Professor Cheryl Macpherson partnered with Fogarty grantee Sean Philpott of Union Graduate College (now merged with Clarkson University) on the “Caribbean Research Ethics Education Initiative”—a suite of graduate-level online and onsite bioethics courses for middle and low-income students across the Caribbean.

“At St. George’s University, we share the Fogarty International Center’s commitment to carrying out research that improves the lives of people worldwide while building research capacity in low- and middle-income countries,” said Dr. Waechter, the lead organizer of this year’s Fogarty administrators meeting. “We’re honored to welcome the Fogarty administrators to Grenada and to help advance the Center’s important work.”

AMSA SGU Donates EC$15,000 to Grenada Heart Foundation

St. George’s University’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) recently presented a donation of EC$15,000 to the Grenada Heart Foundation (GHF)—the latest in a decades-long partnership to help provide lifesaving interventional cardiac procedures to the most vulnerable.

Funds were raised at this year’s Valentine’s Day Date Auction, the group’s biggest and most popular fundraising event of the year. Featuring donations from local businesses and paired with students showcasing various talents, prizes including restaurant vouchers, two-night hotel stays, and a catamaran cruise were auctioned off as “dates” for potential bidders.

The evening included a fire-breather, a belly dancer, and several musicians and dancers.

“The fundraiser turned out to be really amazing. We raised more than we even expected,” said Sravan Vemuri, President of AMSA SGU. “The event was very well attended and full of excitement, with our wonderful and talented students giving their best to help fundraise for such a worthy cause..”

In the last five years alone, AMSA SGU has donated more than EC$100,000 to the GHF through a series of annual, student-organized, community-supported fundraising events. According to Devangi Dave, Secretary of AMSA SGU, its biggest draw, the Valentine’s Day Date Auction, has had “dates” go for four, five, or even 10 times their actual worth because of the audience’s willingness to support this worthwhile charity.

“The date auction is our best and biggest fundraiser,” added Ms. Dave, a fifth-term medical student. “It’s more of a way to engage the Grenadian community and get students excited about being a part of this very important cause, which is not only dear to us but also helps them get involved and give back to the people of the country that serves as their home away from home.”

The Grenada Heart Foundation was established in 1984 when St. George’s University was approached for assistance in obtaining heart surgery for a young Grenadian child. Since then, more than 300 children and young adults have received crucial cardiovascular care through direct funding and philanthropic partnerships.

Today, the GHF is administered by St. George’s University and is generously supported by corporate entities as well as civic and community organizations. All of its services are supported by donors, including the Government of Grenada, Rotary International, American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Children’s Health Organization Relief and Educational Services (CHORES), and a network of generous hospitals at which the patients are treated.

“On behalf of the board of directors of the Grenada Heart Foundation, I thank AMSA at SGU profusely for the generous donation, which directly goes toward providing quality cardiac care to needy children,” commented Dr. Kesava Mandalaneni, Chair, Grenada Heart Foundation. “It is because of such selfless efforts of various organizations that GHF can provide life-saving services to patients including covering travel expenses so that they can receive the best care and treatment options available irrespective of their economic situation.”

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Today, AMSA is a student-governed, national organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. AMSA members are medical students, premedical students, interns, residents, and practicing physicians. Founded in 1950, AMSA continues its commitment to improving medical training and has more than 62,000 national and international members.

Global Scholars Study Rheumatic Effects of Living at Altitude in Tanzania

Three St. George’s University medical students, all alumni of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program (KBTGSP), recently took part in a research pilot project in Tanzania to test the effects of altitude on people living in different global regions.

Dr. Clive Kelly led the research and invited the alumni of the Northumbria-based program to join him in Tanzania after having taught them during their first year clinical selections in Newcastle. The KBTGSP provides students of St. George’s University on the Caribbean island of Grenada, to complete their first year of basic sciences at Northumbria as part of their medical degree.

Dr. Kelly, a Physician from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead and Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, developed an interest in researching cases of arthritis in East Africa after traveling in the region last year. He has been involved in a pilot study to assess the range and extent of locomotor disease in the hopes it will give insight into regional variations in rheumatic conditions and treatments.

The students—Zoe McKinnell, Gillian Richmond, and Renee Wong—are now in the fourth year of their medical degrees at SGU. In addition to the research pilot project, they took on the additional challenge of spending a week climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, where they participated in a comparative study with Dr. Kelly on the effect of physiological adaptations to altitude in climbers from different parts of the world.

During their trip, the students also assisted Dr. Kelly’s teaching programme for junior medical students at a Tanzanian hospital and joined classes with more senior students to expand their knowledge from the perspective of different healthcare systems.

“It was great to have Zoe, Gillian, and Renee involved in this international research project, both for their own development and for the contribution they made in the field,” said Dr. Kelly. “From a teaching point of view, it was invaluable to have them there and their input was crucial. We were teaching a class of 40 students and they helped by taking smaller groups on to wards with me to talk to and examine patients and test techniques. I wouldn’t have been able to teach such large classes without their assistance.”

“The Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program was a great experience and the small group of 70 students meant we had a real community and support system,” said Ms. McKinnell. “It also gave me the opportunity to go to Tanzania, which turned out to be a big eye-opener. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to teach as well as learn while I was there.”

SGU student Gillian Richmond applied for the KBTGSP because she was interested in studying healthcare systems around the world.

“It was really interesting to go into a teaching hospital as an outsider and learn about healthcare in an international context,” Ms. Richmond said. “Joining SGU’s program at Northumbria University was the best decision I’ve made. I’ve made lifelong friends and my experience in Tanzania will be a helpful bridge to my teaching responsibilities as a resident next year.”

“I am grateful to Dr Kelly who helped us organize a teaching elective in Tanzania, where I was able to learn more than I could teach,” said Ms. Wong. “I was humbled every day by my patients, students, and colleagues.”

Building on this initial success, Dr. Kelly hopes to create an annual program for future students as the research project develops.

For the Love of Grenada: SGU Students Present EC$1 Million Donation of Medical Supplies from Project C.U.R.E.

St. George’s University students and administration hold a press conference with the Government of Grenada to announce the donation of EC$1 million worth of medical supplies from US-based healthcare non-profit Project C.U.R.E. The donation was spearheaded by medical students from the SGU Global Surgery Club and involved two years of preparation, fundraising, and logistics.

After two years of fundraising and preparation, students from St. George’s University Global Surgery Club recently presented a donation of medical supplies and equipment valued at EC$1 million to the Government of Grenada from US-based medical non-profit Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment).

“We are extremely grateful to have received this gift,” stated Pauline Peters, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Grenada. “We all know the challenges that Grenada faces in regard to resources, so whatever partnership or collaboration we can foster with generous donors we’re more than willing to do so. This donation will go a long way in supporting the transformation of health care in Grenada by ensuring that all of our hospitals and health centers are fully equipped and stocked with the necessary medical supplies and equipment to provide essential health services.”

The 40-foot container packed with much needed healthcare provisions will be used to furnish a new operating room and intensive care unit at the Grenada General Hospital, as well disbursed to surrounding clinics. These vital supplies range from operating tables and orthopedic surgery packs to sutures, scalpels, and basic IV lines and fluids.

“The way in which this donation can affect people’s lives is almost without limits. After surveying some of the items donated, I can just imagine that thousands of Grenadian lives are going to be positively impacted by such a large contribution to our healthcare system,” commended Dr. George Mitchell, Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Grenada. “This donation will serve as a testament to just how much can be accomplished in the spirit of collaboration. I really want to thank SGU Global Surgery Club and I know that the ultimate beneficiary is going to be the people of Grenada.”

The brainchild of SGU Global Surgery Club Past President, Joshua Carlson, along with current President Amanda Hughes initiated contact with Project C.U.R.E. and were instrumental in leading the coordination efforts to make this donation possible. Working closely with the Ministry of Health, Medicine with a Mission, D’Amore Personal Injury Law LLC, and other SGU student organizations, the group was able to raise approximately US$20,000 toward covering the cost of shipment, logistics, and administrative expenses involved in bringing the container of supplies to Grenada.

“This project started with an email from Project C.U.R.E. asking us to meet the CEO, in order to provide medical and surgical supplies. More importantly, it stemmed from a desire to give back to a country that opened its doors to us, so we could attend a university that allowed us to achieve our dreams,” said Mr. Carlson. “This was a massive team effort and, along with the help of the amazing leadership of the SGU administration, we are honored to be able to give back to the people of Grenada in some tangible way. We just had the vision, but it was an incredible collaboration that made this donation a reality.”

“This all began with a single idea, but it was a team spirit that made it happen, with the public and private sectors and NGOs all working together,” commented Dr. C.V. Rao, Dean of Students, SGU. “Looking around at all of these boxes filled with medical supplies, I feel excited for the patients, Grenada’s citizens, and its visitors. This will have a definite impact, and all of that was possible because of our wonderful students. I am extremely proud of them.”

According to Dr. Rao, this is just the beginning. In two years, a study will examine how the supplies were utilized. He hopes that it will encourage other donors to give generously in the future.

“I’m thrilled about what’s happening,” Dr. Rao said. “It really will make a difference.”

SOM Alumni Association CME Examines the Art of Medicine

The science of medicine has produced miracles in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Yet, it is the art of medicine which remains the medium through which illness and suffering are relieved. This was the focus at this spring’s School of Medicine Alumni Association (SOMAA) continuing medical education conference in Grenada.

Titled “The Art of Medicine,” the four-day conference was held in association with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). It featured prominent SOM alumni and faculty presenters who covered an array of topics such as new strategies and treatment for atrial fibrillation, the downside of mechanical ventilation, a discussion on high flow oxygen therapy, and how to use ultrasound to improve patient safety.

“Despite the enormous advances in the science of medicine, being a physician also entails the art of medicine—the interpersonal contact between patient and physician which remains a keystone of medical care,” said SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83. “This conference provides not only education for physicians and other health care professionals but a way for our alumni to also get back to the beautiful island of Grenada to rekindle their love for the school, the people, and the island.”

For Jack Davidoff, MD SGU ’88, and his wife Tracey Davidoff neé Quail, MD SGU ’90, this was their second time returning to Grenada since earning their medical degrees at St. George’s University almost three decades ago. After attending last year’s CME held as part of SGU’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the couple was so impressed with the advances made at the University, they felt compelled to return again this year.

“Our first visit back last year was very emotional for us. It’s not just the school that gave us our start but it’s also the people that welcomed us to their island,” commented Dr. Jack Davidoff, an emergency medicine physician. “The True Blue campus is outstanding. Our three daughters are all in college and, of all the college campuses we’ve visited in the US, nothing compares to SGU.”

“With our second visit, we wanted to focus more on giving back in a teaching way,” said Dr. Tracey Davidoff, Vice President of the College of Urgent Care Medicine. “My husband has a vision of improving emergency medical services in Grenada and we wanted to make some connections on island and figure out the best way to do that.”

The 2nd annual SOMAA CME grew in participation since last year with more than 60 attendees, 50 of whom were SGU alumni, as well as 14 Grenadian physicians who practice locally. Additionally, their time in Grenada wasn’t only about lectures and education, the SOMAA provided plenty of opportunities to experience a taste of culture and hospitality on the island many called home during their studies. The group enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Grenada’s natural beauty; lunch at Belmont Estate, a fully functional and historic plantation; a shopping tour of Grenada’s capital, St. George’s; a Catamaran VIP day cruise including snorkeling and a visit to the Underwater Sculpture Park and Hog Island; and a closing sunset dinner at Louis and Marion Modica Hall.

“CME conferences present an opportunity for our graduates to come back to the island to reunite with classmates, friends, faculty and the community, and at the same time partake in a valuable and often needed continuing education component for their careers,” stated Brendon La Grenade, Vice Provost for Institutional Advancement, SGU. “CMEs are usually conducted in fun places, and SGU and Grenada offer exceptional facilities and a stellar location to achieve just that.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University Announces New Partnership with Essex County College

Officials from Essex County College in New Jersey join with SGU administrators following a signing ceremony in Grenada.

Today, St. George’s University and Essex County College celebrated the launch of a new medical education partnership. ECC will become the Caribbean medical school’s 22nd US academic partner.

“We are excited to open up this innovative path to medical school for Essex County College’s most motivated and passionate students,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We look forward to helping talented ECC students pursue their dream of becoming a doctor sooner than they may have thought possible.”

The new partnership allows students to apply to a dual admission degree program, wherein they earn their undergraduate degree in Biology/Pre-Medicine at ECC and then proceed to SGU’s five-year medical program. Students complete their first three years of medical school in Grenada and then spend two years in clinical rotations at hospitals across the United States and United Kingdom.

Students interested in the dual admission program must submit a separate application when applying to ECC. Prior to being selected, students must complete an undergraduate interview with a committee composed of representatives from both Essex County College and St. George’s University.

To continue on to medical school, students must maintain a minimum 3.4 GPA at ECC and score within five points of the average MCAT score for SGU’s previous entering class. They must also obtain a faculty letter of recommendation.

Students currently studying Biology at Essex County College may submit applications for the program and will be reviewed individually upon recommendation by ECC.

“Students entering college with a clear desire to pursue careers in medicine should be rewarded for their enthusiasm and dedication,” Dr. Olds said. “Through this new partnership, we can help students chart their course toward a medical degree before they take their first course at Essex County College.”

St. George’s University Announces New Jersey CityDoctors Scholarship Recipients

St. George’s University School of Medicine has announced that it has awarded CityDoctors Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center Scholarships to eight applicants from New Jersey over the last two years. In August 2016, Ryan Zahn, Andrew Bradshaw, Eileen Alvarez, and Santiago Minaya were each awarded a scholarship and are in the Class of 2020. The 2017-2018 scholarships were awarded to Timothy Muia, Larissa Tavares, Jeris Abuhouran, and Michael Dragone. These recent recipients are currently enrolled and are in the Classes of 2021 and 2022.

“We are proud to provide financial assistance to these talented New Jerseyans who are committed to launching their medical careers in high-need urban areas,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “This scholarship program allows students who might otherwise be unable to afford medical school to serve their communities as physicians.”

John Theurer Cancer Center Lobby

Through the CityDoctors program, St. George’s University will cover 50 percent of tuition for each of the eight scholarship winners. All eight are from Bergen County or affiliated with Hackensack University Medical Center and have expressed interest in returning to the area to practice. New Jersey needs them—by 2020, the state will be short 3,000 primary care physicians.

CityDoctors Hackensack University Medical Center Scholarships are available to students who have been accepted to St. George’s University School of Medicine and either live in Bergen County or have a professional connection to Hackensack University Medical Center. Applicants must write a 500-word essay explaining why their academic record, financial need, or leadership and service experience make them strong candidates. St. George’s University has awarded these scholarships since 2012.

“This unique agreement with St. George’s University allows us to help the Garden State’s best and brightest begin their professional lives in their home state,” Jeffrey R. Boscamp, MD, Associate Dean of Medical Education Continuum, Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, said. “I am excited to see what great things these budding doctors accomplish.”

St. George’s University Graduates Obtain More than 900 First Year Residency Positions

St. George's University, A Caribbean Medical School, has a successful Match Day 2018

901 students and graduates from St. George’s University School of Medicine matched with residency programs across the United States. This number is likely to go up in the next few weeks as SGU grads get residencies post-Match and outside of the Match.

86% of eligible SGU graduates obtained a PGY1 residency position, compared to 84% at this time last year. By the summer of 2017, 93% of SGU’s eligible US 2017 graduates had obtained a PGY1 position.

The available residency positions are increasing in the US. The 2018 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) saw a 4.8% increase over 2017 with 1,383 more PGY1 positions—quelling fears that residencies are becoming unavailable. The available residencies have been growing for 16 consecutive years; more than 9,500 have been added since 2002.

The Match rates of international medical graduates (IMGs) going through the NRMP’s Match were the highest in 25 years—56.5% matched, up from 53.4% last year. For US citizen IMGs, the rate was 57.1%. This percentage has risen 13 of the last 15 years. It should be noted that SGU’s US 2018 current residency obtainment rate for eligible current-year graduates for PGY1 positions—in and out of the Match—is 87%.

St. George’s University students obtained residencies in programs across 46 US states and the District of Columbia will be entering 16 different medical specialties. The most popular specialties among SGU’s newly minted residents were internal medicine and family medicine, two primary care fields sorely needing reinforcements. The United States will face a shortage of up to 31,000 primary care physicians by 2025. In addition, grads matched into such specialties as anesthesiology, emergency medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, surgery, and urology.

The latest group of St. George’s-trained residents joins a cohort of over 15,000 alumni who have gone on to practice in all 50 states. SGU is the number one provider of doctors in first-year residencies on the United States, and in 2016, St. George’s University ranked as the fourth largest source of doctors for the entire US workforce.

SGU and Ramaiah Group of Institutions Create Pathway Program for Indian Students

Ramaiah Group of Institutions Bangalore India signs Memorandum of Understanding with St. George’s University

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Ramaiah Group of Institutions, Bangalore, India (RMC), and St. George’s University. The signing took place during a ceremony at Ramaiah Medical College on March 20, and marked the beginning of a new international relationship between the two institutions. The purpose of the agreement is to develop academic and educational cooperation, and to promote mutual understanding between Ramaiah and SGU.

The two institutions have agreed to develop collaborative activities in academic areas of mutual interest, paving the way for students of Ramiaiah to study at SGU in future. A Joint Medical Degree Program is in development—to be launched in January of 2019—wherein RMC will teach the first year of SGU’s five-year medical program to its students. Those who successfully meet the promotion requirements will continue the Doctor of Medicine program in Grenada, or in the UK as part of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program—in partnership with Northumbria University. They will then complete their clinical training in the US, UK and Grenada.

The MOU also expresses support for a student exchange program, enabling scholars, graduates and undergraduates from RMC to spend time at SGU, and vice-versa. Faculty and administrative staff will also be able to take part in the exchange programme, and the two universities will conduct collaborative research projects. Short-term, customized courses for students on credit transfer or study abroad programmes will also be facilitated.

Commenting on the signing of the MOU, Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU, said, “The breadth of this agreement is testament to the benefit it will bring to both institutions. A well-rounded medical education is the foundation of any successful doctor’s career, and international experience is an important component of that training. I am delighted that our students will have the opportunity to train at Ramaiah Medical College, and look forward to welcoming their students to our True Blue Campus.”

Noting the benefits of international partnerships, Dr. Naresh Shetty, President of the International Program at RMC, said, “The collaboration between Ramaiah and SGU will open up new frontiers for Indian students, who will be exposed to both Eastern and Western culture and benefit from a truly global perception of health care.”