DVM Grad Tackles Rabies at the Source in Malawi

At 10 minutes to eight in the morning, John Clark, DVM SGU ’12, and his crew pulled up to the village of Embangweni, located about 250 kilometers north of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, where Dr. Clark grew up. In the weeks prior, the local radio station had advertised why Dr. Clark’s charitable organization, the Community Health Coalition, had come—to administer free rabies vaccines for area animals.

Dr. Clark discovered a line of people and animals several hundred deep. They encountered the same response days later at their second clinic in Mufwe, Zambia—citizen after citizen awaiting important health care for their pets.

“Everybody was there waiting even before we arrived,” he said of the crowds. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Across the two communities, Dr. Clark, his wife Rachel, and veterinary assistants administered more than 542 rabies vaccines to area animals, helping to address a dire public health problem that spreads across the country and the continent.

Dr. Clark, who operates the Community Veterinary Clinic in Vero Beach, Florida, hopes that it is his first step of many in helping to eradicate rabies in Malawi. His desire is in line with how he arrived at St. George’s University—courtesy of a Commonwealth Jubilee Scholarship, which are awarded to Commonwealth citizens who are committed to developing health care in their home country.

“It feels good to have spent the two days in Malawi and Zambia because it was an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Dr. Clark.

The 2012 SGU graduate modeled the mission after a vaccination program created by Dr. Guy Palmer, Founding Director of the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health at Washington State University. The program aimed to create a rabies-free zone in Kenya and Tanzania that would encourage other regions to focus their attention on the disease as well.

Dr. Clark consulted with Dr. Palmer—who was also a keynote speaker at St. George’s University’s One Health One Medicine Symposium in October—and began to put together his own plan to vaccinate dogs in remote locations in Malawi and Zambia. While the vaccination mission was a step in the right direction, he even admitted it’s a small one. According to the WHO, it is necessary to vaccinate 70 percent of the dog population in an area to control rabies, which would require approximately 80,000 vaccines in northern Malawi alone per Dr. Clark.

However, plans are moving forward on a global scale. At a conference earlier this year in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) established End Rabies Now, a framework strategy to eliminate the disease worldwide by 2030. The alliance hopes to attack the issue by providing affordable human vaccines and antibodies, prompt treatment of infected individuals, and widespread dog vaccinations.

Much of the focus is on Africa and Asia, where rabies causes tens of thousands of deaths each year. Since his mission, Dr. Clark has gained 501(c)(3) status for his organization and began laying the groundwork for SGU students to complete clinical rotations in Malawi. He plans to return there to provide many more rabies vaccinations in 2018.

“People are coming from the outside and trying to make a difference,” Dr. Clark said. “We made a dent. We will try again next year and just keep trying and trying. We hope to get bigger each year.”

St. George’s University Launches $10 Million Humanitarian Scholarship Fund

St. George’s University has announced the creation of a $10 million scholarship fund for students interested in humanitarian work. Students may receive individual partial-tuition awards averaging $30,000.

“Social outreach and humanitarian work are central to our mission here at St. George’s,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “From Grenada to the thousands of hospitals and clinics worldwide where our graduates work, we’ve always sought to provide top-notch care to those in need. This scholarship fund will enable more students to pursue their passions for helping the underprivileged.”

All students applying for admission for the January sessions will be automatically considered for the Humanitarian Scholarship. Eligible applicants will be evaluated based on their backgrounds in humanitarian work, such as dedicated work in Vistra, the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, medical missions, volunteer in community organizations—all activities that show a dedication to improving the general welfare of mankind and its communities.

The Humanitarian Scholarship is one of many awards currently available to St. George’s students. The Legacy of Excellence Scholarship Program, for example, offers partial-tuition scholarships to students with strong academic records. CityDoctors scholarships are awarded to students who intend to practice in urban communities after graduation.

“We work hard to make medical school a feasible option for each and every one of our applicants,” Dr. Olds added. “The more scholarships we can offer, the more diverse and well-rounded our student body will be.”

St. George’s University Awards Scholarships to 122 Incoming Students

Legacy of Excellence and Chancellor’s Circle Legacy of Excellence scholarship recipients gather for a group photo on the upper True Blue Campus.

St. George’s University has awarded more than $800,000 in scholarships to 122 members of the School of Medicine’s incoming class of 2021.

“Here at St. George’s, we aim to help talented students from around the world achieve their goal of becoming doctors, irrespective of their social or economic backgrounds” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “Our scholarship recipients are enormously accomplished and we are excited to welcome them to school this fall.”

Seventy-nine incoming students received Legacy of Excellence Scholarships in recognition of their strong MCAT scores and records of academic excellence. St. George’s has offered these $60,000 scholarships for more than a decade.

Forty-three students received the Chancellor’s Circle of Legacy of Excellence scholarship, an $80,100 award for those with undergraduate GPAs of 3.7 or higher, science GPAs of 3.5 or higher, and MCAT scores of 506 or higher. St. George’s has offered these scholarships for the past eight years.

“We believe financial need shouldn’t stop aspiring physicians from serving their communities,” said Dr. Olds. “We hope that these scholarship recipients will graduate from St. George’s determined to bring their newfound medical expertise to areas most in need.”

This year’s recipients join more than 5,000 students who have received academic scholarships from the University. In total, SGU has granted more than $100 million in scholarships.

New Beginnings at the School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony

At the Fall 2017 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony, St. George’s University welcomed a new dean, a new class of students, and the return of a graduate who had navigated the course on which they were about to embark.

Alumnus and Master of Ceremonies Emily Turitto, DVM SGU ’15, counselled the incoming class on the importance of reciting the Oath of Professional Commitment.

“Today you’re not only receiving your white coat but you’re also taking your veterinary oath which is a very big commitment,” said Dr. Turitto, an Instructor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at SGU. “At the time I took mine, I thought it was exciting, but I didn’t really understand the responsibility and accountability that I would have for animal welfare for the rest of my life.

“Please take your veterinary oath seriously because at some point you will question that oath and whether or not you’re making a real difference,” she added. “You will be given the training, support and knowledge to bring animals into the world, prevent diseases not only for animals but for humans, cure cancer, save lives, and extend the life of man’s best friend. Once you have the best interest of the animals at heart, you can be unstoppable.”

Attending his first-ever White Coat Ceremony at St. George’s University was Dr. Neil C. Olson, newly appointed Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. He welcomed and congratulated the students on this next step in realizing their dream of becoming a veterinarian.

“To the Class of 2021 there are many aspects of becoming a veterinarian that you will encounter that go beyond the diagnosis and treatment of animal maladies and preventive care,” Dr. Olson said. “You will interact with academic faculty, clients, referring vets, donors and hospital staff all of whom play an important role in the functionality of practicing veterinary medicine.

“I would argue that the vet profession is very much a people-oriented profession. Your success as a veterinarian will have more to do with your interactions with people than any other single variable. I look forward to greeting you on your graduation day and working with you as future alumni as we navigate through the challenges and opportunities that surface in our changing environment.”

The Dean also took the opportunity to introduce Dr. Kent Hoblet, Professor and Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University (MSU). Since 2006, as Dean, he has provided expert leadership of both the College and its 509(a)(2) not-for-profit corporation, MSU Clinical Outreach Services, with clinical service and teaching operations at Animal Emergency and Referral Center (Jackson) and Veterinary Neurology and Imaging Center (Starkville).

“Keep a positive attitude, make every day count, keep an open mind to opportunities, and remember that the world needs you as highly qualified doctors of veterinary medicine,” Dr. Hoblet said.

Among the proud family members and friends also in attendance at this term’s SVM White Coat Ceremony was Dr. David Mordasky, a mixed animal practitioner who, along with his wife, Judith, founded Stafford Veterinary Center and Willington Veterinary Center in Connecticut. A practicing veterinarian for more than 40 years, Dr. Mordasky has six children, five of whom have careers ranging from attorney to civil engineer. However, it was his youngest son, Andrew, who made the decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps. The proud father coated his son on stage during the ceremony.

“My father has been a big part of my education, and to have him be able to coat me on such a significant day in my life just makes it all the more special,” said Andrew Mordasky. “I would go to work with him and I always enjoyed spending that time together and witnessing firsthand what being a veterinarian was all about. In fact, I learned about St. George’s through three SGU grads, two of which worked as associates at my dad’s office. They were instrumental in steering me toward SGU.”

He hopes to join the more than 1,400 SVM graduates of SGU’s veterinary medical program, which accepted its first class in August 1999. The School has since gained full accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and the Small Animal Clinic became the second practice outside the United States and Canada to earn American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation.

St. George’s University to Host Major International One Health One Medicine Symposium

Uniquely positioned to lead a discussion on collaborative, global health topics, St. George’s University is hosting a two-day One Health One Medicine Symposium on October 21 and 22. In addition to being a hub for international education across medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health, the University also holds the distinction of being a World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health. The speakers at the conference are pioneers and leaders in this field.

“One Health One Medicine is the convergence of human, animal, and ecosystem health, resulting in a joined-up approach between complementary sectors that, all too often, are practiced in a vacuum,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost for International Program Development at SGU. “Each of these practices are inextricably connected, and by learning from each other and pooling resources, great progress can be made for the benefit of human and animal kind.”

St. George’s University’s OHOM initiative is aimed to help facilitate the further development of opportunities locally and, in collaboration with international institutions, to address global health challenges affecting the health of people, animals, and the environment. The initiative has evolved for 10 years, most recently to include a series of SGU-sponsored OHOM conferences, open access courses, and workshops, culminating in the upcoming symposium.

Students and faculty from the School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine host free wellness check-ups at a One Health One Medicine clinic in Grand Anse, Grenada.

Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU, is also a professor in the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine as well as a tropical disease specialist who has worked on one health issues around the world. He views Grenada as the ideal location to examine issues related to the One Health One Medicine philosophy.

“It is fitting that SGU, an international center of excellence for medical training, is hosting a major conference on the importance of a global approach to human, animal, and ecosystem health,” said Dr. Olds. “Our student body, both past and present, come from all corners of the globe, and by creating a space for these experiences and ideas to come together, we will continue to drive progress in all areas of medicine.”

Distinguished international experts speaking at the event include:

  • Guy Palmer, DVM, PhD – Regents Professor of Pathology and Infectious Diseases, The Jan and Jack Creighton Endowed Chair & Senior Director of Global Health, Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University, USA
  • Fitzroy Henry, PhD – College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica, West Indies
  • Sarah Cleaveland, BVSC, PhD, FRS – Professor of Comparative Epidemiology, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences, Glasgow University, Scotland, UK
  • Chulathida Chomchai, MD – Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Mahidol University International College, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Summon Chomchai – Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

A call for abstracts, to be considered by the symposium’s Scientific Advisory Committee, for oral and poster contributions to this symposium are now invited. More information and the template for the abstracts and poster presentations can be attained from Ms. Naomi Alexander.

To register for the symposium or to submit a research abstract for discussion, visit the One Health One Medicine webpage.

St. George’s University Welcomes Charles Furey as Consultant in Canada

Charles Furey

Before embarking on a long career in government, Charles Furey served as a high school English and history teacher in his native Newfoundland. Thirty years later, he will help guide Canadian students toward their career goals once more, this time with St. George’s University.

In August, SGU welcomed Mr. Furey as a consultant to Canada. He adds to an experienced staff that also includes Sandra Banner, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Resident Matching Service, who joined St. George’s University in April.

“Any new challenge is always exciting, and I’m really happy about working with Sandra, who has done an outstanding job,” he said.

At SGU, Mr. Furey will concentrate on three areas in his new position: recruitment, hospital electives, and government relations. He comes from a political family—his older brother, George, is the Speaker of the Senate in Canada. Charles Furey spent 15 years in government himself, winning five consecutive elections in Newfoundland and Labrador’s House of Assembly. He held such positions as Chief Electoral Officer; Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation; Minister of Mines and Energy; and Minister of Industry, Trade, and Technology.

For 10 years, Mr. Furey was an independent consultant on advisory services, government relations, and strategy planning for a wide array of clients.

“SGU has such a great history, and I want to get into the hallways of power and explain what we’re doing to satisfy the demand for physicians, particularly in rural areas,” Mr. Furey said. “There’s a high demand that Canada can’t fill right now, and we have a great pool of students who can help.”

Mr. Furey’s career has returned to the education realm, which is where it began. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Education from St. Francis Xavier University and taught in Conche and Stephenville Crossing before turning his sights to politics. Recently, he learned about the medical landscape when his wife, Vanessa, now a neurologist at the University of Ottawa, pursued and obtained a Doctor of Medicine.

Mr. Furey also hopes to set up elective opportunities that will enhance the chances for Canadian students to receive clinical training in their home country. More than 180 SGU graduates are currently practicing in Canada, and Mr. Furey had the pleasure of meeting four of them at a recent information session in Toronto.

“I was absolutely floored by the quality of these graduates,” he remarked. “They were well-spoken, sharp on their feet, and transparent, and had all obtained fantastic residencies. They really lit up the room.”

Mr. Furey said he welcomes the opportunity to meet with more alumni, clinical students, and prospective students at upcoming SGU events, including in Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, and Ottawa this fall.

“I look forward to opening the toolbox and seeing what we can do for students,” Mr. Furey said. “We’re providing exceptional teaching, and I want to tell the story about the many great Canadians who chose a different path.”

Veterinary Student Acknowledged for Excellence in Small Animal Neurology

Dr. William Thomas, Professor of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Tennessee (left) with Amelia Roos, 4th year School of Veterinary Medicine Student, St. George’s University

The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine’s Rodney Award is given annually to one outstanding clinical student in small animal neurology. This year, the distinction went to St. George’s University fourth-year veterinary student Amelia Roos, whom the faculty recognized for her competency and passion exhibited during her clinical rotation in Knoxville.

“This particular award is an absolute honor to receive,” said Ms. Roos. “Yet, the greatest gift was being recognized for my capabilities by the Neurology Service that I admire so much. And I hope to continue to honor this recognition.”

The Rodney Award is named after a border collie belonging to Karen McLucas, a patient of the Neurology Service. In addition to receiving this year’s accolades, Ms. Roos also received a copy of Alexander de Lahunta’s Veterinary Neuroanatomy and Clinical Neurology 4th edition textbook and a Welch Allyn penlight.

Originally from a small town in Southern California, Ms. Roos has come a long way from those days in elementary school when she brought home and cared for injured birds and stray dogs. Currently completing her clinical year at U of T, Ms. Roos views this year’s Rodney Award as bringing her a step closer in fulfilling her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

“Since experiencing neurology in the clinical setting, I have actually been inspired to further my career in this field, which is a huge decision for me,” shared Ms. Roos. “In the future, I hope to pursue an academic small animal rotating internship and, if I’m fortunate enough, a residency in neurology. Once I’ve established myself as a veterinarian, I also hope to organize free exam/vaccine clinics for low-income communities in the interest of public health and education, a personal passion of mine.”

Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy Draws Rave Reviews

For the past year and a half, 17-year-old Marco Turner mulled the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Originally from the Bahamas, he had volunteered in a veterinarian’s office, where he helped nurse the community’s pets back to health, and then began researching opportunities that would help further his career in veterinary medicine.

Enter the St. George’s University Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy, which has welcomed nearly 900 aspiring physicians and veterinarians to Grenada to receive an insider’s view of their future careers since 2002. In the program’s 15-year history, 46 Academy graduates have gone on to enroll in the School of Medicine or Veterinary Medicine.

“This experience so far has been great,” said Mr. Turner. “Today, we had a suture clinic where we learned how to do three different kinds of suture patterns. While working at a vet’s office, I would see these sutures done, and I always wished that I could do it myself. Now I have the chance.

“This has been a valuable opportunity for my own learning and development that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in a med or vet program.”

This summer, 74 students hailing from the United States, Canada, Trinidad, Bahamas, Bermuda, United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico successfully balanced a challenging academic program with extracurricular activities such as hiking, sailing, and snorkeling. Both the med and vet students engaged in courses that combined 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.

This year’s class included Charlize Espinoza, who had undoubtedly been regaled with stories of SGU by her aunt, Cholene Espinoza, MD SGU ’15, now a PGY-3 OB/GYN resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. When asked in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up, Charlize replied “a doctor.” A decade later, that answer still hasn’t changed.

“I jumped at the chance to attend the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy because I really wanted the opportunity to plan out my future and get a glimpse of what attending medical school would be like,” Ms. Espinoza said. “However, as someone who suffers from anxiety attacks, I thought this might not be right for me—being in a different country, living in dorms, and being away from my parents. But since being here, I haven’t had any anxiety issues. Instead, I’m really enjoying this experience, and everyone has been so warm and welcoming. It’s been a very intensive program so far but the lectures are very interesting and the doctors are very accessible. The Academy is a great place to test the waters and get ready for medical school.”

In 2017, four Academy alumni—Kristen Sellar, DVM; Abigail Maynard, DVM; Lisa Dyke, MD; and Virginia Vazzana, MD—earned their degrees at commencement in New York City. Dr. Vazzana, daughter of SGU alumnus Thomas Vazzana, MD SGU ’85, attended the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy in 2010 after it received rave reviews from her older sister, who had attended three years earlier. She accepted a seat at SGU’s School of Medicine, where she met and married her classmate Hamfreth Shaul Rahming, MD SGU ’17. Dr. Vazzana began her pediatric residency at The Dwaine and Cynthia Willet Children’s Hospital of Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, this month.

“The Academy was truly the first experience that I had of what medical school and becoming a physician is really like,” stated Dr. Vazzana. “I still remember the first time I worked on a human cadaver, the first time I wore a white coat and shadowed doctors to see real patients, the first time I learned to use an ultrasound machine, and so much more. These things all happened at the Academy. For me, being exposed to these opportunities really was a perfect way to confirm what I wanted to do with my future and is a huge reason I became a doctor.”

Class of 2017 Veterinarians Take Next Step in Their Journeys

Commencement marked the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another for St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2017. Before setting off to begin their careers as practicing veterinarians, they convened on June 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City to celebrate their collective success.

This year’s class of veterinarians hailed from 10 countries, as far away as Taiwan, India, and Botswana. Among the 2017 graduates was Abigail Maynard, DVM SGU ’17, from Barbados, who became the first doctor in her family on Sunday. Dr. Maynard plans to go into mixed animal practice before joining the public health residency program at the University of Minnesota. At graduation, she was cheered on by her parents, grandmother, and godmother.

“I feel really overwhelmed right now. I just can’t believe that the dream that I’ve had since I was 6 years old is finally coming true,” shared Dr. Maynard. “I felt very prepared by SGU especially during my clinical year. Comparing myself to other clinical students, I felt there were definitely certain areas in which I was leagues ahead of them. Today, my classmates and I are reunited, and after all our hard work I’m just so happy that we are here to achieve our dreams together.”

Hooded by her uncle, Dr. Albert D. Franklin, a medical infirmary practitioner, an emotional Devan Sacknoff, DVM SGU ’17, became the first veterinarian in her family. Dr. Sacknoff, who admitted to eyeing a career in veterinary medicine since the fourth grade, was joined at David Geffen Hall by her parents, aunt, and uncle. After graduation, she is applying to be a general practitioner in Huntington Beach, California.

“It doesn’t seem real; I’m still in shock,” said Dr. Sacknoff. “It feels amazing to be here, and I’m so glad to see everyone again after being apart for a year.”

A new addition to the program, this year’s ceremony featured heartfelt words by a class member— Clarence Williams, DVM SGU ’17—who was nominated by the graduands to speak on their behalf. Currently working in a small animal clinic in south New Jersey in emergency and clinical care, Dr. Williams shared pleasant memories of their time in True Blue.

“We’ve been on a wonderful journey these past four years. It has been extremely tough. We’ve learned a lot of information and we’re going to have to continue to learn more information,” said Dr. Williams. “But despite all our sacrifices, we did it; we’re veterinarians now, we’re doctors. It’s still hard to believe, but we didn’t do it alone. We had help from our great professors and all these memories have helped me realize that we’ve been like a family—an SGU family.”

Although unable to attend the ceremony in person, Dr. Eduardo Durante, Senior Associate Dean, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his longtime contributions to SGU in small animal medicine and surgery at the Small Animal Clinic. During his tenure at SGU, Dr. Durante also served as Acting Dean in 2013, and Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs in SVM in 2010 and again in 2013.

SVM Dean Dr. Timothy Ogilvie, who accepted the award on Dr. Durante’s behalf, was also recognized by Chancellor Modica and President Olds for his outstanding service to the University during his three-year term. Dr. Neil C. Olson, the former Dean of University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine, will officially assume the same position at SGU on August 15.

Since opening its doors in 1999, SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine has graduated more than 1,200 veterinarians from 29 countries. These alumni have gone on to practice in 47 US states and 10 countries around the world.

St. George’s University and North Carolina State Launch Medical, Veterinary Partnership

RALEIGH and GRENADA—St. George’s University and North Carolina State University have entered into a new partnership that will enable qualified NC State undergraduates to pursue postgraduate medical and veterinary degrees at SGU.

“We are excited to welcome North Carolina State University’s best and brightest to our campus,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “This partnership will enable numerous NC State graduates to work toward their dreams of becoming the next generation of doctors and veterinarians at St. George’s.”

“This partnership between NC State and St. George’s University serves as a great opportunity for pre-vet students to pursue their life goal of becoming a veterinarian at an AVMA-accredited school,” said Dr. Shweta Trivedi, Director of North Carolina State’s Veterinary Professions Advising Center. “NC State pre-vets are thrilled to know that they have a guaranteed spot if they meet the requirements. They already have peers at SGU who speak highly of the program.”

The partnership will identify undergraduates at North Carolina State who have excellent academic records and a passion for medicine or veterinary medicine. Upon graduation, they’ll have the opportunity to work toward MD or DVM degrees at SGU.

Those who attend St. George’s University School of Medicine will complete their first two years on campus in Grenada and their final two years in clerkship programs programs in the US, UK and other countries. Those who enroll in the veterinary school will study for three years on campus before completing their final clinical year elsewhere.

North Carolina State joins a diverse group of 24 medical schools and 27 veterinary schools in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada that have partnered with St. George’s. SGU has similar partnerships with Mahidol University International College in Thailand and colleges and universities in Bermuda, Grenada, Hong Kong, Guyana, and Uganda.

“To solve the world’s biggest public health challenges, doctors and veterinarians must have a global perspective,” Dr. Olds said. “We look forward to inculcating a new generation of students from North Carolina State with that perspective.”