Jose Sanchez-Crespo, MD

In 2005, Jose Sanchez-Crespo, a highly successful lawyer and businessman, finally took the plunge into a world he long before wished he had – medicine. Now a third-year internal medicine trainee at Pilgrim’s Way Surgery in Dartford, UK, the 2009 St. George’s University School of Medicine graduate is thrilled that he summoned the courage to follow his heart.

“Medical school was hard work, but it was a phenomenal time, and it’s something look back on with great memories,” Dr. Sanchez-Crespo said. “I currently interview St. George’s students, but truly, anything I can do is not enough.”

Dr. Sanchez-Crespo finished his two Foundation Years at Chase Farm & Barnet General Hospital and North Middlesex University Hospital, both in London, before completing his first two years of specialty training at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford. He has opened up his own practice, co-directing the Medical and Surgical Centre, a short walk from London’s Marble Arch.

As the owner of a practice, he values having a strong business background to go with his medical skills and knowledge. Having earned his jurisprudence degree in commercial law from La Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in 1990, he added a Master of Business Administration in international finance from Schiller International University in the UK four years later. He is also a qualified risk manager per the London Institute of Risk Managers.

“If you’re going to maximize your profits, sound business knowledge is extremely important,” Dr. Sanchez-Crespo said. “Otherwise, frustration will demolish your enthusiasm. In today’s world, I think it’s essential for doctors to have a strong business acumen.”

In preparation for medical school, Dr. Sanchez-Crespo spent more than a year volunteering at Trinity Hospice in London, helping medical and nursing staff in the everyday care of terminally ill patients. Wanting to remove himself from his UK circles in order to focus on his studies, he applied to SGU and enrolled in August 2005.

“I figured I could always go to med school and find out it wasn’t for me, but I loved it,” Dr. Sanchez-Crespo said.

Dr. Sanchez-Crespo fit in well with SGU’s highly diverse campus, as he speaks fluent English, Spanish, French, and Italian, and can also speak Portuguese and German. In 2006, he was recognized with an award from the University’s Department of Pathology.

“The University was very well-organized, very supportive, and it’s a wonderful island,” Dr. Sanchez-Crespo said. “It was really a fascinating experience. I’m really glad I chose St. George’s.”

John Gillespie, MD

John Gillespie, MD SGU ’10, has witnessed the wonder of plastic surgery firsthand. His grandmother, diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent a double mastectomy in 2003, and upon having her breasts removed, he recalls, “she wasn’t the same woman I knew before the surgery.”

Not long after, though, she opted for a second operation – breast reconstruction. With it, she bounced back and “became the vibrant woman I once knew.”

“She was back her smiling old self,” Dr. Gillespie said. “I saw how the reconstructive surgery rejuvenated her and how it can change people’s lives for the better. In some cases, patients feel as though their lives are taken from them, and plastic and reconstructive surgery can return their lives to normal and give them a sense of well-being despite their hardships.”

Now a fifth-year surgery resident at Christiana Care Hospital Center in Newark, DE, Dr. Gillespie looks forward to lifting the spirits of his patients beginning this summer when he starts a plastic surgery fellowship at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. The field includes a wide range of operations, from body contouring, cleft lip and palate repair, repair of craniosynostosis (skull reconstruction) for newborns and reconstruction of cancer and trauma patients.

“It’s almost indescribable,” Dr. Gillespie said. “I went through life reaching all my goals, but I knew that this was a far-reaching goal. I was nervous about it. However, now that I’ve accomplished it, it’s just the most amazing feeling.”

Dr. Gillespie came to SGU from the University of Delaware, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 2006. He admits to feeling apprehensive about leaving the US to obtain his education in Grenada, a country about which he knew very little.

“Looking back on it, it was an unbelievable learning experience,” he said. “It was a great place to train, and I became friends with people from every walk of life. SGU brings everybody together under one solid premise: to learn and to become a well-rounded doctor.”

Dr. Gillespie gained a strong foundation in basic sciences during his two years in Grenada, and went on to New York City for his clinical rotations, predominantly spent at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn. He shined on his USMLEs, scoring in the 90th percentile or better on each exam. When it came time for residency, Dr. Gillespie went on 12 interviews, turning down others. He was delighted to learn that he was heading home, matching in surgery at Christiana Care, his top choice.

In addition to his time there, Dr. Gillespie has done two plastic surgery rotations, one at Temple, which solidified his interest in both the field of plastic surgery as well as the institution, and another at Johns Hopkins University. The fellowship is only the latest item on his to-do list that he can check off, which he is happy to do so emphatically. He is ready for the challenge.
“Plastics gives you the ability to own the entire body,” Dr. Gillespie said. “You’re operating on people from head to toe, and therefore you have to know everything.”

John Philpott, MD

Growing up in New Brunswick, Canada, Dr. John Philpott wanted to pursue a career in the health care profession.  While studying for his BS in Chemistry at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, he focused more on his goals and future plans.

With no medical school in New Brunswick, Dr. Philpott began the process of investigating foreign medical schools.  His mother, a nurse, put him in touch with a family friend, a visiting psychiatrist at a local hospital, for some guidance.  This friend had delivered several clinical lectures at St. George’s University School of Medicine and spoke very highly of the institution and the education it provided.  After researching the University further, Dr. Philpott applied to the program, was accepted and headed to Grenada.

While at St. George’s, Dr. Philpott excelled at his studies.   His enthusiasm and dedication were evident from the beginning, as he quickly learned the importance of efficient study habits and time management.  “The key is not just the amount of hours spent studying but how wisely you use that time and how much information you retain,” said Dr. Philpott.   During his well deserved study breaks, he took full advantage of Grenada’s outstanding climate, frequently running and playing volleyball to clear his head.  Dr. Philpott’s natural affinity for sports would later play an influential role in his career.

In addition to obtaining an excellent education, Dr. Philpott met many lifelong friends at St. George’s.  The opportunity to study in London for eight months during his elective was invaluable, as it not only exposed him to the National Health Service in the UK and the practicing and teaching in a different country, but offered him the opportunity to nurture friendships with colleagues throughout the world.

Upon graduating from St. George’s University in 1987, Dr. Philpott spent three years of his residency in pediatrics at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, and his fourth year at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.  After his residencies, he worked in the Department of Nutrition Center at McMaster University, the Sports Medicine Clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children and the Child Health Unit at Toronto Western Hospital.

Dr. Philpott is currently on academic appointment at Women’s College Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where he lectures and teaches residents, fellows and medical students involved with the Canadian Pediatric Society.  In addition, Dr. Philpott is actively sought out as a critical resource by several professional Canadian sports teams including the National Figure Skating, Soccer and Basketball Teams.  He frequently works and travels with young athletes who require a physician certified to attend to their special needs.

Dr. Philpott feels very fortunate to have had the opportunities afforded him by St. George’s, and credits the University for helping prepare him for a career which combines his two passions: pediatric and sports medicine.  “Being involved with kids in this capacity, and seeing how their personalities are evolving is very rewarding.  Working with their families is also a fulfilling aspect to this profession,” said Dr. Philpott.

When asked about advice for potential medical students, Dr. Philpott said to prepare for a lot of work.  “You have to be mature and independent,” he said. “Having a high GPA isn’t always enough.”  He also believes students should think ahead about where they would like to practice after graduation and find out what is necessary to apply for a license in that jurisdiction.  “St. George’s provides a foundation which is a critical component to completing your goal of becoming a successful physician.”

Jessica Best, MD

Jessica Best is back to where it all began – literally. The 2012 St. George’s University graduate is a second-year emergency medicine resident at University Medical Center Brackenridge (UMCB) in Austin, Texas, the very hospital in which she was born. Dr. Best is thrilled that her medical career has led her back to UMCB, a Level 1 trauma center in Austin. She and the ER team treat patients who suffer from a wide range of difficulties, from trauma resuscitation and motor vehicle injuries to less acute medical problems such as abdominal pain or throat discomfort.

“I really like seeing patients of all ages and all walks of life,” Dr. Best said. “In the ER, it can be something very benign to something that requires the entire department to resuscitate. You have to come to work to be ready for just about anything, and I think that’s what’s really exciting.”

Born in Texas but raised in Colorado, Dr. Best earned her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of Colorado before going on to obtain her master’s degree in chemistry. She then enrolled in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program (KBTGSP), which she said she “absolutely loved.” It allowed her to spend her first year of basic sciences at Northumbria University in the UK before advancing to Grenada’s True Blue campus and then New York for clinical rotations.

In addition, she participated in SGU’s two-week elective in Thailand, one of many international learning opportunities. Dr. Best has carried her interest in global health into her career. In December 2013, Dr. Best spent a month treating patients at Daeyang Luke Hospital, a village clinic, and a prison clinic in Malawi, a developing African country with a high rate of infectious disease and a lack of resources. She hopes to make additional visits to Malawi to continue making strides toward improved health care.

“The experience was extremely rewarding,” Dr. Best said. “The people were so excited to see us, and it was great because of the care we provided and because we were able to share knowledge with base medical personnel. At the same time, it was difficult because we knew the effects we had were only short term because a lot of the problems that people faced were chronic.”

Dr. Best is an active member of SGU’s Alumni Admission Mentor Program (AAMP), for which graduates take part in information sessions, webinars, career fairs, and other events around the globe to recruit the best and brightest students to SGU. Upon completing her residency, she hopes to give back to her alma mater by teaching emergency medicine at SGU.

“I was able to live and learn in all these wonderful places, and form an opinion on what works and what doesn’t,” she said. “I’m happy to share my experience with prospective students.”

Jason Fischer, MD

No matter the hour of the day, Jason Fischer, MD, SGU ’03, is on his toes. As staff physician and director of the Emergency Point-of-Care Ultrasound Program in the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, he and his colleagues must be prepared for whatever emergency they face.

”Pediatric emergency medicine offers a unique challenge in medicine of being prepared for emergencies that are more sporadic and more unpredictable, but with incredibly high stakes,” said Dr. Fischer, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto. “Your ability to prepare yourself, and prepare your trainees and staff adequately, is that much more of a test, and I feel like this is the right role for me with the skills and background I have.”

Dr. Fischer trained in emergency medicine initially, but recognized the unique challenges of pediatric emergency medicine through his international work. He gained valuable experience while rotating as a medical student in the US and UK. Then during his emergency medicine residency at Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, CA, he travelled to East Timor with an Australian-led aid group provide healthcare to the destabilized nation.

“East Timor is a young country made up mostly of kids, and in the rest of the developing world, you see far more pediatric patients than you do adults,” said Dr. Fischer.
The global perspective gained during medical school and residency has proved valuable in Fischer’s development of the Emergency Point-of-Care Ultrasound Program at the Hospital for Sick Children, an initiative that aims to spread the use of the technology to enhance pediatric health care units worldwide.

“We are bringing together all of our academics together for a common mission – we want to impact a billion children by teaching 200,000 healthcare workers how to use this technology,” Dr. Fischer said. “For the whole history of medicine, we’ve relied on a lot of surrogate markers for clinical decision-making and to guide procedures. Now the technology allows us to see what’s really going on objectively and in real time. The application of this technology is still in its infancy, and as an academic, it’s very exciting when you identify a new technology that’s really practical and really makes a difference in patient care.”

Dr. Fischer arrived at the Hospital for Sick Children, after completing a pediatric emergency fellowship at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland and an emergency ultrasound fellowship at Alameda County Medical Center. He credits St. George’s University for preparing him to fare well in his clinical rotations and his step exams, paving the way to a choice residency and successful career in pediatric emergency medicine.

“At SGU, I met a lot of fantastic people, we’re still close friends,” Dr. Fischer said. “I was prepared to make a good impression and get the residency spot I wanted, and that was the ultimate goal. SGU has given a lot of us the tools to build great careers.”

As a clinical student, he was able to train in a variety of health care systems, a sharp contrast from the experiences had by fellow residents who hailed from US schools.

“I was one of the few students in my class who really traveled,” Dr. Fischer said. “I did rotations in Europe and all throughout the US, including in California, which is where I ended up and wanted to be. For a Canadian kid, it was a wonderful experience.”

Jason Finkelstein, MD

Jason Finkelstein grew up in Long Island, New York and elected to stay in state as he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Binghamton University. Studying hard, Jason graduated with a 3.68. Although he applied to dozens of medical schools in the United States, he made his decision to attend St. George’s after speaking to a former student who only had good things to say about the St. George’s University. Jason was accepted for the August class of 1995. “I went on a whim… All I knew was what was said to me,” he recalls. “I knew if I didn’t like it I could always come back.” Although his trip to Grenada was not his first time traveling outside the United States, he was excited to experience and live in a new culture.

Although it was a change from New York, Jason says, “It worked out great.” He was pleasantly surprised to discover his classmates came from some of the top Ivy League schools in the US and a lot of professors were from US schools as well. He also commented on how available professors were to help students. “They had their own office hours for extra help and counseling, and the department of education services had additional tutors.” Living outside the US and studying at SGU gave Jason the motivation to pursue his personal and professional goals. Aside from the diverse student body and culture experiences at St. George’s University, Jason commented on how “even during my clinical rotations in inner city hospitals, I was definitely exposed to an impressive variety of patients and I had the ability to gain more hands-on experience than if I was in a US medical school.”

While in Grenada, he volunteered his time by visiting orphanages with a group of St. George’s students, working with children who didn’t have a family and trying to put a smile on their faces. He did not know anyone when he first arrived in Grenada, but quickly made life-long friends. He continues to remain in close contact with this network of fellow classmates.

Jason graduated from St. George’s University in 1999 and came to be the first doctor in his family. He completed an internal medicine residency at MCP Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During his residency he became more interested in cardiology and decided to take a Cardiology Fellowship at Tulane University’s Health Sciences Center for three years. In 2006 he also finished an interventional cardiology fellowship at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Indianapolis. Currently, Jason is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases and Nuclear Cardiology. He specializes in preventative cardiology and percutaneous coronary intervention, and is currently in private practice with Advanced Heart Care in Decatur, Texas. His practice follows a non-traditional model where the main headquarters are based in Plano, Texas and all the practicing doctors focus on serving the rural and suburban areas. Jason is an advocate of this model of health care because it addresses the issues of many rural communities. “Before our practice was in place patients in rural areas would have to travel for miles in order to obtain cardiac care. We’ve grown the cardiac services and people don’t need to travel for top care.”

Dr. Jason Finkelstein hasn’t forgotten the St. George’s community. “Grenada gave me an opportunity—not just the school, but the citizens. Living in the country and seeing how some of the people are disadvantaged in their healthcare, I just wanted to help.” He travels to Grenada every year to volunteer his services. During his regular one week visits he manages to see about 50 patients. Even as an alumnus, Jason believes St. George’s continues to offer its support; he explains “Unlike many other medical schools, St. George’s doesn’t forget you after you graduate. They’re still there for students with letters of recommendations or license applications.”

Jason spends his spare time traveling and spending time with his family. He and his wife of 10 years have two wonderful boys, ages three and five. He hopes to bring the entire family along his next visit to Grenada so they can experience the island for themselves!

James Peoples, MD

im Peoples always knew that he wanted to be a physician. In what capacity, though, he wasn’t sure. His passion for neurology developed over four years as a student at St. George’s University School of Medicine. Now a neurologist and neurocritical care fellow in the department of neurology/neurosurgery at Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience within Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, a 700-bed facility in Philadelphia, Dr. Peoples can safely say there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.

“It’s a rewarding feeling to get to do exactly what you want to do in life,” Dr. Peoples said. “It’s great to wake up in the morning and go to the hospital. All the years of hard work paid off. I truly enjoy coming to work and practicing medicine.”

Dr. Peoples earned his Bachelor of Arts in biology from La Salle University in 1996 and then his Master of Science degree in microbiology from Thomas Jefferson University in 2002. When applying for medical schools, he admits that he considered SGU his “alternative option,” but any doubts disappeared when he realized the quality of international education at the University, its faculty, as well as the caliber of student he was living and learning with on campus.

“The academics and the facilities were exceptional, and Grenada in itself was an outstanding experience,” he said. “I had a great time socially, it was a beautiful scenic place, and the people that I was surrounded with were really motivated to study. We saw it as an opportunity to get where we wanted professionally. I didn’t really have the distractions of home and I definitely benefited from being away with a goal in mind.”

Dr. Peoples had designs on being a surgeon until Dr. Leon S. Wolfe, a neurologist from the acclaimed Montreal Neurological Institute, came to Grenada as a visiting professor during Dr. Peoples’ second year. It changed the course of his life.

“He introduced me to neurology I still have the notes I took from his class,” Dr. Peoples said. “There were many who did, but he especially was a professor who really had an impact.”

After garnering his Doctor of Medicine from St. George’s, Dr. Peoples completed a surgical internship and then an internal medicine internship before matching into a three-year residency in the Department of Neurology at nearby Temple University Hospital (TUH). During his residency he earned the Resident Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010, Consultant of the Year honors for 2009-10, and was named chief resident for 2011-12. He is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and will be board eligible in neurocritical care following his graduation from fellowship in 2014.

Dr. Peoples is focused on making an impact on the lives of patients at Jefferson Hospital because he remember the profound impact of Dr. Wolfe. The staff treats an array of diseases and conditions, including victims of stroke, brain trauma, tumors, epilepsy, neuromuscular diseases and headaches as well as those with spine and spinal cord injuries. In addition to his clinical duties in the intensive care unit, Dr. Peoples are active as an instructor in both stroke education and the residency’s procedural skills lab.

A native of Pennsylvania, Dr. Peoples lives in Downingtown, PA, with his wife and two daughters.

Itala Manosha Wickremasinghe, MD

In her first rotation in her first year of residency at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSMC), Itala Manosha Wickremasinghe, MD SGU ’98, saw the course of her career unfold as soon as it had begun. Stationed at the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Center, an affiliate of the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Dallas, Dr. Wickremasinghe felt an instant connection not only with the facility but the patient population: its veterans.

“I just fell in love with the patients, the environment, and the complexity of care,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “The veterans are such a special population that is so worthy of the best and highest levels of care. I knew this place was for me.”

She joined the SCI Center, one of only 24 VA spinal cord injury centers in the country, following her residency and has been there ever since, ascending to her current position of Chief in 2010.

Dr. Wickremasinghe and her staff provide acute care, rehabilitative care, subspecialty care, as well as primary care for patients who range from young adulthood to elderly. For her efforts, Dr. Wickremasinghe has been named one of America’s Top Physicians in spinal cord injury medicine each of the last seven years. As an “unexpected highlight of [her] career,” she also earned the 2015 Advocacy/Excellence Award from the National Paralyzed Veterans of America, which is given to one physician nationwide per year for demonstrating outstanding leadership, professional achievement, and patient care and advocacy.

In addition, she recently spearheaded grant writing, design, development and implementation plans to build the third spinal cord injury long-term care center in the nation at UTMSC. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2020, will include a 30-bed long-term acute care center, an outpatient center, apartments, recreational areas, as well as a 1,000 car parking garage.

“My patients are my motivators and my inspiration,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “I have an amazing team that is so well aligned with our mission here. We need to provide the best quality health care that we can do our veterans, pushing the envelope and pushing boundaries while staying within policy and doing our job well. It’s a mission that I stand by, spread, and remind my staff of every day.”

She has spent more than a decade in Dallas, this after an upbringing for which she was always on the move. Although Dr. Wickremasinghe was born in Sri Lanka, she spent her formative years living in England, France, Spain, Belgium and Algeria – her father an engineer, her mother a ballet dancer. Dr. Wickremasinghe then completed high school in the United States and went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in biology and French at Houston Baptist University in 1994. She had been waitlisted at three US medical schools but was eager to embark on her journey to become a physician, so she enrolled at SGU in the fall. Having been exposed to numerous cultures in her upbringing, she welcomed the international nature of the SGU campus.

“There were so many different people from so many different places at SGU, and that was really enjoyable to me,” Dr. Wickremasinghe said. “Diversity is a beautiful thing. It teaches you to accept people for their life experiences and their differences. It makes you stronger.”

She spent two years in Grenada studying the basic sciences, mixing her studies with leisure time on the island. Dr. Wickremasinghe went on to complete her clinical rotations at New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In 2001, Dr. Wickremasinghe began a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency at UTSMC and Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System.

Upon completing residency, she underwent a fellowship in spinal cord injury at Baylor College of Medicine’s Memorial Hermann-The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) in Houston. Fortunately, a position on staff at the SCI Center opened up. After immersing herself in patient care as well as the business aspect of the operation, Dr. Wickremasinghe went on to become Clinical Operations Manager and Medical Director of its Home Care Program in 2007 before going on to become Chief in 2010. In addition, she is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Medical and Rehabilitation at UTMSC, and a reviewer for the Journal of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine.

Throughout her career, Dr. Wickremasinghe has crossed paths with dozens of St. George’s University students and graduates, for whom she has always been willing to vouch.

“SGU graduates shine wherever we are,” she said. “I have hired or helped in the hiring process for several SGU graduates because I know they are darn good physicians. They’re willing to work hard, to do what it takes, and never take anything for granted because nothing was handed to them.”

Ilan Danan, MD

Treating and preventing head injuries has been at the forefront of sports medicine in recent years, and Ilan Danan, MD SGU ’11, Co-Chief Resident of neurology at Westchester Medical Center in New York, will be on the cutting edge of the field in 2015 when he begins a unique fellowship in sports neurology at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

“The field is just beginning to develop, and I look forward to being a part of its continued growth over the coming years,” Dr. Danan said. “I feel very fortunate to have been given this opportunity. I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am.”

Focus on reducing brain trauma prevalence has taken off with the recent attention to injuries in sports, particularly in the National Football League. Doctors are addressing not only the treatment of head injuries but more importantly their prevention, from the professional levels all the way down to youth sports.

“It’s important that athletes and parents alike are comfortable knowing that they are under the care of physicians with expertise in the field,” Dr. Danan said. “In the past, these injuries were not appropriately managed mainly because physicians didn’t necessarily know how to manage it.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Danan obtained his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Rutgers University, and went on to earn a master’s degree in biomedical science from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). He diligently researched his options for medical school and, noticing its track record for success, decided to enroll at St. George’s University. In addition to the rigorous curriculum, Dr. Danan found time to take part in the Student Government Association, Jewish Student Association, and intramural sports. He took full advantage of the University’s Department of Educational Services.

“The camaraderie among students was great, and it didn’t necessarily have that medical school mentality that you hear about where everyone is trying to one-up each other,” Dr. Danan said. “Your classmates are looking out for you and want you to do as well as possible.”
After two years of basic sciences, he completed the majority of his clinical rotations in his home state of New Jersey, including Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “I had been waitlisted at a few of the New Jersey medical schools, and was able to come back two years later and rotate at the same hospitals as New Jersey medical students,” Danan said.

Dr. Danan gives back to SGU by speaking with prospective students about his experience in Grenada, interviewing prospective students and talking one-on-one with them at information sessions. He also meets with incoming students at New York area welcome sessions.

“I remember being in their shoes, having so many questions and being uncertain,” Dr. Danan said. “Having one-on-one interaction with a current student or an alum to put some of their uncertainties to rest is really beneficial. I’m able to give them my story and let them know that, if you put in the effort, success is commonplace at SGU.”
He is one of those success stories.

“I would do it all over again the exact same way,” Dr. Danan said. “I’m very appreciative that SGU gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a sports neurologist. I couldn’t think of a better career for me.”

Huseng Vefali, MD

The son of a cardiologist, Huseng Vefali, MD SGU ’10, has long been familiar with the heart’s importance. Like the heart sits at core of a human’s health, treating patients’ cardiac issues has been at the core of Dr. Vefali’s motivation in medicine. He is currently an interventional cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, teaching its fellows, residents, and medical students, including those from St. George’s University. “I started med school knowing that I was going into cardiology, and the more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with it,” he said.

As a child, Dr. Vefali visited his father at medical school and through his residency and fellowship. His father went on to become a partner with Cankaya Hospital in Ankara, as well as its director of cardiology, and Dr. Vefali saw an accurate depiction of the profession, good and bad, in and out of the hospital. “My dad would tell me stories about how a patient was gravely ill, and then he did this, this, and this, and now the patient was doing fine,” Dr. Vefali recalled. “I didn’t understand what he did, but in my eyes as a little kid, my dad was as amazing as any superhero I knew. But I also got to see the bad parts of being a cardiologist—the emergent calls in the middle of the night, or if a patient passed, I saw how both he and the family were affected on those unfortunate and rare occasions.”

Dr. Vefali earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from George Mason University in 2005 and then his Master of Health Services Administration from Strayer University. He attended SGU on an International Peace Scholarship and thrived in his new surroundings, both socially and academically. Dr. Vefali was a member of the Student Government Association and Clinical Research Society, and president of the Persian Student Association.

The University prepared Dr. Vefali to stand out as a clinical student at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY, as well as on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) exams. He finished at or above the 97th percentile on all three USMLE steps the first time he took them. “SGU was really an ideal medical school setting,” he added. “It has all the conveniences of back home, but still it’s still laid back so you can concentrate on your studies. It could not have worked out any better.”

Dr. Vefali obtained an internal medicine residency at Seton Hall University St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ, and then completed a cardiovascular disease fellowship at Temple University St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, PA. He looks forward to returning to Turkey and join his father’s practice. “I believe in the importance of remembering your roots and giving back to the people who helped you forge your path in becoming who you are today,” Dr. Vefali said. “Pursuing knowledge at esteemed educational institutions and learning the most up-to-date medical and clinical knowhow is my duty, and I hope it will prepare me in my quest to give back to my people and my country.”