When people hear that a loved one is going to medical school, they probably assume it’s one of a few familiar institutions. But there are many more schools out there. Most MDs actually earned their degrees at one of the many other programs, including Caribbean medical schools.
Of those doctors who went abroad, many of them are glad they chose that path. St. George’s University (SGU) graduates are some of the best examples. Countless physicians who attended the School of Medicine at SGU could not be happier with the education they received.
If you’re trying to determine whether SGU could be right for you, then take a look at these alumni stories.
5 SGU grads share their Caribbean medical school success stories
Each of these physicians arrived at the SGU School of Medicine via a different path, but they all discovered it was the right program for them. Join us as we explore their journeys.
1. Discovering a true community
Not every medical school-bound student spends all their time studying and checking their application progress. Some have a schedule packed with extracurriculars. This was the case for Dr. Ashley Strobel, Emergency Medicine Physician at Hennepin County Medical Center, who competed as a Division I rowing athlete during college. The racing season pushed back her MCAT test date until the end of summer. She soon realized she was too late.
"That October deadline is just that — it’s a deadline."
“That October deadline is just that — it’s a deadline. It is the last time they will even look at you,” Dr. Strobel explains.
She had heard mention of SGU before, but didn’t start to dig deeper into the school until someone from her rowing community suggested she take a look. She started speaking to graduates to learn about their experiences. Dr. Strobel decided to enroll, and any lingering doubts evaporated soon after setting foot in Grenada.
“Once I got down there, everyone was so welcoming,” Dr. Strobel says, adding that she had help from the moment she stepped out of the airport.
"Once I got down there, everyone was so welcoming."
The feeling that she had found something special continued to blossom as Dr. Strobel got to know her classmates and professors in lectures and small group sessions. She was particularly blown away by how much SGU instructors respected her and treated her like an adult. There was never any sense that professors were too busy to be bothered.
“They were amazing — you knew that,” Dr. Strobel emphasizes. “They didn’t have to put themselves on a higher pedestal for you to understand that.” She feels similarly about the mentors she met during clinical rotations as well.
So would she do it again? Absolutely! “I don’t’ think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to St. George’s University,” Dr. Strobel says.
2. Persevering through twists and turns
Folks who plan for the future can be thrown off when things don’t go as expected. They could learn a thing or two from Dr. Sara Story, Hospitalist at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Dr. Story spent several years working in a dermatology office and running a clinical trial program to build her resume after initially struggling to gain acceptance to US medical schools. She says it took her a little longer than some to figure out how she learned best.
“I went to college right out of high school, where I’d never studied, so I didn’t know how to study when I went to college,” Dr. Story explains. “That just made it a little more difficult.”
"I didn’t know how to study when I went to college."
St. George’s University entered the picture after Dr. Story’s mother suggested she take a look at international medical schools. She applied, got invited for an interview, and was accepted. “And that was that,” Dr. Story says.
When it came time for her final two years of medical school, Dr. Story was able to stay with a friend’s family while completing clinical rotations in New Jersey. It seemed like a good situation at the time, and it ended up being more valuable than she could have imagined.
“During my third year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she explains. “I was able to not only get treated at my own hospital, but also live with a family instead of living in an apartment by myself. I had a lot of support.” Dr. Story even managed to stay on track for graduation despite enduring surgery and chemotherapy.
Though Dr. Story had always planned to pursue dermatology, she ultimately went a different route. It wasn’t until she was completing her internal medicine residency that Dr. Story realized how well-suited she was for a career as a hospitalist.
“I liked being in the hospital taking care of people, so for me, being a hospitalist just fit,” Dr. Story explains.
"For me, SGU was the best choice."
A firm believer that everything happens for a reason, Dr. Story has no doubt St. George’s University was the right school for her. “For me, SGU was the best choice,” she says. “Not just the medical education I got, which was above and beyond, but it also afforded me a lot of other personal advantages.”
3. Finding an unexpected passion
Dr. Justin Roberts thinks like an athlete. It makes sense — he played football in high school and even achieved a full-ride college scholarship. But after injuries derailed his football dreams, Dr. Roberts started contemplating medicine as he worked in pharmaceutical sales. He began to realize he was interacting with a lot of fantastic physicians who graduated from SGU.
“I felt like they were really good representatives of the school,” Dr. Roberts says. “They really sold me on the program.”
"I felt like they were really good representatives of the school."
He was initially accepted into SGU’s Charter Foundation Program, which is designed to help students who might need a little extra help prepare for the rigors of medical school. Dr. Roberts was determined to succeed. He excelled in the program and was admitted to the School of Medicine.
It was only natural that Dr. Roberts planned to combine his passions for medicine and athletics by pursuing orthopaedic surgery. Now an Anesthesiology Resident Physician at Rutgers University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. Roberts clearly had a change of heart. It happened during clinical rotations.
“It just didn’t feel like it was what I wanted to do,” Dr. Roberts says. Things came into focus on his very next rotation when he worked on a fascinating cardiac case. “It just solidified my interest in anesthesia and everything involved in it — the procedural aspects and being involved in patients’ care during what was probably the scariest time of their lives,” Dr. Roberts adds.
A commitment to helping others is clearly part of who Dr. Roberts is, but SGU also helps develop that quality. Students and faculty members truly want to lift one another up and make positive contributions.
“It’s kind of contagious,” Dr. Roberts insists. “If someone helps you out, then you want to pay it forward.”
Dr. Roberts is still an athlete to the core, too. It’s apparent in his advice for future students. “Don’t be mediocre in anything you do,” he advises. “If you’re going to do something, then do it 100 percent and be accountable. You’re only going to get out what you put in.”
"If you’re going to do something, then do it 100 percent and be accountable."
4. Achieving a lifelong dream
Many physicians know they’re destined for a career in medicine during childhood, but maintaining laser-like focus on a highly specialized area of medicine? That’s rare, but Pediatric Gastroenterologist (GI) Dr. Jacqueline Larson was a notable exception.
“I treat the disease I have,” she says. “I’m actually a Crohn’s disease and celiac disease patient. I pretty much told my mom when I was six years old that I wanted to be a pediatric GI.”
"I pretty much told my mom when I was six years old that I wanted to be a pediatric GI."
That’s not to say the path to a competitive specialty was easy. Dr. Larson took a significant break between her undergraduate education and medical school. She first learned of St. George’s University through a fellow while working in a research lab and then soon realized she was actually surrounded by SGU graduates.
“More and more [SGU grads] started coming out of the woodwork when I was asking around,” she says. From those conversations, Dr. Larson knew SGU was the only international school she wanted to consider. “I’d heard so many positive remarks about this school; why would I risk going somewhere that doesn’t have this good of a reputation?” she offers.
Like many SGU alumni, Dr. Larson immediately felt as though she had found a new family when she started school. And she insists the bonds only grew stronger once she began clinical training during her third year.
“It’s almost like you have a bunch of big brothers, big sisters, aunts, and uncles at the hospital you’re going to rotate at,” she says.
"It’s almost like you have a bunch of big brothers, big sisters, aunts, and uncles at the hospital you’re going to rotate at."
Though Dr. Larson’s path to medical practice was somewhat lengthy, she doesn’t dwell on it. “There’s really no race to the finish line,” she says. “It should be about making it across the finish line. That’s what you should be happy about — your accomplishment.”
5. Realizing the possibilities
Some students find that medical school confirms they’re meant for a particular field. Dr. Kristopher Milland, Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, found himself in this position while attending SGU. Though he kept an open mind while completing his education, he knew emergency medicine was the specialty for him.
“I loved almost everything,” Dr. Milland says. “And if you love everything, then your options are family medicine and emergency medicine.” He ultimately decided the latter option was the right fit. “There’s nothing like the rush of the emergency department,” he adds.
Dr. Milland did have one concern going into medical school: residency positions for emergency medicine are very competitive. St. George’s University became the frontrunner as he was looking into Caribbean medical schools that could help him achieve his goal.
“The decision really came down to the quality of the campus, amenities, stateside rotations, general reputation, and gut feeling,” he says. “At the end of the day, I felt SGU hit these points better than the other schools.”
Like his fellow alumni, Dr. Milland was impressed by how much support he received during medical school. He doesn’t expect it to end any time soon, either.
“Believe it or not, this continues into residency,” he adds. “One of the outgoing residents at my program who went to SGU saw that I matched and sent me a text message to see if I needed help with anything. And that’s just SGU — a family of strangers who are always willing to help.”
"And that’s just SGU — a family of strangers who are always willing to help."
Find your Caribbean medical school fit
These doctors were able to achieve their dreams by attending a Caribbean medical school. They succeeded because they never lost sight of their passion and drive to become physicians. You have every reason to believe that you could be next.
If you’re ready to start your journey toward practicing medicine, then take the next step. Find out how SGU can help you meet your goals by heading to our request information page.
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