8 SGU Graduates Practicing Medicine Back Home in the US


Setting yourself up for success has always been your preferred strategy. It’s served you well while preparing for every important milestone, so you‘re going to stick with the plan as you get closer to choosing a medical school.

If you’ve been thinking about the School of Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), you’ve probably done some research on the program itself. But what does life after SGU look like? The truth is that outcomes are as varied as our students.

To give you a sense of what SGU alumni do after finishing their education, we’re highlighting eight different stories. Take a look at the impact these grads are making all across the country.

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8 SGU grads making an impact across the United States

Many aspiring medical students worry about their ability to practice back home after attending an international medical school. While the concern is certainly justified, you should know that SGU isn’t just any international program.

With more than 1,110 US residencies in 2020, no other medical school in the world provides more new doctors to the US health care system. In fact, SGU is the number one provider of doctors into first-year US residencies for the last 11 years combined.*

Learn more about eight SGU graduates who made their way back home to practice in the US.

1. Leading tomorrow’s family physicians in Arizona

Educating young minds has always been a passion for Dr. Margaret Russell, who spent more than 20 years teaching before attending medical school. She’s still heavily involved in education today and is now working with resident physicians at the Yuma Regional Medical Center Family Medicine Center.

So what led to the drastic career change? Dr. Russell saw the consequences of inadequate health care when a neighbor’s young child died of pneumonia. “I thought to myself, ‘I am going to fix this situation. I am going to be a doctor in a rural town that needs me,’” she recalls.

"I thought to myself, ‘I am going to fix this situation.'"

Dr. Russell practiced rural medicine for several years before joining the team at Yuma. Though she’s now in a more urban setting, she still benefits from what she learned in medical school.

“St. George’s had us use all of our senses right off the bat,” she says. “I depend on the skills I was taught at SGU, and those skills have never let me down.”

2. Changing lives in California

A dedication to education has guided Dr. Sepehr Lalezari since childhood. He moved from Iran to California when he was four years old and was heavily influenced by a teacher who helped him overcome his early struggles to learn English. He came full circle when serving as a General Surgery Instructor at Johns Hopkins Medicine, where he also completed a fellowship in bariatric and minimally invasive surgery.

Now based in Los Angeles, California, Dr. Lalezari operates a practice that allows him to offer procedures that can significantly impact people’s lives. “With bariatric surgery, I love the relationships you develop with the patients,” he says.

“With bariatric surgery, I love the relationships you develop with the patients."

Dr. Lalezari decided to attend St. George’s after hearing positive feedback from others who had gone through the program. He soon learned why they felt that way. “The faculty, staff, and people in Grenada were great,” he reflects. “It’s a great place to learn, and the education I received set me up to be successful.”

3. Devoting medical attention to digestive systems in Hawaii

It takes time for some to realize their passion for medicine. For example, Dr. Mel Ona pursued a degree in music before ultimately attending the School of Medicine at SGU. Although his path wasn’t exactly expected, Dr. Ona is glad he found his way to gastroenterology.

“I like having the balance of medicine and procedures,” he says. “It gives you the opportunity to take care of patients in a multitude of ways.”

Dr. Ona is now a Gastroenterologist practicing in Hawaii, where he moved to be closer to his parents. He has also penned a few books that offer guidance for medical students. He sees it as his way of offering the same type of support he received at SGU. “It wasn’t all me; it was a team effort,” he explains.

“It wasn’t all me; it was a team effort."

4. Guiding patients through procedures in Missouri

Returning to the Midwest was Dr. Tanner Brownrigg’s plan before he even set foot on Grenada. He also knew he wanted to practice anesthesiology. Dr. Brownrigg was drawn to the field since he knew it would allow him to work very closely with patients. He starts with a thorough preoperative evaluation, then continues to play a vital role during and after procedures.

“Once we get into the operating room, I monitor the patient throughout the operation and am able to respond to acute changes that may take place during the surgery,” Dr. Brownrigg explains. “Then in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), I help control the pain and make sure the patient is stable for discharge home or to the hospital floor.”

"The fact that I scored so well on the USMLE Step 1 and 2 exams was directly related to the quality of the professors at St. George’s."

Now practicing with Ad Vivum Anesthesiology, PC, Dr. Brownrigg credits much of his success to the education he received at SGU. “The fact that I scored so well on the USMLE Step 1 and 2 exams was directly related to the quality of the professors at St. George’s and how the classes are structured,” he says.

5. Continuing a family tradition in New Jersey

Dr. Nadir Ahmad knew from a very early age that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps by pursuing otolaryngology. “My father was my main inspiration,” he says. “Then when I went to medical school at SGU and was exposed to head and neck anatomy and physiology, it solidified my career path even more.”

"There is never a dull moment in our field."

Now serving as the Head of the Division of Otolaryngology at Cooper University Health Care, Dr. Ahmad is just as passionate about his career path as ever. “There is never a dull moment in our field,” he explains. “Head and neck anatomy is the most intricate anatomy in the entire body. It requires both finesse and skill to operate in this region, as there is very little margin for error.”

Dr. Ahmad is also playing his part to ensure future physicians receive great training. He helped develop the clinical curriculum at Cooper. He also hopes to establish an otolaryngology residency program in the coming years.

6. Curing those close to home in New York

For Dr. Amanda Halstrom, securing a residency position near where she grew up in New York was just as exciting for her loved ones as it was for her. “My family is over the moon,” she says. “My grandparents, my cousins, my friends – they’re very excited to have me back.”

Of course, the internal medicine residency program at NYU Winthrop Hospital itself also has her smiling. The hospital offers numerous fellowship opportunities in gastroenterology, which Dr. Halstrom hopes to eventually pursue.

"SGU was an amazing experience that not everybody gets to have."

Dr. Halstrom is well on her way to pursuing her career goals, and she believes St. George’s University helped set her on that path. “SGU was an amazing experience that not everybody gets to have elsewhere, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity,” she says.

7. Providing critical brain care in Pennsylvania

Dr. James Peoples was considering a career in surgery until Dr. Leon S. Wolfe, a visiting professor from the Montreal Neurological Institute, completely changed his perspective. “He introduced me to neurology, and I still have the notes I took from his class,” Dr. Peoples recalls.

"He introduced me to neurology, and I still have the notes I took from his class."

After completing a few internships, a residency, and a fellowship, Dr. Peoples moved on to become a Neurointensivist at Reading Hospital. Clearly, he needed dedication and passion to get to where he is. But he thinks SGU and his fellow classmates helped him along the way.

“The people I was surrounded by were motivated to study,” he notes. “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.”

8. Managing emergencies in Texas

When most people talk about returning home, they’re usually referring to the same city or state. Dr. Jessica Best, an Emergency Medicine Physician affiliated with CHI St. Luke’s Health in Houston, Texas took it one step further. She actually completed her residency at the same hospital where she was born.

Dr. Best’s journey has been filled with adventure. She kicked off her medical education in England by participating in the St. George’s University Of Grenada School Of Medicine/Northumbria University Four and Five-Year MD Program, moved on to Grenada, and also pursued an elective in Thailand. Even after graduating, Dr. Best continued to gain global health experience by spending a month treating patients in Malawi in Indonesia. “The experience was extremely rewarding,” she says.

"The experience was extremely rewarding."

Her fearless attitude still proves useful. “In the ER, it can be something very benign to something that requires the entire department to resuscitate,” Dr. Best explains. “You have to come to work to be ready for just about anything, and I think that’s what’s really exciting.”

Where will you make your impact?

No matter where you call home, it’s likely there are some nearby doctors who’ve built their careers on the education they received at SGU. It just takes a quick glance over SGU’s past residency placements to see how much of an impact alumni are having all across the US.

Joining the SGU community could provide you with similar opportunities. To learn more about what you can achieve with a degree from St. George’s University, request more information today.

*Data as of September 2020

* This article has been updated from a previous version to include current facts and figures.

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