Reflecting on 2022: 5 stories that highlighted the School of Medicine community

From commencement celebrations to students securing highly competitive residency positions to groundbreaking medical procedures pioneered by graduates, the St. George’s University School of Medicine community made its mark in 2022.

In a year full of significant news, these stories came out on top:

Commencement 2022

After two years of virtual celebrations, the School of Medicine celebrated its 41st commencement in June at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, NY.

Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, SGU’s newest physicians joined a network of more than 20,000 alumni practicing in the United States and around the world.

View on Instagram: Relive the excitement of the SOM commencement ceremonies 

School of Medicine reaffirms accreditation

This fall, the accrediting body of SGU’s School of Medicine, the Grenada Medical and Dental Council (GMDC), was recognized by the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) for the full 10 years through September 2032.

This recognition allows SGU students to continue to meet the standards set by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), setting them up for success when applying for certification to participate in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP).

What does it mean for students? Read:  Medical School Accreditation: Everything You Need to Know

Match Day 2022

For hundreds of SGU School of Medicine students, the wait was most certainly worth it as they found out where they will take the next step in their careers during residency training.

This year, SGU students matched into first-year residency positions across a variety of specialties throughout the US. Over the summer, they began residency programs in a range of highly competitive specialties, including neurology, emergency medicine, surgery, and more, and shared what it felt like to receive the positive news that they matched and how they felt about starting residency.

Read: Soon-To-Be Physicians Share Their Excitement On Match Day 2022 

Groundbreaking advancements in cardiology

Through the use of robotics, interventional cardiologist and Grenadian national Adam Bierzynski, MD ’11, is moving the field of interventional cardiology forward within outpatient settings. He was among the team who performed the first-ever outpatient robotic percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) at an ambulatory surgery center. Dr. Bierzynski shared with SGU why the procedure was groundbreaking, the potential life-saving capabilities of robotics within the cardiology field, and how his medical training set him up for success.

Read: Cardiologist From Grenada Pioneers Robotic Procedure In Outpatient Setting

Return to campus

For many students, the August term was either their first time on SGU’s iconic True Blue campus or their first time being back in Grenada since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime—the University was busy with several expansion and redevelopment projects in preparation for the return of the growing campus community. Check out what’s new—and in the works—on campus.

Read: Back To School: What’s New On The True Blue Campus

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky 

 

 

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SVM grad returns to Grenada to host continuing education conference

Aaron Spacher, DVM ’19, (far left, red windbreaker) returned to Grenada in early November to host a continuing education conference as co-founder and chief financial officer of VetBolus Continuing Education. Ninety veterinary professionals attended the conference, many of whom were SGU graduates.

After spending years on the island of Grenada, many St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine graduates find themselves longing to return for a vacation, a reunion, or, as was the case during the VetBolus Grenada conference, for all the above and more.

Aaron Spacher, DVM ’19, returned to Grenada in early November to host a continuing education conference as co-founder and chief financial officer of VetBolus Continuing Education. Ninety veterinary professionals attended the conference, many of whom were SGU graduates.

Launched in early 2022, VetBolus connects veterinary professionals to leaders in the field for engaging and practical continuing education content in locations around the world. All VetBolus conferences are RACE, and NYSED-approved so attendees can earn their state-required continuing education credit. Conference sessions at the Grenada conference focused on veterinary internal medicine and emergency and critical care, and as a bonus, it included a campus tour and SGU alumni reception at the University Club.

Dr. Spacher and his VetBolus co-founders hosted a CE conference in Grenada in early November.

For Dr. Spacher, who is also an associate veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in Henrietta, NY, hosting a conference in Grenada was an easy decision after his experience as a student on the island.

“I held multiple leadership positions at SGU, allowing me to plan events. Because of this, I knew I could plan an unforgettable VetBolus Conference in Grenada,” Dr. Spacher added. “Mount Cinnamon Resort and Beach Club offered first-class service and helped me turn our vision into reality, making the decision even easier. Returning to Grenada brought back many happy memories and allowed attendees to make even more while earning their CE credits.”

Dr. Spacher got the idea for VetBolus due to his disinterest in distance learning for continuing education; watching videos online didn’t energize his love for veterinary medicine.

“After graduation, I moved back to my hometown of Rochester, NY, and at every Sunday dinner, my grandma would ask if all my continuing education hours were completed,” said Dr. Spacher as he reflected on what prompted the founding of VetBolus. “I floated the idea of a destination CE to my co-founder Dr. Kendon Kuo, with whom I had developed a friendship while completing my clinical year at Auburn University. He got Dr. Kathy Gerken, our other co-founder, on board with us to help create VetBolus. We have worked tirelessly to plan VetBolus conferences in destination locations with amazing speakers that everyone will love. We dedicated VetBolus Grenada 2022 to my grandma and those who cheer us on.”

Returning to Grenada also allowed Dr. Spacher to once again experience the beauty of the Caribbean country and its people, which is what he misses most about the island.

Dr. Spacher and the VetBolus team along with Dr. Shekinah Morris, SGU alum and attendee.

“I often tell people that attending SGU SVM is indescribable,” he said. “You are surrounded by a group of people from all over the world that end up becoming family, all while working together to achieve the same goal. Then you add fantastic faculty and staff who care about their students so much—attending SGU and living in Grenada is so special.”

Looking back on his experience at SGU from where he is in his career today, Dr. Spacher encourages all students to get involved in leadership positions because this is what prepared him for entrepreneurship.

“My fondest memories of Grenada include riding around Grand Anse in now Dr. Aki Otomo’s Escudo to rent tents from Waggy T’s, buying crates of Ting from CK’s, and ordering 50 turkeys from IGA to put on SAVMA fundraisers/events,” he said. “Leadership positions lead to fantastic opportunities.”

 

—Sarah Stoss

 

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SAS Alumna Becomes Grenada’s Youngest Elected Minister

Kerryne James, BSc ’21, grew up in a working-class family in the town of Gouyave in the parish of St. John. Although life was not always easy, she learned from a young age the importance of hard work and the value of education as a tool that can be used to empower yourself and change your circumstances. Now as the Honorable, Minister for Climate Resilience, the Environment and Renewable Energy, and the youngest female to hold the position, she’s harnessed those early teachings and applies them to everything she does in service of her country.

Decidedly different from her peers, Minister James became involved in politics from the tender age of 15. In 2016, during her second year at T. A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) she was hand selected by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to become one of the youth members representing Grenada at the National Sustainable Development Plan 2030. She describes the experience as having opened her eyes to the reality that young people who came from rural parts of the island were being overlooked and underrepresented in that realm of conversation.

Having always loved modeling and fashion, 2016 was also the year she would place second in Grenada’s National Carnival Queen Show. It was while touring on the pageant trail, she saw firsthand so many of the residents from her beloved hometown living in such desolate conditions and felt the overwhelming need to help. She would go on to use the pageant as a platform to showcase that the people of Gouyave were also multi-talented and could represent Grenada well—outside of sports and music. This was also the moment she felt something awaken in her and she decided to officially enter the political arena.

Originally, the Minister thought she would pursue a career in law, even majoring in law, geography, and sociology while at TAMCC. However, she would later apply to St. George’s University (SGU) to study psychology to make sure she knew exactly who she was and what she wanted to achieve for herself—not for her parents or anyone else.

From becoming a senator, while studying at SGU, to being elected the youngest female minister in the region, Minister James shared with SGU News her journey from student to politician.

St. George’s University: As the newly elected Minister for Climate Resilience, the Environment and Renewable Energy, describe what stands out or excites you most about your job? 

The Honorable Minister Kerryne James: Getting the opportunity to create policies, programs, and projects that would help elevate and change the status quo of my country, as well as having a positive impact on our young people and especially women, is what excites me about this job. I have a portfolio that requires me to be off-island frequently and attending international negotiating tables, round tables, and conferences where there aren’t many there who look like me.

I’m in a position where I can show others who we are and what we have to contribute to the larger conversation. We all have unique challenges when it comes to the environment, but it is only when we speak up can the more developed countries realize the impact they’re having on these smaller states. Being that storyteller for them is something that is very powerful.

 

“SGU has prepared me for both educational and professional advancement. It has shown me that although life can be difficult to balance at times—consistency is important.”

 

SGU: What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your new role? 

Minister James: My goal is to fulfill my campaign promises to my constituents, especially the farmers and fisherfolks who are very close to my heart. I’m looking forward to developing our infrastructure in the parish of St. John—helping it to become more climate resilient and climate smart. I also want to help educate and train our young people and create an environment where our women can feel that there is a space for them and support for them to lead the way.

SGU: We’ve noticed you wearing styles from local fashion designers, why is it important to you to support Grenadian entrepreneurs?

Minister James: As a former beauty queen contestant, fashion has always been near and dear to me. I believe that you have to dress how you want to be addressed and that you’re firstly judged by how you look and what you wear before you even speak. Therefore, every opportunity that I get to be different and to stand out, I’ll take it. I have my own sense of style and I always strive to be authentically me. I wear local because it reminds me of where I come from, and it gives me an opportunity to market my country’s talented entrepreneurs. I can show that I am a living example and that, if you apply yourself, you will get noticed and you can make a career path where there wasn’t one before.

SGU: How well do you feel that SGU prepared you for the next step in your journey?

Minister James: SGU taught me how to be serious, how to take initiative, and it taught me time management skills. I had really supportive friends and faculty at SGU, and the resources were numerous. The Psychological Services Center was there to help with your wellness and the Department of Educational Services was there to help you stay on track with your classes.

 

 

SGU: Describe how you became a senator? And why you accepted the position?

Minister James: University life was initially tough because there was no more handholding like in high school. I had to adapt to this new fast-paced environment. During my third month at SGU, I got a call from the Governor General’s office stating that my name was selected as one of three to become a senator. My jaw dropped and I thought I was being pranked. However, I accepted even though I thought to myself this wasn’t why I originally got involved in politics. I simply wanted to do my part and be a youth advocate within the party. But, after speaking to a few people in my close circle, I decided to give it a shot. I was called to serve, and I would put my best foot forward. I would figure out how to balance school life and state life as a senator.

SGU: Were you involved in any extra-curricular activities or student clubs while at SGU?

Minister James: I was an executive member of the Humanities and Social Sciences Association (HS3A) and I had quite a wonderful experience and felt like I really made a difference in that student organization. Due to COVID-19, all the big events we had planned that term did not materialize, but one of our biggest accomplishments was creating a well-produced video in recognition of World Mental Health Day, which garnered local media attention to help educate our population on how we should treat people with mental illness.

Another major achievement while I was in HS3A was our visit to the Father Mallaghan’s Home for Boys. We felt like those boys could relate to us and they could speak to us. We were able to help them with assignments and give them words of encouragement that, despite their current circumstances, they could change their future. We were able to touch the lives of these young men and to this day they remember us.

SGU: What advice would you give to prospective students who are considering applying to SGU?

Minister James: Attending a university will be challenging, but your primary interest should be to do your best. Obtaining that degree from SGU will be so worth it. And when you get to SGU, stay grounded and commit to what you set out to do. All the resources are there for you to succeed. You just have to show up and take advantage of this opportunity. SGU prepared me for both educational and professional advancement. It has shown me that although life can be difficult to balance at times—consistency is important. And if you fail to prepare yourself for opportunity, it can slip by you very easily.

SGU: What is one of the greatest accomplishments you’ve achieved in your career so far?

Minister James:I would have to say becoming the youngest sitting senator in the House of Parliament in all the Commonwealth nations. I was also the lone female who won a seat in Grenada’s recent elections from the winning party, the National Democratic Congress. I’ve achieved all of this under the age of 25. Politics remains a male-dominated arena, so to be so young and a woman and to achieve so much already, is my greatest accomplishment so far.

– Ray-Donna Peters

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Advice from Resident of the Year: “Hard Work Always Pays Off”

Hrant Gevorgian, MD/MPH ’21, recently received the honor of being named “Resident of the Year” by the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Dr. Gevorgian is a PGY-2 emergency medicine resident at Rutgers Health/Community Medical Center.

A native of Los Angeles, CA, Dr. Gevorgian also recently won first place for the Research Abstract Competition at the NJ-ACEP 2022 Scientific Assembly. His abstract explored how the opioid buprenorphine is administered in the emergency department. He and his team developed a withdrawal scoring system program for patients receiving buprenorphine to help avoid opioid addiction.

Dr. Gevorgian, whose first name means “unextinguishable fire” in Armenian, shared with SGU News what winning Resident of the Year means to him, his most challenging experience in the emergency department so far, and his ABC’s of advice for aspiring physicians.

St. George’s University: What does receiving the Resident of the Year award mean to you?

Dr. Gevorgian: It’s extremely humbling and unexpected. It highlights the dedication and opportunities my first-year program offers residents. Every faculty member has provided enormous amounts of mentorship to help us succeed. I will continue challenging myself every day to push my limits and by mentoring to my co-interns who are all doing amazing things.

SGU: Why were you drawn to emergency medicine?

Dr. Gevorgian: I love working in a fast-paced environment and being exposed to a multitude of pathologies. I also enjoy having the opportunity to do a variety of cool procedures at bedside.

SGU: What is your advice for residents starting their first year?

Dr. Gevorgian: My best advice for incoming residents is simple: don’t forget your ABCs.

  • Accountability: If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
  • Betterment: Always try and learn something new every day and better yourself.
  • Compassion: In addition to being a compassionate provider, makes sure to always be compassionate to yourself because residency is tough with good and bad days.

 

“SGU has taught me that hard work always pays off and that nothing is impossible.”

 

SGU: Share a challenging emergency department moment and how you were able to treat your patient.

Dr. Gevorgian: Sometimes it’s hard to find the balance of providing the best possible care, but also respecting the patient’s wishes. One patient I had during my intern year of January 2021 (when COVID cases were rising again) was COVID-positive and in the emergency department for respiratory failure. I was in the process of getting him admitted to the ICU when he signed out against medical advice. I had multiple conversations with him explaining the risks involved. He was aware that his condition was life threatening, and his exact words were, “if I die I want to be home and be with my dogs.” But somehow my team and I managed to have home oxygen and appropriate medications delivered to his house prior to his discharge.

Being able to provide this patient that level of care, at the last minute, on a Friday night was a miracle—we were so thankful it was coordinated. I felt reassured that my team and I went above and beyond the call of duty for caring for our patient.

SGU: Recount a favorite memory from SGU.

Dr. Gevorgian: Exploring the North side of Grenada was always a blast. My friends and I would drive and explore different secluded beaches. There was something special about the North side, it was so quiet and calm. Once we stayed up all-night watching leatherback turtles come to shore and lay their eggs with endless shooting stars in the sky. It was an unforgettable night.

SGU: How did your experience at SGU help you get to where you are today?

Dr. Gevorgian: SGU has taught me that hard work always pays off and that nothing is impossible.

 

–Ronke Idowu Reeves and Sarah Stoss

 

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SGU Alum Returns to Grenada to Perform Lifesaving Heart Interventions

Interventional cardiologist Jason Finkelstein, MD ’99, has made it a priority to give back to the Grenadian community by frequently returning to the island to offer lifesaving cardiology services at no cost. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his visits were put on hold and his patients went unseen for more than two years. Dr. Finkelstein was finally able to return to Grenada June 20-23 to resume his pro-bono services.

During his visit—his 15th since 2008—Dr. Finkelstein was able to see and treat 103 patients at the Medical Specialties Clinic in Grand Anse. Many patients were seen for the first time, while others came for follow-up visits. With the assistance of Dylan Vulcannon, a pacemaker representative from St. Jude Medical Center, Dr. Finkelstein performed urgent on patients, as well as dozens of pacemaker interrogations (checks)—an essential consultation for all patients with devices. Additionally, pacemaker changes were conducted at the General Hospital.

Dr. Finkelstein said he was especially concerned for those patients who had implanted pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators, since their devices were not checked for such a long time.

“When I returned to Grenada this year, I found that there were a few patients whose pacemaker or defibrillator batteries had run out,” said Dr. Finkelstein, who practices in Decatur, TX. “Fortunately, I was able to change out two pacemaker generators at the General Hospital on two patients and sent another to Florida for a new device. These situations make me want to come back each year to help these patients in need. I was glad to be able to accomplish so much on this trip.”

Since its inception in 2000, the Visiting Cardiology Program, under the sponsorship of St. George’s University School of Medicine, continues to provide much needed heart care for adult Grenadians free of cost to them. These visits are arranged through the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN), a program that enables SGU alumni and friends to aid the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in improving healthcare in the country.

 

“When I returned to Grenada this year, I found that there were a few patients whose pacemaker or defibrillator batteries had run out. Fortunately, I was able to change out two pacemaker generators at the General Hospital on two patients and sent another to Florida for a new device.”

 

Johansen Sylvester, MD ’00, director of the Visiting Cardiology Program, said the two clinics combined were valued at US$75,000.

“During the last 15 years, the Visiting Cardiology Program has worked closely with our valued alumni in providing the highest level of care to many that would otherwise not have received such lifesaving interventions and follow up care,” Dr. Sylvester said. “The work done by Dr. Finkelstein is an invaluable part of continued SGU alumni altruism and a genuine sense of ‘giving back’ to a people and school that has played a critical role in their professional development.”

In addition to Dr. Finkelstein, other SOM alumni and friends who have also pledged their time and expertise to the SGU PHuN program for the fall 2022 term include:

  • Cardiologists – Christine Rodriguez, Rajesh Vakani, and Pravin Patil, MD ’04
  • OB/GYN – Philip Lahrmann, MD ’81
  • Pediatric ophthalmologist – Dr. Michael Gray
  • Wound care/emergency medicine specialists – Drs. Jay Helman and Robert Helman, MD ‘97
  • Grenadian-born endocrinologist – Dwight Matthias, MD ’93
  • Associate alumni and ophthalmologist – Dr. Fred Lambrou

 

“As an experienced contributor to the cardiology team, Dr. Finkelstein adds his value as an interventionalist by seeking out both resources such as pacemakers, as well as aligning his hospital and other colleagues to provide service to Grenadians in need—even bringing them to his site when he is unable to serve them in Grenada,” stated Dr. Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “He is more than a resource that we can rely on, he is a true friend to Grenada and a treasured alumnus. We appreciate all that he’s done for us over the past 15 years.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

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Egyptian grad finds his way to pediatric residency in the US

Ahmed Hussein, MD ’22, has never been one to settle. He started his career in pharmacology in 2010 but soon realized it wasn’t the right fit for him. He found himself longing to make a greater difference in the lives of patients and decided to follow his dream of becoming a doctor in the US.

As someone who had grown up in Egypt, he didn’t have much knowledge of the US healthcare system and knew he needed to select a school that could help him gain this knowledge while providing high-quality medical education. Dr. Hussein soon found SGU, and he hasn’t looked back since.

Today he is a first-year pediatrics resident at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Hussein shared with SGU News how he successfully reached his goal of becoming an MD with the resources provided to him throughout medical school.

St. George’s University: What made you want to pursue medicine and why did you choose pediatrics specifically?

Dr. Hussein: ”If you are lost in a desert and you know that you are walking in the wrong direction, will you keep going in the same direction or will you stop and change it?”

These words, said by my mother, resonated with me when I was thinking about changing my career as a pharmacist to pursue medicine. We can all be helpful to the vulnerable, but being on the frontline, diagnosing and treating patients, was my main drive to pursue medicine.

Pediatrics as a specialty wasn’t something I considered before starting my clinical rotations. However, I enjoyed it so much during my clinical training that it quickly became the only specialty I applied for during Match. Seeing how resilient the children are while fighting their illnesses is very rewarding. Plus, the cuteness factor is very real!

Since graduating from pharmacy school in 2010, I was fascinated by the hematology/oncology field, and it is my goal to sub-specialize in it once I successfully finish my residency.

SGU: What was the application process to SGU like and how did you feel once you were accepted?

Dr. Hussein: My application process to SGU was seamless, which I believe was the case for my colleagues as well. There was always someone to contact for questions, aid, or just reassurance.

Once I got the news about my acceptance, I felt that I was about to embark on a new journey that would require hard work, day in and day out, to reach my destination—MD.

SGU: How did you participate in campus life at SGU?

Dr. Hussein: I enjoyed the extracurricular selectives offered by SGU, such as dissection (Anatomy Cadaver lab) and wilderness medicine. The new campus gym and the intramural soccer league were my favorite physical activity to participate in on campus.

SGU: What was your favorite aspect of living in Grenada and what do you miss most?

Dr. Hussein: THE BEACH! And I can’t forget to mention the beautiful sunsets.

SGU: How did SGU help you with your academic achievements and USMLE preparation?

Dr. Hussein: I came to find out that SGU has very high USMLE passing scores for a reason! The modules taught and tested during the basic science years are very detailed. I was provided with all the tools that I needed to do well in standardized exams, such as DES facilitators who helped me set up study schedules, go over materials that I didn’t grasp well, and many other things.

SGU: Where did you do your core clinical rotations and what was your experience like?

Dr. Hussein: I did my clinical rotations at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York. I had a wonderful experience rotating between different departments during my core rotations as well as my electives. Also, I met the love of my life in this hospital, who is currently my wife. So, this place will always be memorable!

 

“My application process to SGU was seamless, which I believe was the case for my colleagues as well. There was always someone to contact for questions, aid, or just reassurance. Once I got the news about my acceptance, I felt that I was about to embark on a new journey that would require hard work, day in and day out, to reach my destination—MD.”

 

SGU: What was the Match application process like for you?

Dr. Hussein: I believe the Matching process is one of the most stressful parts of the MD journey. However, preparing for it mentally by reaching out for advice from recent graduates and the Office of Career Guidance and Student Support helped me a lot.

It’s crucial to have a game plan to tackle the application process and interview season. But I was provided with assistance while still in Grenada. OCG provided me with a framework for filling out the application and my CV, and they provided reviews before the submission date. In addition, each clinical site has mentors that tailor their advice based on the students’ Step 1 grades, clinical performance, and the specialty they are applying for!

SGU: What did it feel like when you learned you Matched?

Dr. Hussein: I didn’t believe it. I kept checking the National Residency Matching Program website every five minutes to be sure!

SGU: Why was SGU the right fit for you?

Dr. Hussein: Coming from the Middle East, I didn’t have much information about the US healthcare system, which is very different from Egypt and the UAE (where I used to work). So, to be able to integrate myself into this system, I was looking for a medical school with a great track record of graduates matching with US hospitals. And the answer was SGU!

SGU: Do you have advice for international students (especially those from Egypt) considering medical school and insight on why they should consider SGU?

Dr. Hussein: Grenada is a wonderful island that accepts students from all over the globe and luckily for us (Egyptians) it doesn’t require a visa application process. In addition, in my experience, SGU was successful in matching me into the US healthcare system which is ultimately the goal.

SGU: Since graduating from SGU and matching in pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center Program, what has your transition from med student to MD been like?

Dr. Hussein: One thing I learned quickly in med school is you’ll never “feel” 100 percent prepared for an exam or patient encounter during clinical rotations! However, I channeled this self-doubt to do my best, analyze my shortcomings and try to address them before my next exam or patient encounter. With the same mindset, I tackled my first block of residency. It’s a lifetime journey of learning and it begins by being open to self, peer, and supervisor appraisals.

 

—Sarah Stoss

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SOM Grad: Becoming a clinical faculty member is a “great way” to give back

Dr. George Mammo may have graduated St. George’s University in 2017, but as a clinical professor and hospitalist at Humboldt Park Health, he interacts with future SGU doctors almost daily.

“I find it very rewarding because I was in their position not too long ago,” Dr. Mammo said of working with clinical students. “As a young attending, I see so much of myself in many of them. I feel that it’s a great way for me to give back.”

Humboldt Park Health is a 200-bed acute care hospital located in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago, IL. Formerly named Norwegian American Hospital, the institution rebranded in 2021 as part of a wider initiative to better serve its local community.

Dr. Mammo was part of the inaugural class of residents at the hospital. Now he is not only an attending physician there, but has joined SGU’s clinical faculty on site to teach third- and fourth-year med students the clinical skills they need to prepare them for residency.

SGU News asked Dr. Mammo what clinical students at Humboldt will learn and the lessons they will be able to take with them in their career.

St. George’s University: How long have you been a clinical faculty member?

Dr. Mammo: I’ve been part of the clinical faculty for six months now.

SGU: What are some of the day-to-day ways that you interact with SGU students?

Dr. Mammo: From bedside teaching rounds to lectures in clinical medicine, I directly interact with students on a one-on-one basis and guide them in their development as clinicians, especially in their ability to formulate a differential diagnosis and plan of care for a patient. I emphasize to students and residents that the diagnosis in the vast majority of cases can be narrowed down from collecting a detailed history and physical examination, and this is mastered by the art of applying the full breadth of pathophysiological knowledge that is unique to their journey as a physician-in-training.

SGU: What are some of the skills that students might acquire over the course of their time here?

Dr. Mammo: I would say the two most important skills that students should acquire are first, how to take a thorough history from a patient. And with that history, learn how to narrow down their differential diagnosis to come up with what will be the ultimate best course of action and best treatment route for that patient. But it all starts with taking a good history. From day one I try to impart that in the students. I just can’t emphasize that enough. As they improve their physical examination skills they will also improve their clinical skills.

SGU: Why did you choose medicine as your career path? What appealed to you about going to med school?

Dr. Mammo: I chose to go to medical school wanting to understand the fabric that binds and connects us as humans, and by understanding this fabric to solve the problem of pain and suffering. I have always imagined that if we can alleviate people’s pain, physically, mentally, and emotionally, that there is hope in the healing of the human condition, and years later I see this positive impact on countless lives on a daily basis in practice.

SGU: What fascinates you about family medicine? Why did you choose that specialty?

Dr. Mammo: Family medicine is really the one specialty that allows you to do the most good for the most amount of people. It allows you to be as specific and focused, yet as well-rounded and skilled as you’d like, or as general as you’d like. You can really tailor your practice and the way that you approach medicine, see patients, and take care of patients.

SGU: How did you choose SGU and how would you describe your SGU experience?

Dr. Mammo: I was born in the metro Detroit area, definitely a blue-collar city, to immigrants from the Middle East. Throughout my life, they gave me all the virtues of hard work, persistence, and committing myself fully to the goals that I set for myself and my life.

What piqued my interest in going to SGU was the fact that it’s probably the most diverse place where you can go to get a medical education. In my experience at SGU, it was phenomenal and wonderful to get to know people from all over the world. Not just from the US or Canada, or even students from the local area in the West Indies, but from all over—Brazil, Italy, China, South Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world. I don’t think you would get that experience anywhere else. So I think it just enriched my experience of being a student in a way that being at an American medical school you may not get.

SGU: What is one piece of advice that you would like to pass on to students to be successful in their clinical education?

Dr. Mammo: My advice to all students would be that medicine is a profession of lifelong learning. And so as you approach every milestone and move forward, remember that we’re all students of medicine for life and we’re always learning and that includes even when we get into practice.

In addition, always remember that, whatever it was that fueled you to go into medicine, keep it there and allow that to continue to be what drives you to do the best thing for your patient. But that requires you to continue to learn, stay up to date, and always be a student of medicine.

 

 

– Brett Mauser and Laurie Chartorynsky

 

 

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Grad Performs Life-Changing Heart Surgery for 9-Year-Old Ukrainian

Photo courtesy of Catholic Health – St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center®

Dr. Sean Levchuck is a 1989 St. George’s University graduate.

One of St. George’s University’s very own alumni came through during a time of need for a 9-year-old girl from Ukraine, performing life-changing heart surgery free of charge.

Through the Gift of Life program, Sean Levchuck, MD ’89, the chair of pediatric cardiology at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, NY, performed a non-invasive Amplatzer ASD Occluder procedure that closed a hole in the child’s heart.

“It is always a special day when you can give an assist to someone who is struggling through tough times,” said Dr. Levchuck, according to the news article featured on Catholic Health’s website. “It’s especially great given the circumstances that surround this little girl’s case. She comes to St. Francis from a country that is in pieces and going through the worst of times. I know I speak for the whole team when I say how honored, blessed, and grateful we are to be given the opportunity to help this beautiful child live a long and healthy life.”

 

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Grenadian SOM Grad Continues Family Legacy in Medicine

 

Grenadian nationals Natalie Harford, MD ’22, and her older brother Nicholas Harford, MD ’20, have always been inseparable when it came to attending school. So, it came as no surprise when Dr. Natalie Harford made the decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps and attend St. George’s University two years after he enrolled.

“The fact that my brother went to SGU played a big part in my decision at the time,” said Dr. Harford, who graduated this past June. “What can I say—my brother has always been a successful role model throughout my life, and I don’t regret my decision to apply to SGU one bit.”

Indeed, the family had much to celebrate as the younger Dr. Harford walked across the stage to be hooded by her sibling at SGU’s 41st commencement ceremony at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. Like her brother two years earlier, she and her fellow students from the Class of 2022 join a network of more than 19,000 alumni practicing in the United States and around the world.

“Hooding my sister was a great honor,” said Dr. Nicholas Harford, currently an internal medicine resident in Connecticut and the first doctor in their family.

“It was also extra special to be a part of the experience standing on stage since I wasn’t able to stand there at my own commencement ceremony in 2020 due to the pandemic. We owe that moment to our parents as they supported both of our dreams to become doctors. It would not have been possible without them.”

A Family Celebration

Having two children in medical school at the same time did provide a challenge for the Harford siblings’ parents—with both working full time jobs to make their children’s dream of becoming physicians possible. Their mother, Pratima Harford, also ran a successful international take-out food stall called Flavor House just outside of the True Blue campus. Over the years, she’s fed many SGU students and sometimes acted as a second mother while they were studying far from home.

Drs. Nicholas and Natalie Harford

“It was definitely a lot of sacrifice and a huge life challenge that we took on as a family,” shared Mrs. Harford. “The moment when our son hooded our daughter, we felt like we were witnessing our nine years of hard work come together in that one special moment. We couldn’t have been prouder of how happy and successful they both have become. It was truly a celebratory day for our entire family.”


A Doctor in the Making

Born in Guyana, and living in the Fiji Islands for five years, the Harford family eventually moved to Grenada.

Upon graduating from secondary school in Grenada, Dr. Natalie Harford had the option to attend T. A. Marryshow Community College or apply to SGU’s premedical program. Passionate about science—particularly anatomy—she carefully considered her options before joining her brother at SGU.

“I was drawn to SGU because it offered me a continuous seven-year pathway to earn my medical degree,” stated Dr. Harford. “And who wouldn’t want to enjoy being in the comfort of their home country to complete a degree, especially when it happens to be a paradise island like Grenada.”

 

“The best advice I can give anyone considering applying to medical school is to go after your passions and don’t be afraid to encounter challenges on the journey, it makes the reward that much sweeter.”

 

During her time at SGU, Dr. Harford was a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and the Indian Cultural Student Association (ICSA). She was also a teaching member of the Department of Educational Services (DES) and the Academic Enhancement Program (AEP).

“At SGU I grew both academically and personally,” said Dr. Harford. “In addition to pursing my medical degree, I had the pleasure of expanding my knowledge on the different cultural backgrounds of my peers and newly made friends. This was an invaluable experience, learning how to communicate and understand someone else’s belief system and how it impacts their lives—a skill I foresee utilizing to better the way I communicate in both my practice of medicine and in my everyday life.”

Dr. Harford will be entering the 2023 Match and hopes to secure a residency in pediatrics. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in her clinical rotation timeline causing delays which prevented her from applying to this year’s Match.

“From day one of my pediatrics core rotation, I fell in love with the energy, the people, and the patients,” she said. “Being a part of a pediatric team of healthcare professionals feels like my niche, and I cannot wait to join this amazing specialty.”

For now, Dr. Harford’s current plans include giving back to her alma mater as a teaching fellow, while brushing up on her Spanish and sign language skills, along with completing her USMLE Step 2 examinations and her ERAS application.

“The best advice I can give anyone considering applying to medical school is to go after your passions and don’t be afraid to encounter challenges on the journey, it makes the reward that much sweeter,” she said.

Drs. Nicholas Harford, Joanna Rayner, Natalie Harford & Mrs. Pratima Harford (from left to right)

– Ray-Donna Peters

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SVM grad teaches next generation of production medicine veterinarians

Growing up on a dairy farm, Hollie Schramm, DVM ’07, learned early on what it felt like to be a veterinarian and the experience shaped her future career path.

“I was always trying to fix and treat animals on the farm and make them healthy,” Dr. Schramm said.

Since graduating from St. George’s University, Dr. Schramm has served as the herd veterinarian for over 10 years at the Virginia Tech Dairy Teaching and Research Farm. In addition, Dr. Schramm is a clinical assistant professor at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, a role for which she is responsible for assuring the welfare and health of production animals, safety of the food supply, and teaching veterinary students—including SGU clinical students—in the field, classroom, and in hands-on laboratories. She does clinical and didactic teaching, research, and outreach.

She shares what it’s like in her role as a both a teacher and a large animal veterinarian, and what students can expect to learn in their clinical experience at VA/MD.

St. George’s University: What kind of experience can students expect at VA/MD?

Dr. Schramm: In my role, I’m in charge of the overall management of the calves and cows. We do a lot of preventative medicine and reproductive work, working with sick cows, helping with general health and vaccination protocols, and different aspects of hygiene. As a clinical professor, I oversee veterinary students on the production management medicine rotation, where we primarily work with food animals, including beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, and pigs.

SGU: What do you hope is the biggest takeaway for clinical students?

Dr. Schramm: We want to provide our students with as much hands-on experience, so that they’re ready on the first day of veterinary practice. My motto is really “see one, do one, teach one.” We have a range of clinical skills laboratories, from foot trimming to surgical techniques. I also teach a class called Food Animal Clinical Techniques where the students learn low stress cattle handling, everything from putting on halters to basic injections and beef quality assurance. If you ask the students, they will tell you that they get the most hands-on experience in the production management rotation.

 

“We want to provide our students with as much hands-on experience, so that they’re ready on the first day of veterinary practice.”

 

SGU: How much does research play a part of your job?

Dr. Schramm: I do approximately 15 percent research as part of my job responsibilities. Many of the research studies I collaborate on are related to ruminant nutrition, but range from pain management in ruminants to prevention and treatment of mastitis to calf behavior and welfare. We have a few studies related to the pathophysiology of milk production, including how many times we milk the cow per day and whether that has a positive or negative effect on production and what controls this at the cellular level.  These studies are very informative for the dairy industry. We know that it’s important for the future of the world and for sustainable agriculture.

 

Hollie Schramm, DVM ’07, teaches animal production medicine to clinical students at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

SGU: What drew you to production medicine in the first place?

Dr. Schramm: It’s just in my blood. I grew up on a large farm in Michigan. We had a small dairy herd of about 60 cows, and we also had everything from sheep and goats to hundreds of rabbits. We had all kinds of critters honestly. I was always trying to fix and treat animals on the farm and make them healthy.

I also really enjoyed the management and nutritional sides of animal health, which led me to veterinary school. It has been great doing what I love and making a difference in the field for both the veterinary students as well as the producers. Food animal veterinarians are key in food safety and are important for everybody in America and the world.

SGU: Why did you choose SGU and what was your experience like?

Dr. Schramm: Growing up, I traveled abroad a lot, and honestly, I never applied to any US schools. I just decided I wanted to continue my journey traveling and saw SGU as a great opportunity to learn veterinary medicine on an island.

I had an awesome experience at SGU. I absolutely loved the island. We had wonderful professors, and we all knew them on a personal level, which was very nice. I enjoyed being able to interact with them and ask them questions. They made time for us, which I think is something a little bit different from other universities.

SGU: You’re giving back now as a clinical professor. How can a student be successful during their clinical year?

Dr. Schramm: Believing in yourself is very important. Veterinary students can sometimes be apprehensive about saying or doing the wrong thing, or worried about what someone is going to say to them. But that’s what we as professors are here for—to teach and to answer your questions. I would tell anyone to go into clinics with a great attitude, to communicate well with your clients and colleagues, and to have fun.

 

— Brett Mauser

 

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