SAS Grads Pen Children’s Books to Inspire Grenada’s Youth

Photo courtesy Grenada Schools Inc.

The newest reading options on shelves throughout Grenada’s 56 primary schools come courtesy of a weeklong writers workshop coordinated by the non-profit organization Room to Read and Grenada Schools Inc. Of the seven books recently published, three were written by St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences graduates.

Alyssa Bierzynski, BA SAS ’08, Kissandra Smith, BSc SGU ’09, and Christal Radix, BSc SGU ’13, celebrated when their books were handed over to school directors at a ceremony held at Grenada Trade Center in October. The mission of the initiative is to strengthen the foundation of early literacy by building and improving libraries at primary schools in Grenada and its sister islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Twelve Grenadians were invited to participate in the workshop, during which they were instructed on all elements of book writing. Scripts for the stories were created, edited, and finalized in October 2017, and came to life a month later with the work of artists participating in a local illustrators workshop.

Although each SAS grad entered with at least some modicum of writing experience, the workshop proved challenging.

“I’ve written many press releases and articles, but writing for children isn’t anything like writing for adults,” Ms. Bierzynski said. “You have to get straight to the point and let the action happen.”

“We were trying to capture children’s imaginations with these books, so in order to do so, we couldn’t write from an adult’s perspective; we almost had to pretend to be a child again,” added Ms. Smith.

In “Keara’s Kite”, Ms. Smith told the story of a young girl who tried relentlessly to build a kite that could fly high during kite season in Grenada. She named the book after her 4-year-old niece, who Ms. Smith can already see shares her sense of adventure.

“I wanted to create a story that younger nieces and nephews could learn from and hopefully inspire them to go on and do bigger things,” Ms. Smith said.

Ms. Bierzynski penned “Carla Dances Soca”, a 24-page story about a young ballerina who strove to learn a new dance despite her friends’ skepticism and jeers. The author admits that Carla’s background as a ballerina mirrors her own upbringing in Grenada, where she attended Westmorland Junior School.

“I was always walking on my tippy toes as a child,” said Ms. Bierzynski, who’s now an instructor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at SGU.

According to Ms. Bierzynski, her story came together during the workshop hours but she continued to refine it each night afterward. It underwent many waves of revisions, including cutting a once 600-word story down to just 200.

“I am really excited that we have written a series of culturally relevant picture books for children,” she added. “As an English teacher, it breaks my heart when a child struggles with reading or can’t identify his or her favorite book. Being part of this project shows them that reading can be fun. Also, with Carla doing ballet at the beginning of the book, it also exposes them to a world that they may not have been exposed to before.”

Ms. Radix, who earned her degree in tourism and hospitality management in 2013, created a story titled “Red Car vs. Blue Ball”. Because Grenada Schools Inc., is a not-for-profit organization, the books cannot be sold at retail stores or online, but each author expressed gratitude for being allowed to play a role in shaping Grenada’s future. The workshop was the second of its kind in Grenada. In 2015, Grenada’s authors wrote six new books that were put on schools’ libraries throughout the country in 2016.

“It was a very rewarding experience,” Ms. Smith said. “Writing a children’s book is something that I have dreamed about doing for a long time.”

– Brett Mauser

From U-2 Pilot to OB/GYN: A Veteran Reflects on Her Career Path

When Cholene Espinoza, MD SGU ’15, looks back on her childhood, she remembers imperfections and failure.

“I was always kind of a screw-up as a kid,” said Espinoza, chief resident in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “I started first grade when I was five, so I was always feeling behind and was often put in the corner for being disruptive in class. I was independent and never really fit in to the traditional educational system.”

For years, Espinoza struggled to focus academically and socially, but the summer before seventh grade, she had an epiphany: “I remember telling my mom I didn’t want to be a loser anymore.”

She hasn’t let her mom down. Espinoza’s stellar career and life have played like a Hollywood movie with her roles including—an elite spy plane pilot; a passenger originally scheduled to board one of the ill-fated planes on 9/11; a wartime journalist; a Hurricane Katrina volunteer; a published author and, finally an OB-GYN who has a profound reverence for human life.

As Veterans Day approaches, Espinoza, an Air Force veteran, reflected on the meaning of the day and how her own service changed her life and set her on her path to becoming a physician.

“What is would say to veterans is, ‘thank you. We’ve served together, you kept me safe and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate you in every way,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza’s Military Career Takes Flight

At 17, Espinoza enrolled in the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the 1980s, when she was a young cadet, the Academy limited female enrollment to just 10 percent of a class. (With those gender restrictions now gone, last year’s freshman class at the Academy was about a quarter female.)

“Like anything in life, there were moments when I struggled, and things or comments happened that shouldn’t have,” she said. “But it taught me to surround myself with supportive, good people and to work through the hardships.”

A Path Discovered

But more hardships were to come. Around Christmas of her sophomore year, Espinoza’s father died. The shock and grief soon led her to an unexpected, but clear path.

“I was taking a course in glider flying and it enabled me to get over my father’s death on some level,” she said. “Flying came natural to me when nothing else in my life had.”

After graduating, Espinoza served as a flying instructor for four years, and later, she was selected as a U-2 spy plane pilot for the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California–the only U-2 squadron in the world.

U-2 spy planes are single-jet engine, ultra-light gliders that maneuver on the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. Designed to avoid enemy detection, the planes are equipped with sophisticated instrumentation that provides vital intelligence, day or night and in all-weather.

In a 12-hour mission, the aircraft can capture extraordinarily detailed imagery of a country the size of Iraq. And while much about the aircraft remains classified, Espinoza points out the planes do far more than reconnaissance—they also aid in peacekeeping and directing humanitarian aid.

Flying solo missions in U-2 plane can be an otherworldly, almost spiritual experience, said Espinoza. Wrapped in the cocoon of her space gear, she can sometimes still feel the stillness of the open sky and the brilliance of the earth.

“I would fly across Europe all night and it felt as though I could just reach out and touch the stars,” she said.

But along with the beauty came harsh reminders of the chaos on the ground.

“I would fly over beautiful civilizations like France and Germany, but when I made it to my target areas, it would be pitch black,” she said. “Then, I would see a flash of light and know it was a blast, and that meant someone is killing or someone is dying. It always gave me reverence for how fragile human life is and how unjust war is.”

Espinoza observed war from the quiet remove of a spy plane, but with each mission she would feel a stronger urge to assist those affected on the ground.

“I couldn’t directly help people from the stratosphere and that propelled me to eventually get out of the Air Force cockpit,” she said.

From Above 70,000 Feet to 30,000 Feet

Espinoza left the Air Force for a career in commercial flying with United Airlines and then Emirates Airlines–allowing her to travel to every continent except Antarctica.

“As a commercial pilot, I had to be broken of my ‘single pilot mindset’ and not disregard input from others,” said Espinoza. “Success was based on the efficacy and quality of the entire crew.”

Espinoza was working for United Airlines on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four aircrafts and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a Pennsylvania countryside.

She was not scheduled to fly the fourth plane hijacked that day, but was supposed to be a passenger. The flight boarded in Newark, and was supposed to land in San Francisco. It never made it.

“I was living in New York City at the time and had just accepted a bid to be a captain out of San Francisco,” said Espinoza. “I planned to take the flight as a passenger to find a new home in San Francisco, but the crew desk realized I had gone over my flight limitation hours, so the first leg of my trip was cancelled and I wasn’t on Flight 93.”

Espinoza’s United Airlines colleague and former Academy classmate, Leroy Homer, Jr., was co-piloting the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

“I knew Leroy since I was 17 and had just seen him in London on a layover,” said Espinoza. “He was happier and more content than I’d ever known him to be, showing me pictures of his daughter and wife. I often think of him that day in Hyde Park, with his smile, wishing I’d been there for him on that flight.”

Espinoza’s Service Shifts from Sky to Ground

The events of 9/11 soon led her to take a pair of three-month leave from United Airlines to cover the Iraq war as a civilian radio journalist. Her first tour was with the Marine Corps and the second, and third with the Army. Espinoza worked as an embedded journalist for Talk Radio News Service (now Talk Media News), which gave her an opportunity to come face-to-face with war—both its injustice and its heroism.

“I departed Iraq from mobile hospital in Iraq and there were surgeons trying to save children who had limbs blown off from mines and ammunition,” said Espinoza. “The medical teams were trying to make something right out of something so horribly wrong. When you’re in the middle of a war, you see the destruction and insanity of it, and then you see these beautiful acts.”

Espinoza witnessed how war changes people.

“In order for me to overcome what war had done to me, I needed to engage and fix what was broken,” she said. “That’s what inspired me to leave the cockpit for good and directly take care of people by switching careers from pilot and journalist, to doctor.”

But before taking care of people as a doctor, Espinoza’s desire to serve brought her to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

“On our first trip to Mississippi, my spouse and I connected with a small community and fell in love with the people and their struggle,” said Espinoza. “We realized how many people drowned from the storm because they didn’t know how to swim, since there were no community centers or public swimming pools.”

So, the couple made it their mission to change the community’s access to water safety by raising money to build a public swimming pool. Amid rebuilding and spending all of her down time and vacation days on the Gulf Coast, Espinoza penned a novel, Through the Eye of the Storm: A Book Dedicated to Rebuilding What Katrina Washed Away.

“I realized each of us has something to give and that gift is desperately needed in our world,” said Espinoza. “For me, being gay had not stopped me from serving two of my greatest loves in life, God and country. This book is the story of my life, the lives of truly heroic Americans and the transformation of my spirit that took place unexpectedly in this small Mississippi town.”

The proceeds raised from the book, which she wrote and published in less than one year, supported the rebuilding of one of the most hurricane-ravaged communities on the Gulf Coast. The writing process helped Espinoza accept herself completely.

“It wasn’t until I was out of the service that I wrestled with my own identity,” said Espinoza. “In the service, I didn’t have relationships with women, I focused on flying. I had tried to deny that part of who I was but realized through the writing and humanitarian process a stronger desire to live authentically.”

Becoming a Doctor: Her Final Mission

In 2009, after what many would consider an already fulfilling and long career, Espinoza started her journey of becoming a doctor. Then 45 years-old, Espinoza started over with pre-med and then graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies at the age of 50.

“I have the distinction of starting menopause and residency at the same time,” Espinoza jokes.

Espinoza started her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai in June 2015 and is scheduled to finish this coming June. She has been accepted to be re-commissioned into the military as a Reserve U.S. Army OB-GYN. She can be deployed to any medical surgical unit, nationally or internationally.

“Military medicine is what first inspired me, but I thought I was too old for the military,” said Espinoza. “But they desperately need doctors.”

While she’s not serving on Reserve duty, Espinoza plans to work in South Sudan, a struggling country where she has been working and traveling for over six years–first being trained by the South Sudanese when she was a medical student–not teaching and practicing as a doctor.

“With each trip, I can do more, because I’ve learned more here at Cedars-Sinai.”

Above all, residency has been the challenge of her lifetime.

“With medicine and obstetrics specifically, there are no permissible errors,” said Espinoza. “It’s the same as flying jets–there is a certain level of intensity and desire to execute perfection, which drives and motivates me to work harder every single day.”

But, as Espinoza knows, whether in war or in medicine, mistakes are inevitable.

“I start each day with a sense of humility and respect for human life and for people across all socioeconomic levels,” she said. “That humility comes from seeing a lot of bad things happen and knowing I, too, have made mistakes. But every day is an opportunity to try to do better, let go and forgive ourselves.”

And at a time in her life when many people would be slowing down, Espinoza is relishing her uncharted journey ahead.

“I have been blessed with a rich life and experiences, but without question–the most magical, beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life or career is being in the room when a baby is born,” she said. “Any pain, loss, or hurt parents may have previously felt evaporates the split second their baby is born. Witnessing and participating in birth is the privilege of a lifetime.”

This story, video and photos originally appeared on the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center website. They have been published here with permission from Cedars-Sinai.

SGU Grad on Dr. Oz: New FDA-Approved Drug Limits Migraines

Shivang Joshi, MD/MPH SGU ’08, appeared on FOX’s “Dr. Oz” show on October 26 to explain how clinical trials of the drug Emgality—recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration—have shown a drastic reduction of migraine frequency in patients. In one study, he explained that 1 in 7 patients with Emgality were migraine-free for a month, versus 1 in 16 for those using a placebo.

View the entire segment by visiting the Dr. Oz website.

Dr. Joshi came to SGU from St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health at SGU before going on to complete a neurology residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He then completed a fellowship in headache medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s John R. Graham Headache Center, while also serving as an instructor of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

SOM Alumni Association Set to Host Art of Medicine CME in March

This March, the St. George’s University School of Medicine Alumni Association (SOMAA) will take a closer look at the beauty and methods of medicine, welcoming graduates and other medical professionals to Grenada for the Art of Medicine 2019 continuing medical education (CME) conference.

Held in association with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the conference will take place from March 4-7 at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort on Grand Anse Beach. According to SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83, it’s an opportunity for alumni to further harvest their passion for medicine, on an island where the foundation for their careers was built.

“Medicine is an art, not just a profession driven by numbers and statistics,” said SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83. “This conference is a great way for physicians to reconnect with medicine and to get back to their roots.”

Presentation topics cover a wide range of medical realms, including ophthalmology, emergency medicine, hyperbaric therapy, and medicine in Grenada (complete schedule to be finalized soon). By partaking in the CME, attendees are eligible to receive 16 CME credits.

In addition to academic presentations, the conference will also feature activities such as island and campus tours, dune buggy tours, a catamaran sunset cruise, and alumni grand rounds.

“The conference also allows attendees the opportunity to explore the island and enjoy everything it has to offer,” Dr. Bonanno said. “Those of us who studied in Grenada know full well how wonderful of a place it really is.”

Dr. Bonanno also stated that they are looking to welcome members from the January 1979 entering class, the School of Medicine’s fifth-ever class of students.

To learn more about the conference or to register, visit sgualumni.org.

MD Grad Returns to Her Roots

St. George’s University graduate Jennifer Favre started as a bookkeeper at East End Pediatrics when she was just a college student. Twelve years later, with a medical degree to her credit, Dr. Favre has rejoined the practice, working alongside her mentor who helped her begin working toward her dream of becoming a physician.

“Gail has always advised all of her patients that this is their medical home,” Dr. Favre said of the practice owner, Dr. Gail Schonfeld. “You come into the practice, we will take care of you. If you have a question, you get one of four physicians on the phone within a matter of minutes, 24 hours a day. When we’re not here at night, somebody still calls them back. . . . That’s something you can’t find everywhere. And that’s the kind of medicine I want to practice.”

Read more about Dr. Favre by visiting the East Hampton Star website.

MD Grad Goes the Distance to Provide Health Care in Impoverished Communities Worldwide

No mission had quite an impact like the first one.

Jessica Willett, MD SGU ’13, fresh out of residency and eager to experience international medicine, joined the Flying Doctors of America team on a trip to Al-Mafraq, Jordan. There she helped to operate a pediatric clinic for Syrian refugees who were forced to travel south to escape their war-torn homeland. Many of their patients had experienced unthinkable trauma.

“The issues we heard about blew me away. They had physical scars as well as emotional scars,” she recalled. “We did as much as we could for them, even though we knew the trauma would affect them for the rest of their lives. Going into it, I didn’t really think about the impact that it might have, but I’m thankful that I went.”

While the experience might have shell-shocked some, it only fueled Dr. Willett’s passion for such work. Through the Idaho-based not-for-profit, which provides treatment to the most impoverished countries and communities around the world, she has since treated patients in remote portions of Fiji, in villages deep in the Amazon rainforest in Guyana, and at Palmasola Prison in Bolivia, where she and her colleagues provided correctional care for criminals and their families, all of whom live on the premises. She even coordinated a mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, providing much needed care just to Grenada’s north.

The experiences have changed her not only as a doctor but as a person.

“The more you know, the greater your perspective you have,” said Dr. Willett, an emergency physician at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, CA. “Being an ER physician, I had a little of that to start with; when you get a flat tire, I can say that it’s been worse and I’ve seen worse. But when you bear witness to these people’s lives and their stories, that feeling is emphasized.”

Her work with Flying Doctors feeds into Dr. Willett’s thirst for world travel. She has traveled to more than 40 countries, and like in life, her journey to medicine from tiny Rumney, NH, was very much a scenic route. As an undergraduate student at Ithaca College, she had designs on becoming a music teacher, but shifted paths to another passion of hers—health and physical education—two years in. Studying human anatomy opened the door to medicine, and after fulfilling her prerequisite courses, she applied to and enrolled at St. George’s University.

Dr. Willett thrived in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which students spend their first year at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. She further enriched her basic science and clinical training by participating in a tropical medicine selective in Kenya, and learning about healthcare methods in India as part of the medical experience selective in Karad. Even then, however, she had no idea the global path she was headed down.

Her involvement in Flying Doctors started as a curiosity—“I figured I would try it and see how it goes.” In two short years, she has not only provided care around the world but also joined the Flying Doctors inner circle, having been named to its 10-person executive board. In her new role, she has helped plan future missions to places like Ethiopia, Peru, and Tanzania, as well as return trips to Jordan and St. Vincent. Dr. Willett estimated that each trip cost around $2,000 for Flying Doctor volunteers, enough to cover costs ranging from transportation and food to lodging and supplies. They customarily bookend the missions with a day or two to plan and/or debrief, as well as relax.

Flying Doctors operates under the “Mother Teresa Principle,” seeking out and setting up in the world’s most impoverished communities. Its slogan: “Bringing hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.” In its 28-year history, the organization has embarked on more than 200 missions and treated over 185,000 patients.

“They are difficult trips,” she said. “In America, we have all the fancy machines, but on these trips, it’s almost like going back in time. Instead of focusing on technology and electronic technology, which take away a little bit from the practice of medicine, it’s really all about that connection—talking to people, examining them, learning about all these different social factors, and different types of medicine. Doing more with less and coming back to the states with that experience has improved our practice here.”

Dr. Willett has taken the reins of Flying Doctors’ return trip to St. Vincent, which she calls a “little known gem in the Caribbean.” In the inaugural visit in March, her team included two internal medicine doctors, an ophthalmologist, two dentists, and two dental assistants, all of whom collaborated with local health workers to provide medical and dental checkups, administer basic vaccines, and treat a wide variety of eye issues—by far the most abundant medical condition on the islands.

“It was great to be able to come back and use my knowledge of the Caribbean to help people in St. Vincent and on the adjacent islands,” she said. “Because of their exposure to the sunlight and dry heat, everybody had vision problems, but none of them wore eyeglasses or sunglasses despite them being so common and accessible. It’s amazing how powerful and life-changing they can be.”

“We want to see patients, but we also want to leave a community better than when we found it by connecting with people and fostering a little more ownership there,” she added. “If we continue to do that, if we empower the people in these communities, we can get to a point where they no longer need us.”

Until then, however, the Flying Doctors of America are prepared to provide care wherever it’s needed most.

“Some of these people are in places where they’ve been told or feel that they don’t matter, that they don’t deserve health care,” Dr. Willett said. “For us to come and tell them otherwise is really encouraging and overwhelming to them. We let them know that somebody cares. Somebody wants to hear their story.”

– Brett Mauser

Newest Class of Physicians Reflects on the Past, Looks Ahead to the Future

 

Before setting off for residency, St. George’s University School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians gathered at New York City’s Lincoln Center once more to celebrate the completion of one journey, and the beginning of another.

The newest class of physicians came from 44 US states, six Canadian provinces, and 51 countries from around the world. They join a network of more than 16,000 physicians who have earned their Doctor of Medicine degrees from SGU since the University opened in 1977.

“You’ve made sacrifices and you’ve persevered, and for that I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you,” said St. George’s University Chancellor Charles Modica. “I hope you know how proud you’ve made all of us, and how proud you’ve made your parents and friends. The world is full of all sorts of problems, and you’re the solution. You’re going to do well. I know that because  of your predecessors. You’ve earned this, you deserve this, and we love you for it.”

Graduates gathered at David Geffen Hall on June 9 and 10 for the commencement festivities, enjoying each other’s company two years after they departed Grenada for their clinical rotations.

“Going to SGU was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” added James Velasquez, MD SGU ’18, who will start his emergency medicine residency at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. “I received a great education, I loved the island, and because it taught me how to buckle down and study right, it got me ready for the next part of my career.”

All together, St. George’s University graduates will begin their postgraduate residencies in 43 US states, four Canadian provinces, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom next month.

Colleen Murphy, MD SGU ’18, will join Yale New Haven Health’s obstetrics and gynecology residency program at Bridgeport Hospital this summer. She chose OB/GYN because of how it combines surgery with continuity of care.

“It’s nice to celebrate with everyone else who was there along the way,” she said. “We all did it together, so it’s nice to end the journey together.”

Joining her on the journey was Philip Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, who not only gained an education at SGU but he also met his wife, classmate Jessica Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, during their first year of the Foundation to Medicine program. Married this past April, the couple is now off to New Jersey for residency, with Philip obtaining a categorical surgery residency at St. Barnabas Medical Center, and Jessica matching into a pediatrics position at Atlantic Health.

“Growing up on Long Island and coming from college in the Midwest, I didn’t know what to expect coming down to Grenada,” Philip Lettieri said. “There were definitely some times where it was tough, but looking back, I wouldn’t change anything at all.”

Jessica Lettieri appreciated all the opportunities available to her during her time as a student, including volunteering around the island, participating in the popular Prague selective, and completing clinical rotations in the same hospital where her grandmother worked over 50 years ago.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “It’s great to see people today that we started first term with, many of whom we haven’t seen in two years because they were on the other side of the country for clinicals. Today has been a great experience because we all did it together.”

In addition to the accolades showered in the 2018 class of graduates, the University also acknowledged the contributions of one of its longtime administrators and faculty members. Dr. Ted Hollis, who served as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2000 to 2017, was bestowed the Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Hollis came to St. George’s University in 1978 as a visiting professor before joining the faculty full-time as a professor in 1994.

“Dr. Hollis is responsible for enriching the learning environment of thousands of undergraduate students across the Caribbean and the Commonwealth countries,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU.

The University also presented Bruce Hebets, CEO of Borrego Health, with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Mr. Hebets took charge of a single, small Federally Qualified Health Center in Southern California and over the next 15 years built it into the fifth largest FQHC system in America, caring for nearly 500,000 residents of inland Southern California.

– Brett Mauser

St. George’s University Graduates Celebrate Match Day 2018

Match Day 2018 has long been circled on the calendars of St. George’s University School of Medicine graduates. On Friday, the wait was over, and the celebration commenced.

Hundreds of SGU grads matched into highly competitive programs across the country, including in such fields as diagnostic radiology, anesthesiology, neurology, surgery, emergency medicine, and pediatrics, among others.

Click here for a full list of 2018 residency appointments

Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University, toasted the more than 150 newly matched residents who convened at SGU’s annual Match Day Luncheon in New York City. Among them were Phoebe and Tommy Martin, MD SGU ’18, who will begin their residency at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock this summer. The two met as students in Grenada, and were thrilled to match into their top-choice program through the couples match.

“It’s a dream come true to go to such an incredible hospital facility, and to be able to go there together,” Tommy Martin said. “We’re ecstatic. We could not be happier.”

Pauline Nguyen, MD SGU ’18, was with her boyfriend and his father when news arrived that she had secured an OB/GYN residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey.

“Once I saw OB/GYN, I was speechless,” she said. “It was the most incredible moment of my life.”

As they begin residency this summer, the 2018 class will join the more than 15,000 physician graduates of SGU, who have gone on to practice in all 50 US states, as well as around the world. Look for complete coverage of Match Day 2018 on the SGU website and across all of SGU’s social media channels.

– Brett Mauser

SGU Students Match Into Competitive Canadian Residency Programs

The annual celebration that is the residency match season kicked off on March 1 when 10 St. George’s University students learned that they had secured first-year residency positions in Canada through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

The 2018 SGU graduates will complete their postgraduate training in internal medicine, family medicine, and psychiatry at such programs as McMaster University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of Toronto. A second match iteration will take place next month. Match Day in the United States will take place on Friday, March 16.

“We congratulate the students who will begin their medical careers in Canada this summer,” said St. George’s University President G. Richard Olds. “Their work ethic and commitment to medicine have helped equip them with the knowledge and skills to make a significant impact on the communities in which they’ll practice.”

Natalia Reiner, MD SGU ’18 (expected), described herself as “over the moon” upon discovering that she had matched into an internal medicine residency at the University of Toronto, her top-choice program. Earlier in the week, the McGill University graduate had made a list of people to call when the news came, and immediately went to work on it, beginning with her parents, boyfriend, and four siblings, all of whom are back in Canada.

To build up her clinical experience, Dr. Reiner completed three observerships in Ontario and Quebec, in turn building a network of mentors and advocates along the way. She plans to enter U of T’s Eliot Phillipson Clinician-Educator Training Program, and looks forward to giving back to the community not only as a clinician but as a teacher.

“Toronto has a reputation of really focusing on education and academics, and I like that kind of learning environment,” she said.

Jonathan Phang, MD SGU ’18 (expected), and his mother rejoiced when they found out that he was headed to Saskatoon this summer to begin his residency at the University of Saskatchewan. He chose the U of S program for its “supportive environment” and “strength and unity within the entire staff.”

“I had to reread the email a couple times,” said Dr. Phang, who grew up in Vancouver. “Leading up to the noon deadline, it was a roller coaster of emotions, and we were both relieved, excited, and really happy.”

Dr. Phang began to steer his career toward psychiatry during his third-year core rotations in New York, and worked toward that during his fourth-year electives in California, Georgia, Nevada, New York and New Jersey, as well as Vancouver.

“Because I rotated through various parts of the US and Canada, it exposed me to patients from all kinds of backgrounds,” he said. “I think that experience will have prepared me well for what’s to come in residency.”

More than 1,350 Canadians have graduated from the School of Medicine since it opened in 1977, with more than 630 currently enrolled at SGU. Students have a proven track record of success on the United States Medical Licensing Examinations as well. In 2017, first-time test takers from Canada registered a 97 percent pass rate on the USMLE I, with a highly competitive mean score of 230.

SVM Alumni Study Soft Tissue Surgery at Continuing Ed Conference

Since opening in 1999, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has graduated more than 1,400 veterinarians who have practiced all over the world. In October, its Alumni Association, the SVMAA, welcomed back many of them for a continuing education conference reviewing methods in soft tissue surgery.

The two-day conference featured presentations by Dr. Karen Tobias, Professor of Small Animal Surgery at the University of Tennessee. Internationally recognized for her work on portosystemic shunts in dogs, Dr. Tobias shared her expertise on making these surgeries easier and more successful, while also enjoying the campus and island that provides training for many of the clinical students she sees at U of T.

“I like to give practical and up-to-date information. Also, because I’m a book editor and author, I get to see some of the more recent information that comes in; it’s nice to be able to share that with other veterinarians,” said Dr. Tobias. “These lectures provide some of the newer literature regarding the effects of ovariohysterectomy and castration on dogs and cats. I also discussed surgical techniques for treating common canine and feline head and neck conditions, and inexpensive, effective methods for wound management, particularly in farm animals.”

Dr. Tobias has spent over 17 years of her 30-year veterinary medical career at the University of Tennessee, and has written more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters. She is also the author of the textbook, Manual of Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery; co-author of Atlas of Ear Diseases of the Dog and Cat; and co-editor of the textbook, Veterinary Surgery: Small Animal.

“The SGUSVM Continuing Education events are a fantastic opportunity for our alumni to return to Grenada for a weekend of high-quality CE, fun, and nostalgia,” said Dr. Tara Paterson, SVMAA President. “Our alumni attendees love visiting all of their favorite spots and celebrating 40 years of growth at SGU, all while mixing in a little learning. This fall, we were fortunate to have Dr. Tobias as our presenter. It doesn’t get better than that.”

– Ray-Donna Peters