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

Off-Duty MD Grad Treats Casualties During Las Vegas Shooting Tragedy

Adiofel Mark Mendoza, MD SGU ’14 (right), with family in Las Vegas

First he witnessed two ambulances screaming down Las Vegas Boulevard, and over the next five minutes or so, three or four more zoomed past. Adiofel Mark Mendoza, MD SGU ’14, thought it unusual for a Sunday night—even in Las Vegas, where he was wrapping up a five-day vacation with family.

Dr. Mendoza checked the local dispatcher feed and pieced together information on an active shooter situation just four blocks south—at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

That’s when he, like many off-duty service workers, sprung into action. Dr. Mendoza raced to the scene and helped set up a triage center for injured concert goers about 1,000 feet from the site of the tragedy. Over the next six to eight hours, he treated approximately 20 patients who had been injured during the massacre, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.

Dr. Mendoza—who is a full-time hospitalist at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey—confessed that he feels fortunate to have been able to help, but upset that such an event required it.

“I was honored to be there,” he said. “I’m glad there was something that I could do, and that I had the training, unfortunately, that was needed.

“It was a group effort. It was amazing how people were just running up to us asking what they could do, how they could help – nurses who were off duty, EMTs, off-duty or retired law enforcement, ex-military. A lot of people saved a lot of lives and did more courageous things than I did.”

Upon learning of the active situation outside the Mandalay Bay, Dr. Mendoza took a cab as close to the site as he could get before approaching it on foot. En route, he encountered a young woman bleeding from her pelvis, and her boyfriend who had been shot in the shoulder. After providing immediate treatment, Dr. Mendoza flagged down two ambulances and directed the drivers to rush the couple to the nearest trauma center immediately.

He then boarded an ambulance and, amid the chaos, made his way to the main command center—a circle of approximately 30 ambulances and fire trucks on Las Vegas Boulevard that allowed medical personnel to safely treat casualties. Injured concert goers slowly began to trickle in, many on makeshift wheelchairs—office chairs that had been borrowed from nearby businesses. They were treated for both physical and mental trauma.

“Truthfully, it was like being in the emergency room, just on a mass scale,” he said. “It was like being on the job. I’ve gone through a range of emotions and when people asked me about what happened, I really didn’t know what to say. I’m just thankful that I was there and that could help out in some way.”

Dr. Mendoza had been exposed to high-level trauma cases during his clinical training in New York City, Newark, and Chicago. He joined Summit Health after completing his internal medicine residency at New York University Langone Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY this summer, and has his sights set on becoming a military doctor. He is currently in the middle of the review process to be commissioned in the United States Navy Reserves.

“During my training, I volunteered myself every time there was a trauma code because those are the cases I want to be involved in,” Dr. Mendoza said. I forced myself to be in those situations so I could desensitize myself and be in the right state of mind when I’m needed.”

“It’s very upsetting to see something like this,” he continued. “I don’t know how people could do this to each other. In the ER, you see accidents where people come in with broken bones and such, but this was intentional, and these were innocent people who just there on vacation. They in no way deserved this.”

DVM Grad Tackles Rabies at the Source in Malawi

At 10 minutes to eight in the morning, John Clark, DVM SGU ’12, and his crew pulled up to the village of Embangweni, located about 250 kilometers north of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, where Dr. Clark grew up. In the weeks prior, the local radio station had advertised why Dr. Clark’s charitable organization, the Community Health Coalition, had come—to administer free rabies vaccines for area animals.

Dr. Clark discovered a line of people and animals several hundred deep. They encountered the same response days later at their second clinic in Mufwe, Zambia—citizen after citizen awaiting important health care for their pets.

“Everybody was there waiting even before we arrived,” he said of the crowds. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Across the two communities, Dr. Clark, his wife Rachel, and veterinary assistants administered more than 542 rabies vaccines to area animals, helping to address a dire public health problem that spreads across the country and the continent.

Dr. Clark, who operates the Community Veterinary Clinic in Vero Beach, Florida, hopes that it is his first step of many in helping to eradicate rabies in Malawi. His desire is in line with how he arrived at St. George’s University—courtesy of a Commonwealth Jubilee Scholarship, which are awarded to Commonwealth citizens who are committed to developing health care in their home country.

“It feels good to have spent the two days in Malawi and Zambia because it was an opportunity for us to give back to the community,” said Dr. Clark.

The 2012 SGU graduate modeled the mission after a vaccination program created by Dr. Guy Palmer, Founding Director of the Paul G. Allen School of Global Animal Health at Washington State University. The program aimed to create a rabies-free zone in Kenya and Tanzania that would encourage other regions to focus their attention on the disease as well.

Dr. Clark consulted with Dr. Palmer—who was also a keynote speaker at St. George’s University’s One Health One Medicine Symposium in October—and began to put together his own plan to vaccinate dogs in remote locations in Malawi and Zambia. While the vaccination mission was a step in the right direction, he even admitted it’s a small one. According to the WHO, it is necessary to vaccinate 70 percent of the dog population in an area to control rabies, which would require approximately 80,000 vaccines in northern Malawi alone per Dr. Clark.

However, plans are moving forward on a global scale. At a conference earlier this year in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) established End Rabies Now, a framework strategy to eliminate the disease worldwide by 2030. The alliance hopes to attack the issue by providing affordable human vaccines and antibodies, prompt treatment of infected individuals, and widespread dog vaccinations.

Much of the focus is on Africa and Asia, where rabies causes tens of thousands of deaths each year. Since his mission, Dr. Clark has gained 501(c)(3) status for his organization and began laying the groundwork for SGU students to complete clinical rotations in Malawi. He plans to return there to provide many more rabies vaccinations in 2018.

“People are coming from the outside and trying to make a difference,” Dr. Clark said. “We made a dent. We will try again next year and just keep trying and trying. We hope to get bigger each year.”

St. George’s University Graduate Elected President of New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians

A primary care physician in the state for more than 30 years, Peter Carrazzone, MD SGU ’83, has been named President of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians (NJAFP), and will represent the membership and its best interests during his term of office.

Dr. Carrazzone practices family medicine with Vanguard Medical Group in North Haledon, NJ. He is also the Medical Director for the John Victor Machuga Diabetic Center at St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital.

“I can promise this board will be focused and work tirelessly to improve the Academy and the landscape for family physicians in this state,” he said during his acceptance speech at the NJAFP’s Annual Scientific Assembly in Atlantic City on June 27.

Peter Carrazzone, MD SGU ’83

The NJAFP, the largest primary care medical specialty society in the state, is comprised of more than 2,000 physicians statewide, and is a leader in health care practice transformation and advocacy. Dr. Carrazzone has chaired the Academy’s Government Affairs Committee for the past three years, and as President, pledged to represent all NJAFP members, from the debt-ridden family medicine resident, to the family physician working in academic medicine, to the solo and large group family physicians and more.

Dr. Carrazzone said he has two primary focuses for his tenure as president – addressing family medicine resident debt and loan forgiveness, and a thorough review of the state’s family practice bylaws. He said that New Jersey has been dubbed a “primary care desert,” with family physicians leaving the state to pursue higher-paying opportunities elsewhere. As a result, New Jersey has the second-highest cost of care per patient in the United States, yet ranks 49th according to quality-of-care metrics.

“For our patients, for our families, for the specialty of family medicine, this is the time we must be advocates,” he said. “This is the time we need to communicate to our legislators. This is the time our collective voice needs to be heard. This is the time to promote value and quality. This is the time to promote a stronger primary care infrastructure to insurances and our government. This is the time to cure a broken health care system. This is the time for family medicine.”

Upon graduating from SGU, Dr. Carrazzone completed his residency in family practice at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson. In addition to his longstanding tenure with Vanguard, he has taught at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

Dr. Carrazzone came to St. George’s University in 1979, and has used the experience as a foundation for his career in medicine. Although he has yet to return to Grenada since his basic science studies, he routinely guides his alma mater’s clinical students who rotate through St. Joseph’s. “It’s a strong academic program,” he said. “The students are bright and motivated, and I don’t see much of a difference between them and students coming from US schools.”

Class of 2017 Veterinarians Take Next Step in Their Journeys

Commencement marked the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another for St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2017. Before setting off to begin their careers as practicing veterinarians, they convened on June 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City to celebrate their collective success.

This year’s class of veterinarians hailed from 10 countries, as far away as Taiwan, India, and Botswana. Among the 2017 graduates was Abigail Maynard, DVM SGU ’17, from Barbados, who became the first doctor in her family on Sunday. Dr. Maynard plans to go into mixed animal practice before joining the public health residency program at the University of Minnesota. At graduation, she was cheered on by her parents, grandmother, and godmother.

“I feel really overwhelmed right now. I just can’t believe that the dream that I’ve had since I was 6 years old is finally coming true,” shared Dr. Maynard. “I felt very prepared by SGU especially during my clinical year. Comparing myself to other clinical students, I felt there were definitely certain areas in which I was leagues ahead of them. Today, my classmates and I are reunited, and after all our hard work I’m just so happy that we are here to achieve our dreams together.”

Hooded by her uncle, Dr. Albert D. Franklin, a medical infirmary practitioner, an emotional Devan Sacknoff, DVM SGU ’17, became the first veterinarian in her family. Dr. Sacknoff, who admitted to eyeing a career in veterinary medicine since the fourth grade, was joined at David Geffen Hall by her parents, aunt, and uncle. After graduation, she is applying to be a general practitioner in Huntington Beach, California.

“It doesn’t seem real; I’m still in shock,” said Dr. Sacknoff. “It feels amazing to be here, and I’m so glad to see everyone again after being apart for a year.”

A new addition to the program, this year’s ceremony featured heartfelt words by a class member— Clarence Williams, DVM SGU ’17—who was nominated by the graduands to speak on their behalf. Currently working in a small animal clinic in south New Jersey in emergency and clinical care, Dr. Williams shared pleasant memories of their time in True Blue.

“We’ve been on a wonderful journey these past four years. It has been extremely tough. We’ve learned a lot of information and we’re going to have to continue to learn more information,” said Dr. Williams. “But despite all our sacrifices, we did it; we’re veterinarians now, we’re doctors. It’s still hard to believe, but we didn’t do it alone. We had help from our great professors and all these memories have helped me realize that we’ve been like a family—an SGU family.”

Although unable to attend the ceremony in person, Dr. Eduardo Durante, Senior Associate Dean, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his longtime contributions to SGU in small animal medicine and surgery at the Small Animal Clinic. During his tenure at SGU, Dr. Durante also served as Acting Dean in 2013, and Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs in SVM in 2010 and again in 2013.

SVM Dean Dr. Timothy Ogilvie, who accepted the award on Dr. Durante’s behalf, was also recognized by Chancellor Modica and President Olds for his outstanding service to the University during his three-year term. Dr. Neil C. Olson, the former Dean of University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine, will officially assume the same position at SGU on August 15.

Since opening its doors in 1999, SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine has graduated more than 1,200 veterinarians from 29 countries. These alumni have gone on to practice in 47 US states and 10 countries around the world.