SAS Alumna Awarded Top Student by Royal Society of Biology

St. George’s University proudly congratulates Shanelle Gilkes on winning the Royal Society of Biology award for top student. The RSB award recognizes outstanding achievements in biological research by students in the accredited B.Sc. in marine, wildlife, and conservation biology program. The honor represents a significant accomplishment of a student’s dedication to scientific research. Shanelle is a recent alumna and the first SGU awardee from the program.

The Royal Society of Biology is responsible for advancing education and professional development and encouraging public interest in the life sciences. One student who has completed their capstone research project receives the award yearly. The Royal Society of Biology award is highly regarded within the scientific community. The honor provides students a significant advantage when applying to universities for graduate studies or pursuing further scientific research.

The winning project

Shanelle’s winning capstone research project focused on comparing harvested Queen Conch (lobatus gigas) populations using empty shells as a proxy measure of age at the Woburn Bay and Hog Island sites in Grenada. A lack of data in Grenada on the population structure of the queen conchs makes determining sustainability challenging. This study aimed to estimate the age of harvested queen conchs via empty shell measurements as a metric to determine whether the population is being sustainably managed. Maintaining sustainable yields and harvest of queen conchs has important implications for species conservation, local fisheries, and overall ecosystem health.

“With a personal interest in marine wildlife and conservation, I was drawn to Queen Conch research. This species is of significant ecological and economic importance,” Shanelle said.

When asked about her plans for the future, Shanelle discussed her desire to make a difference.

“My ultimate goal is to positively impact my field and contribute to meaningful change. I plan to use the knowledge and skills gained through my studies and this recognition to further this goal and pursue my passions.”

Shanelle’s SGU experience

Shanelle says that pursuing the marine wildlife and conservation program offered educational and personal growth opportunities. With the challenging academic curriculum and experienced faculty, SGU provided a solid foundation in her field of study.

“Attending SGU and pursuing the marine, wildlife, and conservation program provided me with an excellent academic foundation, practical experience, and valuable connections. This all helped me succeed in my academic and professional pursuits. With hard work and dedication, SGU helped me reach my goals and achieve my dreams,” Shanelle said.

Shanelle embodies the remarkable caliber of students produced in our accredited B.Sc. program in marine, wildlife, and conservation biology. The department extends congratulations for receiving this significant award. They hope it further motivates Shanelle to pursue endeavors in scientific research and conservation biology.

—Madeleine Otto and Sarah Stoss

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Meet the School of Veterinary Medicine 2023 Commencement Speaker

The 2023 commencement speaker for the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine commencement on June 4 is Brittney Kilgore, DVM. Dr. Kilgore is an SGU SVM alumna and a veterinarian at Lifeline Animal Project in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to her work as a veterinarian, Dr. Kilgore is actively engaged on social media, bringing awareness to special cases and alternative therapies in veterinary medicine.

SGU News sat down with Dr. Kilgore to ask her a few questions about life as a veterinarian and her advice for future SGU graduates.

St. George’s University: What is your ultimate career goal?

Dr. Kilgore: To open a feline-only clinic emphasizing integrative approaches to medicine and therapies.

SGU: Do you plan to incorporate your social media influence into your career? If so, how and what do you think about the potential of social media for other veterinarians?

Dr. Kilgore: I currently try to show special cases and bring awareness to alternative therapies. I’m huge on education, so I like expanding other people’s knowledge on the options for animals, whether as pets and owners or even just participating in veterinary medicine in unique ways such as podcasts, pop-up events, etc. Social media growth requires dedication, but many out there love to see what their pet’s veterinarian is like and what makes them stand out.

SGU: Is there a standout memory/moment from SGU that you feel exemplifies your experience?

Dr. Kilgore: This is a hard one, as so many memories exemplify my time at SGU. I’d say giving tours as an ambassador. From giving tours of the school and answering questions about SGU to making vlogs around the island to show what all Grenada was about outside of SGU was one of my most impactful memories. SGU was an amazing experience to receive my DVM degree, and living in Grenada played a huge role in that experience as well.

SGU: Do you have advice for prospective/entering students?

Dr. Kilgore: I always tell people to keep their heads up. It’s a long journey and not easy, but it’s so rewarding when you can finally say and do the things you’ve always dreamed of. Keep that dream alive and front and center at all times.

SGU: What would it be if you had to leave your graduating class with only one message?

Dr. Kilgore: Always remember to experience life outside of this career, as we did as students on our island home. We will dedicate so much to this profession throughout the years, but we must find time to discover ourselves and live life to the fullest.

—Madeleine Otto


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MD grad on what it was like to volunteer during Russia-Ukraine war: “I would do it again”

Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 School of Medicine graduate, volunteered during Ukraine-Russian war.

Dr. Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, felt the calling to help the people of her native country as the war in Ukraine broke out.

Last year, Ukrainian-born Dr. Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, felt the calling to help the people of her native country as the war in Ukraine broke out.

In the spring of 2022, Dr. Vengrenyuk, who moved to the US when she was nine, traveled overseas to volunteer for two weeks with two different organizations. She first offered her medical expertise and language skills to help refugees in the Poland-Ukraine border city, Przemysl, by volunteering with the humanitarian group, SSF-Rescuers without Borders. She then traveled to Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine—her hometown—to work with Revived Soldiers Ukraine, a group that helps to bring severely wounded soldiers to the US for costly surgeries and other medical treatments pro bono. She continues to work with the group now that she is back in the US.

SGU News recently got back in touch with Dr. Vengrenyuk, who is a travel hospitalist and a clinical investigator, to learn what it was like to treat refugees and soldiers affected by the Russia-Ukraine war and how she was able to use her medical skills in a war zone setting.

SGU: What kind of aid did you provide while you were there?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: At the border clinic, it was mostly urgent care type of treatments—headaches, cough, chest pain, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, mild scrapes/cuts. I was the only Ukrainian-speaking doctor—other doctors were from different countries—so I helped translate and used medical terms for the people crossing the border.

SGU: You previously shared that you needed to mentally prepare for the trip and that, as a doctor, you must be compassionate but not emotional—was that difficult to do in practice? 

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I tried to be strong in Ukraine and at the border. But the aftermath hurt me. It continues to hurt to this day. I have dreams about the war and the wounded. When I came back from that trip, I felt depressed. I can’t stop the war. It was not an easy trip for me emotionally because I am still very connected to Ukraine, even though I lived in the US for 23 years. I have family there. When I looked at the faces of the people crossing the border, their despair, pain, I could see my parents in them. And the children’s eyes… they were children, but their eyes showed that they had lived through more than many adults have.

Mariya Vengrenyuk, MD '16, volunteered during Ukraine-Russian war.

Dr. Vengrenyuk: “I would do it again. And I would go to other parts of the world.”

SGU: What were some of the hardest things to see while there?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: The wounded. Many people in Ukraine are missing limbs, eyes, and they have scars and burns on their faces and bodies. It is a whole new generation of people with disabilities.

The most memorable cases are of young men who were blasted on the battlefield and who still have amputations and shrapnel in their body.

SGU: Were there moments of joy? 

Dr. Vengrenyuk: Seeing how many international people are willing to go and volunteer and how quickly the residents joined the volunteering forces. The morale was high, with everyone trying to stay strong.

SGU: What do you think you learned about yourself as a caretaker while volunteering in the Ukraine?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I think I need more combat military medicine training. My internal medicine skills were useful, but I would like more surgical skills.

Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of SGU School of Medicine

Dr. Vengrenyuk: “It was not an easy trip for me emotionally because I am still very connected to Ukraine, even though I lived in the US for 23 years. I have family there.”

SGU: Would you do it again?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I would do it again. And I would go to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, to do such trips you need to have enough money saved so you can afford to take unpaid leave for one to two months in order to truly make a difference. Taking your vacation time from work is not enough.

I continue to volunteer at home by helping the soldiers we bring to the USA, taking them to their medical appointments, translating medical records, etc.

SGU: What is your advice for physicians who would like to give back on a smaller scale?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: We have enough of a healthcare crisis in the US alone where there is a need. There are homeless shelter clinics, abortion clinics, we have many of our own veterans in the US who are homeless and may have mental disorders, etc. There are ways to volunteer locally, even remotely, via telehealth.


-Laurie Chartorynsky

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SVM grad reflects on Ukraine volunteer experience: “By helping people’s pets, we were helping the people”

Andrew Kushnir, DVM ’19, traveled to Ukraine and Poland to provide on-the-ground support for refugees and their pets—who have evacuated from the war-torn area. He shared lessons learned frome the nearly year-long experience.

Last we spoke with Andrew Kushnir, DVM ’19, in March 2022, he was at the Ukrainian-Poland border crossing in Medyka, Poland providing medical assistance to refugees’ pets. What was supposed to be a three-week trip ended with Dr. Kushnir staying for most of last year to work with animal rescue groups and zoos to help vulnerable animals affected by the Russian-Ukraine war.

During his time in Ukraine and Poland, Dr. Kushnir saw horrific destruction and pain but also experienced joy and gratitude through the eyes of the animals he cared for, including three African lion cubs. Dr. Kushnir, who returned to the United States in December, is still processing all that he saw and experienced while overseas but has had some time to reflect.

After some of the most “challenging, terrifying, and beautiful months of my life, I know now that I am forever changed as a result of my time there, and a part of me still hasn’t returned from overseas,” he said.

At the one-year mark of the war, Dr. Kushnir shared his experience, what he learned about himself as a veterinarian and caretaker, and his plans to continue supporting animals—and their owners—most in need.

St. George’s University: How long were you in Ukraine/Poland?

Dr. Kushnir: At the beginning of the war, I worked with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), helping refugees cross into Poland with their pets. We functioned out of a blue tent about approximately 100 feet from the official border crossing in a humanitarian village set up to help Ukrainians fleeing destruction. Many of the animals I saw were in rough shape when they crossed, and as a veterinarian, I was responsible for doing everything I could to help them. We knew that by helping people’s pets, we were helping the people. In total, I was at the border for three months, before venturing into Ukraine solo to see where I could help on the ground.

In the fall, I was volunteering at a veterinary hospital in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa—a beautiful city that typically is vibrant and full of people—but at the time, had lost about half of its one million residents. I had only intended to spend a few weeks there, but shortly into my stay, three African lion cubs were abandoned at the city train station, and I knew I had to get them out. It was another three months in Ukraine and then a month at the Poznan Zoo in Poland, caring for the African lion cubs and a black leopard cub, all rescued from Ukraine.

SGU: What other kinds of animals did you treat? What were some common forms of aid you provided to them?  

Dr. Kushnir: At the border, I saw mostly dogs and cats but occasionally exotic pets like snakes, birds, and even some turtles. The condition these animals arrived in at the border ranged from totally healthy to wounded, emaciated, dehydrated, and stressed. We had a tent set up with various meds sourced from home and the human medical tents at the humanitarian village. We were a lily pad for refugees as they mainly were headed on a path toward somewhere else in Europe.

When I was in Odesa, I saw many species of reptiles, birds, wild owls, raptors, and small mammals; and then, of course, the lion cubs. Toward the end of my time in Ukraine, I was in Kyiv at a rescue center, Wild Animal Rescue Ukraine, for large predators. The day we evacuated to Poland, we anesthetized and loaded up four adult African lions and an Asiatic black bear; the lion and leopard cubs were much easier to get into their crates for transport and didn’t require anesthesia.


SGU: What were some of the hardest things to see while over there?

Dr. Kushnir: After a while, the air raid sirens, the sounds and sights of artillery, and suicide drone attacks sadly become a normal part of daily life. It was startling when the attack was close by, of course, but then you continued on with your day. It’s life in war.

The most heartbreaking moments for me were probably those first couple of months at the Polish border, interacting with folks whose homes were destroyed days prior and who worried about their loved ones now under occupation. My father was a boy when his family fled Ukraine on foot during World War II, and I often saw him in every child who crossed, fleeing another war. I could not help but reflect on how recurring life can be.

SGU: Can you talk about a patient case that affected you? How so?

Dr. Kushnir: I remember it was a cold, wet October night. I had the three two-month-old cubs with me in Kyiv at this point, and most of our days were without power, water, and gas. We had a short window of available electricity, so I quickly boiled some water for their milk formula and went to feed them in their room. Despite having a bit of power available, it was common practice to have all lights turned off at night to make yourself less of a target from Russian suicide drones or aerial surveillance. I was feeding the cubs when I heard a sequence of loud thuds from what felt like right outside the window of the house. Initially, I thought it was from the horses in the stall outside kicking the walls, but then I saw flashes of light through the windows. I was in the vicinity of a combined missile and suicide drone attack that not only could I see, but I could feel. Once I registered what was happening, I remember looking down into the  cubs’ eyes as they suckled unbothered, not knowing what was happening around them, just happy and content that their bellies were filled. Their peace brought me peace. I like to think those cubs saved me as much as I saved them.

“Many of the animals I saw were in rough shape when they crossed, and as a veterinarian, I was responsible for doing everything I could to help them. We knew that by helping people’s pets, we were helping the people.”


SGU: Were there moments of joy?

Dr. Kushnir: It feels strange to admit, but there were many moments of immense joy during my time in Ukraine and Poland, despite the horrific scale of destruction that is still happening. At the border crossing, we helped about 1,800 animals, which means we helped at least that many people worried about their pets.

Performing an orthopedic procedure on a wild owl found by Ukrainian soldiers on the frontlines, and then having those same soldiers release him back to the wild was a huge win. Finally, after months of careful planning and logistics, getting the lion cubs across the Atlantic Ocean and to one of the best sanctuaries in the world was a also monumental win.

SGU: What do you think you learned about yourself as a caretaker while volunteering in Ukraine?

Dr. Kushnir: I have always wanted to work with the most vulnerable animal populations, it’s what I find the most fulfilling and rewarding about this job. I’ve traveled to some very questionably-safe areas of the globe but have rarely ever felt unsafe—you can ask my psychiatrist father what that says about my personality!

SGU: Do you have any missions planned for the near future?

Dr. Kushnir: I’ll be returning to southern Ukraine in a few weeks to help set up a veterinary hospital at the only animal shelter in the city of Kherson; a city that was liberated by Ukraine a few months ago. It should be a quick mission, pending I don’t find anymore lions!

I am also in talks about joining a veterinary mission to Turkey, but we still have much to figure out. The geologic and geopolitical instability in southern Turkey and Syria presents specific challenges that need to be worked out thoroughly before an international mission is planned.

SGU: What is your advice for physicians and veterinarians who want to give back in a similar way? What should they be prepared for based on the lessons you’ve learned from your experiences?

Dr. Kushnir: Working in disaster events and humanitarian crises is not for everyone. You are exposed to some of the darkest elements of the human experience but also to some of the most uplifting as well. Crises happen in the world, whether from human conflict or from natural disasters, and it’s a certain type of medical professional who can function in that environment. Away from diagnostic machines, away from our preferred medicines, away from clean sterile operating tables, we have to work with what we’ve got and be very clever about it.


– Laurie Chartorynsky and Sarah Stoss




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Pursuing a Dual Degree in Veterinary Medicine: Grads Share Their Experiences

Dr. Adria Rodriguez, an associate professor of small animal medicine and surgery, and professional development in SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine, received her dual DVM and MSc from the University.

Many students at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine take part in unique educational opportunities that can transform their careers. One SGU course of study is a veterinary dual-degree program, where students can combine earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree with one of several master’s degrees, including: a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science (MSc), or Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Whether it’s exploring the intersection of animal health and the human world, focusing on fundamental and applied research, or improving their business skills, each of these programs provides in-depth learning opportunities for aspiring veterinarians, according to Dr. David Marancik, associate dean of graduate studies for SVM.

“SGU’s graduate programs of study are diverse and can match the student’s career goals—allowing them to gain advanced knowledge and expertise within their field of choice,” Dr. Marancik said.

SGU News spoke to several dual degree veterinary alumni to find out how their degrees from the University have enhanced their career prospects and the advice they offer to students considering this educational route.

Why Pursue a Dual Degree

Sydney Friedman, DVM ’21/MPH ’21, an associate veterinarian at Hoboken Vets Animal Clinic in Hoboken, NJ, had always known she wanted to work with animals as a child. She initially pursued her DVM degree so that she could educate others and herself about disease transmission from zoonosis and preventative methods.

She then learned about the opportunity to obtain an MPH degree.

“By obtaining my MPH, I have gained additional knowledge of these diseases affecting humans, animals, and the environment, which has allowed me to expand my veterinary career in ways I didn’t think were possible,” Dr. Friedman said.

Sydney Friedman, DVM ’21/MPH ’21, an associate veterinarian at Hoboken Vets Animal Clinic in Hoboken, NJ, says her dual degree allows her to educating my clients on vaccines, disease processes, disease control, as well as disease spread.

In her current role, Dr. Friedman said she educates her clientele about the importance of preventative medicine.

“I am continuously educating my clients on vaccines, disease processes, disease control, as well as disease spread,” she said. “I am also accredited by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] to write health certificates for international travel, allowing for additional conversations surrounding regional diseases. Having both a DVM and an MPH gives me the knowledge needed for these conversations.”



Heather Douglas, DVM ’06/MBA ’11, owner of Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, MN, said she decided to pursue her MBA degree several years after earning her license so that she could make the most appropriate financial decisions for her practice. Douglas Animal Hospital treats a wide variety of animals from cats and dogs to geckos, snakes, potbellied pigs, and hamsters. She is also heavily involved in community services—both in the states as well as Grenada. Dr. Douglas founded the non-profit veterinary service, GrenVet, which provides free care to animals in Grenada.

Heather Douglas, DVM ’06/MBA ’11, owner of Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, MN, said she decided to pursue her MBA degree several years after earning her license so that she could make the most appropriate financial decisions for her practice.

“I was very interested in learning more about business and how that would benefit my practice in the long run,” Dr. Douglas said. “My degree in animal science was a step to becoming a veterinarian, but the MBA was chosen to ensure my practice was successful long-term. A dual degree gives additional ways to expand your knowledge and perspective, which can promote your career.”

A Unique Advantage

Earning a dual degree can give veterinarians a leg up over peers, especially when applying for specialized career positions.

“Soon after I got my MBA, I was hired as a medical director for a 24/7 emergency and general practice veterinary hospital that had 12 doctors and over 30 support staff. I would never have been considered in the running for the medical director position if I didn’t have my MBA,” according to Jennifer Lopez, DVM ’11/MBA ’13.

“The MBA at SGU really helped me understand the financial and marketing management side of the business and how to think strategically,” she added. “For instance: how to afford that laparoscopy equipment that one doctor wanted; how to optimize the surgery schedule; or how can we best utilize our technicians, front desk staff, etc.”

Jennifer Lopez, DVM ’11/MBA ’13, a professional services veterinarian for Antech Diagnostics and Imaging, says her MBA continues to prove useful. She is also a certified compassion fatigue and clinical trauma professional.

Dr. Lopez has since moved on from her position as medical director and today serves as a professional services veterinarian for Antech Diagnostics and Imaging, where her MBA continues to prove useful.

At her job, Dr. Lopez focuses on helping business owners optimize the medical and business aspects of veterinary medicine. She is also a certified compassion fatigue and clinical trauma professional, helping trained veterinarians avoid or prevent compassion fatigue when treating patients.

“What I love most about veterinary medicine is that there are so many opportunities to not just be proponents of animals and their health, but the diversity in how to use our degree,” Dr. Lopez said. “You can be a part of the food industry, policymaking, or an entrepreneur owning a practice or several practices. Adding a second degree will help you to further your career in ways you may not have considered at first.”


“My dual degree was the start of the path that my professional career has taken, and I could not be happier.”


Joseph R. Frame, DVM ’21/MSc ’20 in Wildlife Conservation Medicine, agreed. Dr. Frame, a small animal emergency/critical care service veterinary specialty intern at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is currently in advanced training to become a board-certified specialist in emergency and critical care and, like Dr. Lopez, recognizes the positive impact his dual degree has on his career prospects. Eventually, he hopes to be able to teach and train the next generation of veterinarians.

He is passionate about zoo companion species, such as chinchillas, bearded dragons, and birds—all animals that come into the emergency room he works in.

Joseph R. Frame, DVM ’21/MSc ’20 in Wildlife Conservation Medicine is a small animal emergency/critical care service veterinary specialty intern at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He is currently in advanced training to become a board-certified specialist in emergency and critical care.

“My master’s degree gives me a unique advantage over other veterinarians because it allowed me to really hone my critical thinking skills,” said Dr. Frame. “I love veterinary medicine because it is very much like solving a puzzle and many times it takes a lot of critical thinking skills. I’m very glad that I pursued a master’s degree because I think I’m a better doctor for it.”

A Word of Advice

Earning a dual degree may not be easy; the curriculums are rigorous and challenging, and students need to be committed if they choose to go this route.

“When considering a dual degree, be clear on your why, and make sure that it aligns with where you see yourself professionally,” according to Adria Rodriguez, DVM ’08/MSc ’10, MS TCVM, ACC, an associate professor of small animal medicine and surgery, and professional development in SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Do it because you want to do it, and be realistic with your time management skills and finances.”

For instance, will students be able to allot the time necessary to pursue both degrees and take care of your well-being while pursuing them?

“The dual degree curriculum is rigorous, and self-care is of utmost importance on your path to success,” Dr. Rodriguez emphasized.

Dr. Rodriguez, who supervises Term 5 SVM students in the Junior Surgery and Anesthesia Laboratory, said obtaining her MSc expanded her knowledge in research methods, statistics, and other fields, greatly helping her in her role as an educator, clinician, and researcher.

“My dual degree was the start of the path that my professional career has taken, and I could not be happier,” she said.

Echoed Dr. Frame: “It is a long road, and there will be some bumps along the way. If a dual degree is something you really want to do, pick yourself up and keep going. I missed several family events while in veterinary training, but it was all worth it after working with a real patient for the first time.”



– Ronke Idowu Reeves and Laurie Chartorynsky


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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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