Ghaemmaghami Receives Prestigious Honor 5/17/2015

Masoud Ghaemmaghami was one of two San Joaquin General Hospital internal medicine residents to have been honored by the American College of Physicians as a 2015 “Young Achiever in Medicine.”

Alumnus to Lead Ebola Diagnostic Research in Sierra Leone

Public Health England Selects Jonathan Ashcroft, MD/MSc SGU ’10, to Direct 12-Person Research Team

The fight against the Ebola virus continues in West Africa. Although the number of cases has dropped significantly since 2014, its treatment and containment remain a focal point of the World Health Organization (WHO).

jonathan ashcroft

One of St. George’s University’s own will be on the front lines of health care efforts in Sierra Leone this spring. Jonathan Ashcroft, MD/MSc SGU ’10, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Cambridge University in the UK, has been selected by Public Health England (PHE) to lead a team of 12 individuals at diagnostic research laboratories in Port Loko, Sierra Leone, just outside the country’s capital, Freetown. During the five-week stint, he and his team will obtain samples and swabs that will determine whether patients are suspected of having contracted Ebola as well as testing for malaria, the features of which resemble the early symptoms of an Ebola infection. Based on the results, at-risk patients will be referred to the area Ebola treatment center while no-risk patients will return to their community.

“The number of cases has decreased remarkably because they are doing well with increased education and containment of the virus,” Dr. Ashcroft said. “The trouble with Ebola is that as soon as you stop worrying about it, it can crop up and spread rapidly, overwhelming local health care facilities.”

In order to prepare for the trip, Dr. Ashcroft and other participating virologists entered weeklong intensive training with Public Health England featuring lectures and mock labs that ran them through the entire process of testing for Ebola. According to Dr. Ashcroft, he and his team will process samples and ship them to the WHO, which will send them out on a case-by-case basis to high containment labs throughout the world.

According to the World Health Organization’s weekly Ebola situation report from May 6 , there were 32 “confirmed, probable, and suspected” cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone in the 21 days prior to its issuance. This is a dramatic reduction from the alarming epidemic which took place throughout 2014. All together, 26,593 Ebola cases have been reported between the three most affected countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, with almost half of all cases being reported from Sierra Leone. The deadly, highly contagious virus has now claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa since its outbreak in a rural village in Liberia in December 2013. The virus is thought to have originated from a fruit bat, which are common in that area. Vaccine trials are currently being undertaken.

“A virus is something that’s so small and so simple, yet it’s able to bring down a complex organism like a human,” Dr. Ashcroft said. “Ebola can absolutely devastate developing countries, in terms of the population’s health as well as causing political and economically issues.”

Dr. Ashcroft came to St. George’s University after earning bachelor’s degrees in biology and history from Colby College in Maine. He enrolled at SGU in 2006, taking advantage of a unique dual degree opportunity, pursuing not only a Doctor of Medicine but a Master of Science in microbiology. He also utilized the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) institution located on the True Blue campus. He believes that his research experience factored heavily in being accepted to Imperial College, from where he obtained a PhD in molecular virology in 2014.

“Before I committed to doing full-time research, at SGU I was able to see that medicine and research interplay nicely,” Dr. Ashcroft said. “When I applied for my PhD program, having a research background along with my MD was a huge feather in my cap. It definitely made me a more attractive candidate.”

His career in medical research well underway, Dr. Ashcroft is excited to have the opportunity to do his part in the fight against Ebola.

“We’re going to do what we can to understand how the virus works and how to best treat and control it in the future,” he said.

SGU Graduate Named to Clinical and Strategic Advisory Board 4/28/2015

Courtagen Life Sciences, Inc., an innovative molecular information company, announced the appointment of Helio Pedro, MD SGU ’95, to the company’s Clinical and Strategic Advisory Board.

St. George’s University Grad’s Emergency Efforts Gain National Media Attention

Off-Duty Emergency Physician Saves Man’s Life at Little League Event in New York

paul barbara

Paul Barbara, MD SGU ’04, was standing at second base as a coach at his 4-year-old son’s Little League Opening Day ceremonies when it happened. A league official had collapsed in the nearby dugout during the invocation, prompting Dr. Barbara to do what he does every day as Assistant Director of Emergency Medical Services at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH): to take action in a chaotic scene.

Rushing to the Claudio Buono’s side, Dr. Barbara assessed the patient and began administering CPR. As more providers came to the scene, he began directing off-duty responders from the FDNY and NYPD, as well as several bystanders. After Mr. Buono’s heartbeat returned, Dr. Barbara choreographed his transport to SIUH Ocean Breeze, where he received state-of-the-art interventional cardiac care. With quick and decisive action, Mr. Buono’s life was saved.

The collective efforts received praise league officials and from Mr. Buono’s family. In a follow-up story in the Staten Island Advance, his daughter, Kelly, stated, “I cannot describe how grateful I am that they were there to save my father’s life. Thank God they were there – it’s a miracle.”

“I never saw a man work so fast and work so hard to save this guy’s life,” South Shore Little League president Paul Iorio said of Dr. Barbara. “It was unbelievable. Without that guy in the dugout, that doctor, he had no chance. He had no chance.”

In addition to his EM duties, Dr. Barbara has volunteered as a medical stand-by at out-of-hospital events for years, including the New York City Marathon and area concerts. These types of event management, in addition to his roles as an attending physician in a busy emergency department, afforded him the experience to handle what could have quickly become a tragedy. The impromptu team of responders at the Little League complex that afternoon were seamlessly integrated because of their common goal.

“We had a cohesive team of people who had never seen each other before, working together for the greater good,” Dr. Barbara said. “That’s very gratifying. It shows what laypeople can accomplish with teamwork and good protocols.”

Dr. Barbara called the chronology of events “serendipitous.” As the eventual 911 call prompted EMS system activation, a police officer whose vehicle contained an automated external defibrillator (AED) provided the device to the responders. The quick presence of the AED allowed off-duty FDNY members to employ it, and fortunately the patient had a rhythm that could be shocked. Additional ambulances arrived to continue care and management. The most critical choice that Dr. Barbara made was to propose transporting Mr. Buono transport to a facility that provides post-resuscitative interventional cardiac care. After receiving approval from an off-site FDNY physician, the paramedic crew had one goal: get him to the hospital for post-resuscitative care.

“We had to think outside the box,” Dr. Barbara said. “If we got him to the closest hospital, he would have gotten someone like me – an ED physician. He didn’t need someone like me anymore. He needed interventional cardiac care. That we were able to direct him to a hospital where he could treated by an interventional cardiologist, to me, is what saved his life. He has a normal life today because of the care he received in the hospital.”

Among those caring for Mr. Buono at SIUH was another SGU graduate, Thomas Vazzana, MD SGU ’86, his cardiologist. In addition, although those assisting Dr. Barbara that day were mostly strangers, one was not.

“As it’s happening, a guy comes up next to me, and it’s one of the nurses from the hospital who I work with two or three times a week. We play softball together,” Dr. Barbara said. “His presence allowed me to reorganize my mind, and so I was able to go into ‘command mode,’ calling out orders as if I was running the arrest in the hospital. Since it was me in crunch time, it was great to have a familiar face to help me coordinate the scene.”

His heroics gained local and national media attention, including appearances with Mr. Buono on the nationally syndicated Boomer and Carton radio show on CBS Sports Network as well as WFAN-AM 660 and WFAN-FM 98.7 in New York City. More than anything else, Dr. Barbara hopes that such an event encourages more organizations to have an AED on site at athletic events, and imagines that the life-saving moment may have a lasting impression on the young athletes who were on hand.

“This was Opening Day. There might have been 30 teams and about 750 people there,” Dr. Barbara said. “I think about how many boys or girls read or watched what happened and say ‘I want to be a doctor. I want to be a nurse. I want to be a cop or a fireman or a physician assistant.’ I think something like this is a seminal event in a young person’s career. Maybe they watch something that’s absolutely miraculous and they see that it’s a really good thing that these people do. That’s what’s the most rewarding part of this whole event.”

Off-Duty ER Physician Saves Life at Little League Field 4/21/2015

While at his son’s Little League game, Paul Barbara, MD SGU ’04, sprung into action when a former league official collapsed in a nearby dugout.

St. George’s University Graduate Earns American Society of Neuroimaging Award for Research in Brain Mapping

lesley flynt

As a nuclear physician, Lesley Flynt, MD SGU ’11, examines the very fibers of the human body, down to cells, their nuclei and their elements. Her most recent research earned her one of the most prestigious awards in the neuroimaging realm.

At the American Society of Neuroimaging’s 38th Annual Meeting in Phoenix this January, the 2011 SGU graduate was honored with the 2015 Oldendorf Award, given each year for the best abstract from research in brain mapping. The award is named for medical pioneer and ASN founding member William Oldendorf, the renowned neurologist whose accomplishments included originating the technique of X-ray computed tomography.

“At first I assumed it was a mistake, but later when I realized it was really happening, I just felt so grateful that someone was paying attention to my work,” she said. “Winning the award has just made me want to work even harder.”

The ASN acknowledged Dr. Flynt’s retrospective study on approximately 100 patients with history of tremor, referred for brain imaging to differentiate between Essential Tremor and tremor due to a Parkinsonian Syndrome. The imaging agent DaTscan was used to visualize the integrity of the striatal dopaminergic neurons in their brains. Because those afflicted with Parkinson’s do not produce as much dopamine as those who do not have the disease, Dr. Flynt could examine the patients’ images and distinguish between Parkinson’s and another movement disorder, essential tremor (ET). By performing the study, she discovered that DaTscan would have changed the diagnosis for about three-quarters of the suspected Parkinsonism patients.

“It’s really a unique thing to be able to see physiologically what’s going on inside a person’s head,” Dr. Flynt said. “You can see what’s going on inside the cells, inside the nucleus.”

Dr. Flynt wasn’t born into the medical profession; her mother is a florist and her father an entrepreneur. Her interest in medicine really took off at California State University at Sacramento, from which she earned her Bachelor of Science in molecular biology in 2002.

“During college, I really got in to molecular biology, and it was just an avalanche from there,” she said. On her decision to go to medical school, she said, “I think being a doctor is the best thing a person can do with his or her life, and I wanted to do something meaningful with mine.”

Dr. Flynt went on to research molecular genetics at Harvard University for four years before enrolling in SGU’s January 2007 class. “I had seen the photos on the website, but when I got to Grenada, it was even more beautiful than I ever could have imagined,” she said. “To top it all off, the level of education that you receive is quite impressive.”

That education took place beyond the island’s boundaries. Dr. Flynt took part in the highly sought-after Prague and Thailand selectives, expanding her perspective and knowledge base in patient care. She went on to complete her clinical rotations at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Upon graduating, she did one year of a surgical residency at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia before beginning her stint at Beaumont.

In younger SGU residents with whom Dr. Flynt crosses paths, she sees personality traits similar to her own, the very traits she hopes to carry with her throughout her career.

“Whenever I work with residents from other schools, I don’t know what to expect. With an SGU graduate, I know the personality type that goes with that person,” she said. “I know they’re going to be hard-working, personable, and adventurous. They’re going to be up for something new and ready for a challenge.”

SGU Graduates Presides Over Largest-Ever Grand Rounds at SGU

Time-Honored Tradition Connects St. George’s University Alumni with More Than 200 Current Students

A time-honored event at many medical schools, Grand Rounds allow students to learn from practicing physicians, those who were in their audience’s shoes mere years prior. In March, the presentations carried extra meaning at St. George’s University as 16 graduates met with a record audience to shed light on what’s most important as they progress through medical school and what lay ahead.

grand rounds 1

Danielle Hirsch, a PGY-5 pediatric emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo, worked with the University’s Alumni Relations office to create the event. She and her fellow graduates had planned a five-year reunion in Grenada, and were delighted to have the opportunity to share their stories and advice with the doctors-to-be in True Blue.

“It was a heartwarming and rewarding experience to give back to the school and community who molded me into the physician I am today,” said Purvi Parikh, MD SGU ’08, a private and faculty allergist/immunologist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill and NYU Langone Medical Center. “I hope to offer the same mentorship for these students that I have received from previous SGU alums.”

“We all had an excellent experience being a part of Grand Rounds and speaking with the current students,” said Dr. Shane Svoboda, MD SGU ’10, a PGY-4 general surgery resident at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. “We have been in their position and can empathize with the uncertainty they are feeling. We enjoyed being able to help the future classes and having most of the answers to their questions.”

grand rounds 2

After their introductions, alumni gave a brief overview of what students can expect when they complete their basic science years in Grenada and the important considerations they must make through clinical rotations and approaching residency. A brief question-and-answer session with the audience gave way to small group discussions based on subspecialty, during which graduates answered questions ranging from how they secured their residency positions to the timing of rotations and ideal letters of recommendation.

“We tried to emphasize that they needed to be actively researching what to do next and get paperwork done early,” said Dr. Svoboda, who is amidst a one-year research fellowship in colorectal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Students need to pay attention to timelines and deadlines so they don’t miss out on opportunities.”

The graduates currently practice in a variety of fields, from primary care to sub-specialty medicine. Among them were Ansar Vance, a vascular and interventional radiology resident at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware; Robert Pivec, an orthopedic surgery resident at SUNY Downstate Medical Center; and Maya Lin, an emergency medicine attending physician and ultrasound fellow at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island. They were joined by Drs. Hirsch, Parikh, Svoboda, Shimal Sanghvi, Andrew Persits, Rachit Patel, Priya Patel, Aditi Kapil, Ravi Alluri, Idrees Danishpajooh, Anita Narasimhan, Kamyar Nader, and Rahul Patel.

“It’s very important for us to give back to SGU,” said Dr. Persits, MD SGU ’10, a first-year cardiology fellow at North Shore LIJ in Manhasset, NY. “For many of us, SGU was the only school that gave us a chance to chase a lifelong dream. I felt proud standing up there as an alumnus that has been able to live out his dream.”

The record Grand Rounds also drew a record audience. According to Rona McIntyre in SGU’s Alumni Relations Office, more than 200 students attended the event. It was only the latest installment of Grand Rounds, which the University hosts regularly with visiting professors and alumni visiting the island on personal time. The next edition is scheduled for late March when SGU welcomes back a group from the 2012 graduating class.

From the Charter Foundation Program to His Top-Choice Residency

St. George’s University 2015 Grad Excited to Begin Surgery Residency at UCLA This Summer

brian beckord

Brian Beckord hadn’t stepped foot in a classroom in some time. He’d earned his undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego and begun a career in biotechnology, specializing in molecular diagnostics.

However, he followed his heart and decided to pursue a career in medicine. When given the opportunity to enroll at St. George’s University School of Medicine, he jumped at it and never looked back.

“I knew shortly after arriving at SGU that I had made the right decision,” Mr. Beckord said. “I found myself in an outstanding academic environment with incredible support. I knew at that point I had the resources I needed to succeed, now it was time to prove myself.”

His dream of becoming a doctor will come to fruition this June at commencement in New York City. He will then advance to his first-choice residency, a categorical general surgery position at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California.

“The moment I matched at Harbor-UCLA was undoubtedly the happiest moment of my life,” Mr. Beckord said. “All the hard work, discipline, and persistence had paid off.”

Mr. Beckord came to SGU in January 2011 as part of the University’s Charter Foundation Program which he called “a wonderful opportunity to get back into the flow,” having been away from an academic setting for nearly three years. In addition, he dove right into his studies and fully utilized SGU’s award-winning Department of Educational Services, which promotes academic development through a variety of programs, courses, workshops, and individual sessions.

“DES was instrumental in pushing me to improve my study skills, it allowed me to take my academic performance to the next level,” Mr. Beckord said. “I tried study techniques I never even knew existed – some worked, some didn’t – but in the end I found out which of them worked best for me. My friends and I worked very, very hard in the library and in the classroom. We were focused solely on our primary goal, which was to do the best we possibly could in medical school, to prove ourselves, and that we did.”

Mr. Beckord earned high marks throughout his Basic Science years and during clinical core rotations, and was inducted into the prestigious Arnold P. Gold Foundation Fold Humanism Honor Society. He recorded a 268 on his USMLE 1, and a 273 on his USMLE 2, placing him in the top 1 percent of all test-taker scores nationwide.

“I didn’t take any board prep courses; I just relied on discipline, the education provided by SGU, good study habits, and a lot of practice questions,” Mr. Beckord said.

Outside of class, he was elected President of the Iota Epsilon Alpha Honor Society, and as part of the organization helped raise more than $12,000 to purchase an i-STAT blood analyzer system for the Grenada General Hospital. Thanks to fellow classmate and recent alumnus, Cholene Espinoza, MD, Beckord gained an interest in practicing medicine in underserved communities, having spent time with Dr. Espinoza in South Sudan providing medical care and collecting diagnostic data on the local population.

In his free time, Mr. Beckord and his friends enjoyed a range of activities – spearfishing, snorkeling, hiking, SCUBA diving, sailing and more.

“These are things you simply can’t get in other places and, when utilized in moderation, I have found that it enhanced my ability to clear my head, re-focus, and learn when I went back in the classroom,” Mr. Beckord said.

After having completed all of his third-year clinical rotations at Hackensack University Medical Center, he completed fourth-year surgical rotations at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton, California, Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, a sub-internship in endocrine surgery at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and a pediatric surgery rotation at Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. Following his residency at Harbor-UCLA, he is interested in pursuing fellowship training in trauma or vascular surgery.

He largely credits St. George’s University for having paved the way to his dream career. Of his journey, Mr. Beckord remarked, “I feel as though I worked hard and pushed myself to be the best I could be, so it’s a wonderful feeling to have been rewarded like this.”

Arnold, MD SGU ’10, Joins Medical Staff 4/8/2015

The 2013 Buffalo OB/GYN Society Award for Clinical Excellence in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ryan Arnold MD SGU ’10, was named to the medical staff at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.