SGU’s Omidvar Named International Medical Student of the Year

As a former pediatric patient, Ava Omidvar has spent many years in and out of hospitals—to the point where she considers them to be her second home. Through the tireless efforts of her medical teams, she’s been given a second chance at life, and for the sake of her own patients, she’s committed to making the most of it.

For her dedication to emergency medicine, Ms. Omidvar recently received the scholarship award for International Medical Student of the Year by the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and Resident and Student Association.

“The award came as a complete surprise to me,” stated Ms. Omidvar. “I had no idea I was nominated but I felt incredibly honored to be noticed in such a positive way. Getting this award has provided me with even more motivation to continue this path I have chosen—not only to help those most vulnerable, but to also help those who come after me.”

It was given in recognition of her leadership and service as the president of the Emergency Medicine Club at SGU; her research project SAVED: Starting the Conversation of Death for Healthcare Providers, which she presented at the CENTILE conference in Washington DC; and her advocacy for policy topics relevant to the specialty of emergency medicine.

“The desire for giving through medicine is a lifelong passion that has guided me throughout my life,” said Ms. Omidvar, a third-year medical student at St. George’s University. “It has inspired me to take advantage of every educational avenue, job opportunity, and volunteer project available to me. These combined experiences have helped me turn my passion into expertise and my dreams into a reality.”

Currently studying for the USMLE Step 1 exam, Ms. Omidvar looks forward to starting her clinical rotations and getting back into the field as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic. Her plan is to use what she’s learned during her time at SGU to achieve her dream of becoming a pediatric emergency medicine physician in order to provide improved care to her community during a time when healthcare professionals are needed the most.

“My passion for medicine has taken me from the back seat of an ambulance in Baltimore, all the way to a small clinic in Kampala,” shared Ms. Omidvar. “From a classroom in Boston, a government facility in Maryland, a MEDEVAC helicopter over Washington, DC, to the clinics and hospitals of the beautiful country of Grenada. At each turn, I have come face-to-face with the patients and people who inspire me to continue this journey.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

New On-Campus Lab Strengthens Diagnostics, Education, And Research In Grenada

With the development of a state-of-the-art diagnostic molecular facility on campus, St. George’s University has assured its community and the country of Grenada that SGU will be prepared to do its part should another infectious disease outbreak surface in the near or distant future.

The laboratory is housed in the on-campus Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) building, and was constructed to meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

“By upgrading our laboratory, we can now provide a long-term diagnostic molecular facility that could provide timely and appropriate diagnostic services for the University and potentially the region,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, director of research at SGU. Previously, most diagnostic testing had to be sent outside of Grenada for analysis, often creating longer lead times for receiving results.

In addition to diagnostics, the lab will serve as a teaching facility for graduate and undergraduate students interested in molecular technology elective courses. It will also be a resource for faculty and students to conduct research on emerging and re-emerging vector-borne diseases and other infections.

By demonstrating the capacity to accurately and safely test hundreds of cases each week, Dr. Macpherson envisions that the lab will further enhance international and regional partnerships with such groups as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and universities worldwide.

We can now provide a long-term diagnostic molecular facility that could provide timely and appropriate diagnostic services for the University and potentially the region.”


Commitment to accuracy and efficiency

SGU’s molecular lab will be overseen by Elsa Chitan, the head of the WINDREF laboratories, and will be initially utilized to conduct all COVID-19 testing on campus. Vanessa Matthew-Belmar, MSc ’16, a lab technician in the School of Veterinary Medicine, will use the lab to conduct her PhD studies on COVID-19 at SGU.

“The molecular lab will provide a diverse group of students and faculty with a molecular facility, which is increasingly the Gold Standard for diagnosing infectious diseases,” said Dr. Trevor Noël, director of SGU’s field research studies in the Office of Research and deputy director of WINDREF. Since its founding in 1994 as a non-governmental organization in Grenada and as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation, WINDREF has been committed to health and environmental development through research and education programs, by promoting collaborative relationships between internationally recognized scholars and regional scientists, and by adhering to the highest ethical research and academic standards. WINDREF’s current donors include the NIH, Grand Challenges Canada, Nature Conservancy International, FAO, The Spencer Foundation, Global Challenges Research Fund, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Global Water Partnership, and many other entities.

SGU’s molecular lab in the School of Veterinary Medicine served as Grenada’s initial national SARS-CoV-2 testing site at the onset of the pandemic last year. It was one of approximately 250 quality control labs around the world overseen by the WHO. Its results were in 100 percent concordance with the expected test results from the WHO. The national testing laboratory located at the Grenada General Hospital continues to collaborate with WINDREF personnel on best diagnostic practices.

PCR testing continues at SGU’s Open Modica Hall, where Dr. Kathy Yearwood, director of University Clinical Services and Dr. Jennifer Solomon, chair of nursing and allied health science, join staff from the University Clinic, nursing program, and WINDREF COVID-19 team, have been testing the SGU affiliated community and contractors. The program has tested almost 8,000 individuals over the past year with the majority of the results returned to those tested within eight hours. A rapid turnaround is essential for the test to be useful for epidemiological surveillance, and its success played a significant role in limiting the numbers of COVID-19 infections in Grenada over the past year.

Dr. Trevor Noel receives his COVID-19 vaccine as part of Grenada’s initial rollout.

SGU faculty step forward in Grenada vaccine rollout 

Drs. Macpherson and Noël were amongst the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca SARS-CoV-2 vaccine on February 12. They joined the Grenada Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Hon. Keith Mitchell; Minister of Health the Hon. Nickolas Steele; and a number of cabinet members, senior administrators from the Ministry of Health, and some frontline workers.

“In Grenada, non-pharmaceutical measures have been in place from the beginning, whether it’s a limited curfew, the mandatory wearing of masks in public, frequent washing of hands, physical distancing, along with a rapid test, trace, and isolate and quarantine program, all helped to maintain the low numbers of COVID-19 infections in Grenada,” Dr. Macpherson said. “As a result, we have had so few cases, which means that almost everyone is immunologically naïve and susceptible to infection. The vaccine is the final piece to protect everyone in Grenada.”



Both Dr. Macpherson and Dr. Noël reported having only transitory mild side effects from the first of two vaccine shots. The immediate rollout of the vaccine will be administered by the Community and Public Health nurses of the Ministry of Health at the Grenada General Hospital. Dr. Yearwood and members of the SGU clinical team and WINDREF COVID-19 team were among those to receive the vaccine early in its rollout.

“The strong partnership between the Ministry of Health, SGU, WINDREF, PAHO/WHO and the participation of the people of Grenada with the non-pharmaceutical measures allowed Grenada to limit the number of cases of COVID-19 in Grenada to extremely low levels,” said Dr. Macpherson. “It has been a pleasure for us to be a part of this remarkable public health achievement.”

– Brett Mauser


SGU Public Health Professor Appointed To Serve On The ASPPH Board Of Directors

Although Professor Martin Forde’s career begun as an engineer in 1987, it has been his two decades in the field of public health that has proved most rewarding to him.  Dr. Forde is  a professor within the School of Graduate Studies Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. He also serves as director for St. George’s University’s Medical Student Research Institute and track director for the environmental and occupational health concentrations within the Master of Public Health degree program.

His latest appointment to the board of directors of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) makes him the first representative from SGU to serve in that capacity.  Professor Forde explains to SGU News what his appointment to the ASPPH board means to him, what he hopes to achieve as director, and how he plans to balance his responsibilities between SGU and ASPPH.

St. George’s University: How does it feel to be recently appointed to serve as director for ASPPH?

Professor Martin Forde: I feel honored. I have the privilege to be the voice that represents SGU’s public health program and others from non-US territories on various issues. I am also grateful that ASPPH has proactively reached out to non-US programs to ensure that these schools and programs are represented on their board.

SGU: What are you hoping to achieve during your appointment?

Professor Forde: I am hoping to introduce the way in which non-US-based public health programs operate with less resources as compared to the US counterparts, as well as related issues and concerns that impact us, and how public health solutions can be tailored to meet our unique needs.

SGU: What does your additional responsibilities within the University entail?

Professor Forde: As a professor within the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, I am presently the longest serving faculty member having been with the department now for more than 20 years teaching both environmental and occupational health. Further, I am the track director for the environmental and occupational health concentrations within the Master of Public Health degree program. I’m also the director of the Medical Student Research Institute, which offers honors students in term 2 the opportunity to engage in research projects with an assigned faculty mentor.

SGU: How do you balance those responsibilities?

Professor Forde: All the above appointments are to a large degree synergistic in that they are related and complement each other. My new appointment as an at-large ASPPH board member will allow me to share my teaching and research experiences from a non-US based public health program with the leading association for public health schools and programs in the US.

SGU: What’s next Professor Forde?

Professor Forde: To continue to be of service to all in bringing the skills and knowledge I have in my personal toolbox to address and help solve the global public health challenges we currently face.


–Tornia Charles

WINDREF Provides In-Depth Fisheries Training Through UN Grant

Fishers from Carriacou celebrate earning their captain’s permit through a 12-week training program facilitated by WINDREF. Photos from Roland Baldeo

To strengthen a region that relies heavily on the fisheries sector for its food safety and livelihood, the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) recently led a rigorous 12-week training course that resulted in more than 300 men and women earning a fishing vessel captain’s permit, demonstrating their expertise in rules and safety on the seas.

The Grenada graduation ceremony bestowed captain’s permits to more than 250 alumni of the 12-week course.

WINDREF, which is based on the St. George’s University campus, carried out the project through funding from a $370,000EC grant from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4FISH) project in the Eastern Caribbean. Permits were bestowed to fishers from Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.

“This project provided a unique public-private partnership opportunity despite COVID-19 restrictions for services by WINDREF towards regional implementation of climate change adaptation,” said Trevor P. Noël, PhD ’17, MPH ’04, deputy director of WINDREF. “The success of this program is evidenced in the fact that both the United Nations (FAO) and Grenada Government Ministries have requested further dialogue with us for future UN projects that are due to come on stream this fall. It is an exciting time for WINDREF and, by extension, St. George’s University.”

The training was set up in 12 one-week modules covering rules of the sea, safety at sea, search and rescue, seamanship and boat handling, global positioning systems (GPS), navigation, first aid, conflict resolution, fishery laws and regulations, marine protected areas, engine repair and maintenance, and marine radio operating procedures. Each fisher was required to attend all 12 sessions to obtain their permit.

“This project is an embodiment of ‘being thy neighbor’s keeper’ by improving safety at sea for Grenadian fishers,” Dr. Noël said. “In addition, the importance of food security and the linkage to climate resilience and health is foremost in our mind.”

Fishers throughout the region, including in Petite Martinique (shown), were trained on a wide variety of topics focused on rules and safety.


–Brett Mauser 

Coppola Becomes Second-Ever Vet Student To Serve As SGU SGA President

For only the second time in the history of St. George’s University, a veterinary student has been elected president of the Student Government Association. Maria Coppola, a Term 6 student from Pittsburgh, PA, will serve as a leader and voice for students from all schools within the University for the Spring 2021 term.

SGU seems to run in Ms. Coppola’s blood. Her parents met at the University as medical students and graduated in 1984. Her mother, Carmela, now specializes in neonatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, while her father, Matthew, practices internal medicine with a focus on geriatrics. The lineage continues with her brother, Matthew, a current SOM student who is expected to graduate in 2023.

Ms. Coppola is no newcomer to the SGA, having joined in her first term and joined the SVM executive board in Term 4. SGU News caught up with her as she began her tenure as the organization’s president.

St. George’s University: How does it feel to be only the second SVM student to be elected as SGA president?  

Maria Coppola: It is a great honor. I hope that SGA’s presidency becomes more diverse over the years and there will be more SAS and SVM presidents to come after me.

SGU: What are some of your top priorities in your new role? 

MC: As SGA president in this online environment, my goals are different than what they would be in person. I want SGA to be more than an outlet to voice school-related concerns, and to be an organization that is there for students. It is important to check in with students and help them with motivation and accountability throughout the term. Our executive board is holding weekly office hours, a daily virtual study hall, and an amazing study buddy locator resource. We hope to host some events throughout the term to promote wellness and boost morale.

SGU: How will you incorporate the concerns and issues of students of all schools? 

MC: Our executive board positions help me to incorporate the concerns and issues of all SGU students. I check in weekly with the presidents of each school’s affairs to make sure all concerns are being addressed. I also check in with our graduate school SGA representatives to help where I am needed.

SGU: What are the qualities you believe a student needs to have in order to be in this type of leadership position?  

MC: Passion, courage, and embracing teamwork. An SGA president must be passionate about student concerns and needs in order to succeed in this role. You must have the courage to speak with administration and professors to advocate for the student body in an effective and professional manner. Also, you need to be able to delegate tasks, and to work and communicate with SGA, your colleagues, and administration to make a positive change at SGU.

SGU: How did your prior SGA experience prepare you for the role?  

MC: I joined SGA my first term in SVM. I immediately joined committees to get involved, and later joined the executive board in my fourth term. My prior experience on the SGA executive board as vice president of SVM affairs enabled me to see what it took to be president. I was able to see the collaboration of all schools, and the areas that could be improved. I work really hard to make sure that all schools feel equally heard and appreciated.

SGU: What prompted you to pursue this position, and what influence do you hope to have? 

MC: I wanted to be a voice for students and to join an organization that encompasses all schools. I hope that I influence other SGA representatives to have a strong voice and to continue to work for positive change on campus.

SGU: What are your career aspirations?

MC: In May, I will start my clinical year at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, where I will track Small Animal Medicine. My expected graduation is June 2022. I plan to practice small animal medicine in Georgia or Florida after graduation.

SGU: How will being SGA president help you in your career?  

MC: My role as SGA president has helped me improve the leadership and interpersonal skills needed to be a successful veterinarian. Veterinarians are team leaders at the hospital and should possess these skills to lead a successful and encouraging team. As with many other careers, veterinarians rely on their team to efficiently get things done. I am thankful to be in this current leadership position to continue improving my skills.

– Laurie Chartorynsky

How Research Will Aid Vet Students in their Careers: Faculty Feature on Dr. Sonia Cheetham-Brow

Dr. Sonia Cheetham-Brow, SVM Associate Dean of Research

Dr. Sonia Cheetham-Brow, the School of Veterinary Medicine’s associate dean of research and a professor in the Department of Pathobiology, has dedicated her life to studying animal viruses and conducting veterinary research. Her work has appeared in several prestigious publications, including the British Journal of Cancer and the Journal of Virology.

As associate dean of research, Dr. Cheetham-Brow provides leadership on SVM’s development of research studies while also adding her expertise in research collaborations with the Schools of Medicine and Arts and Sciences, as well as global research efforts. She also helps to create and develop research-related programs and courses, ensures that all SVM research adheres to SGU’s standards and policies, helps new faculty find internal and external research opportunities, and serves on the Small Grant Research Initiative (SGRI) grant and policy committee. She currently teaches virology to Term 3 students as well as a selective in scientific article interpretation and electives in research.

In her discussion with SGU News, she talks about why research is important for veterinary students, how the study of veterinary virology applies to the current pandemic situation, and offers insight into how students can get involved in research studies at SGU.

St. George’s University: Why is understanding the role of research in veterinary medicine an important aspect for students to learn?

Dr. Cheetham-Brow: Veterinary medicine is based in science. Scientific findings occur through research. In order to advance in veterinary medicine, exposure to evidence-based veterinary medicine and research must be a critical part of the students’ curriculum. If students can appreciate the scientific method, they will be ready to differentiate amongst real and fake scientific advancements.

SGU: How does the study of veterinary virology apply to the current pandemic situation?

Cheetham-Brow: At SGU, SVM students are presented with virology based on the “One Health” disciplinary approach. The concept emphasizes not just veterinary viral diseases and current zoonotic viruses but also identifies potential viral families that can jump species, such as SARS Cov2, which was identified as a cause of COVID-19.

What students learn about virus transmission and intervention strategies in the absence of vaccines (which occurs in many instances) can be immediately translated to the current situation. The aim is to have our graduates ready to fight existing viral threats but also prepare them to apply what they know to new viruses that may come in the future.

SGU: What research are you currently involved in?

Cheetham-Brow: My main focus in research are viruses of zoonotic importance in bats and mosquitoes but I also collaborate with other faculty working on viruses in sea turtles, monkeys, and domestic animals.

SGU: How has your travels/background prepared you to teach the next generation of veterinarians?

Cheetham-Brow: My Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training began in Argentina and then I gained further expertise as a visiting scholar at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).  I also completed my PhD at Ohio State University in the USA and my Postdoc at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Through my research training, I acquired a broad background of skills, techniques, hypothesis-based research design and data analysis. I also gained experience by working in research laboratories in both developed and developing countries, both of which have proven of invaluable to my career development.

SGU: How can students get involved in research studies while at SGU?

Cheetham-Brow: In addition to the information found on the SVM SGU website, I present all the different options to Term 1 students as part of their Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine course. This includes introducing the faculty coordinating each program such as the IVSP (research summer program) VSRI (veterinary student research investigator) etc. Additionally, interested students can reach out and enquire about possibilities by contacting me via email and telephone number (474) 444 4175 ext. 3805.

SGU: What advice would you give to students currently pursuing veterinary medicine?

Cheetham-Brow: Everything we know and do in veterinary medicine is based on the research from people before us. Moving forward will depend on research by us. Even if students are certain that they want to be clinicians, there are types of research that they can participate in, such as clinical research. Also, case studies are of interest so if they find themselves with a new or unusual case, they should share it in the form of a case report which once published will be available to others around the globe.



– Tornia Charles



Impact of Veterinarians Underscored in Spring 2021 Virtual White Coat Ceremony

With the safety of its students, their families, and the Grenadian community as its highest priority, St. George’s University held its first-ever virtual White Coat Ceremony last week—formally welcoming aspiring veterinarians from its August 2020 and January 2021 incoming classes to the veterinary medical profession.

The future veterinarians are on the path to join over 1,900 other graduates of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. The SVM also maintains partnerships with more than 30 universities and clinical facilities in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia, where fourth-year students spend a year of clinical training at an affiliated veterinary school.

One alumna—Carolina Medina, DVM ’05, a certified veterinary pain practitioner—served as the day’s master of ceremonies. In her address, she counseled the veterinarians-in-training that becoming a DVM was going to be harder than they expected, but the harder they worked, the greater they would feel when they achieved it.


Watch August 2020 Ceremony

YouTube video

“Stay focused, seek help when you need it, and always remember why you started on this journey in the first place,” said Dr. Medina. “Working with animals is rewarding and fulfilling, and as a veterinarian you will have the ability to make an impact on the lives of animals and people, as well as service your community.”

St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds described last year’s coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as a prime example of the interconnectivity of human and animal medicine. According to Dr. Olds, the pandemic will take the combined efforts of both human and veterinary medicine to combat, and it has also impacted the symbolism of the white coat.

“Patients and other individuals have often thought well of those in the health professions,” stated Dr. Olds. “However, I believe those in the health profession today have achieved a new status because of the personal risks that those individuals on the frontlines have exposed themselves to while serving those affected by the virus. They have gained a new status—these health professionals have attained ‘hero’ status more so now than ever before.”

Other speakers at the event included the chancellor of St. George’s University, Dr. Charles R. Modica, Provost Glen Jacobs, Dr. Neil C. Olson, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, and keynote speaker Dr. John Howe, the immediate past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, who served in the role of president for 2019-2020. Dr. Howe congratulated the future vets on their success so far, recognizing how hard they’ve worked and knowing the new challenges they will now face.

Watch January 2021 Ceremony

YouTube video

“What will determine your relative success will be your ability to build relationships with your clients,” advised Dr. Howe. “Whatever your career path, it’s all about relationships. And perhaps most of all it’s about listening. As the saying goes… ’nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.’”

Established in 1999, the School of Veterinary Medicine continues to add to its legacy of graduating top-notch veterinarians into the global healthcare system with its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program recently receiving full accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). As a result, St. George’s University is now one of the few veterinary schools in the world to be accredited by both the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) in the United States and Canada, as well as the RCVS in the UK.

– Ray-Donna Peters

From Politics to Academia

When Dr. Damian Greaves changed course in his career, switching from politics to academic, he had always intended to return. But more than 15 years into his time as an educator at St. George’s University, he has reveled in the opportunity to pass on his knowledge to future leaders in Grenada and throughout the Caribbean. 

“When I teach, I am on top of the world because it is not just a job, it is a vocation—to inspire and mold minds,” said Dr. Greaves, a professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

He came to St. George’s University in 2006 after spending five years as the Minister of Health in St. Lucia, first serving as a part-time lecturer while working on a Master of Public Health (MPH) from SGU, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at Walden University.  

“Leveraging on various experiences gives a broader view on what is happening, and therefore translates to a more panoramic and rigorous analysis of matters that may come to my attention,” said Dr. Greaves. “It also gives you a more global prospective.”

Roles Run the Gamut

Even with all of his roles at SGU, he traveled to St. Lucia monthly to attend parliamentary sessions. All told, the former Minister served 15 years in politics, including three as senator, for which he led the opposition in the House. Dr. Greaves was also Minister for Culture and Community Development. His passion for culture led him to write songs, own a Carnival band, and participate in calypso competitions.  

Nevertheless, Dr. Greaves remained at SGU as an instructor, teaching Social Sciences and Medicine to premedical and preveterinary students, as well as sociology courses such as Race, Class and Gender; Caribbean Social Structure; Caribbean Government and Politics; and Introduction to Political Science. 

When you are teaching, you have to be well read. One of your toolkits is to continue to research and read, particularly in this ever-evolving technical age.” Dr. Greaves said. “If you’re a sociologist and you don’t have a working knowledge of economics, political science, other areas of social sciences and even outside of those, your analysis will be the limited because you must engage other subject matters that impact what you’re interrogating.” 

He also leads a very active campus life, serving as president of the School of Arts and Sciences Senate as well as the University Senate. He is also a member of various committees such as the Graduate and Undergraduate Committees, Accreditation Committee, and SGU IRB; a body with a mandate to review the content of research studies. 

Outside of SGU, Dr. Greaves is the director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, sits on the National Advisory Board for National Health Insurance, and is chair of the Grenada National Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases, a position he has held since 2017Dr. Greaves is also writing his first book, which focuses on health management in the Caribbean.   

– Tornia Charles

9 Questions with MD Student Ololade Akinfemiwa

Ololade Akinfemiwa

Ololade Akinfemiwa, MD ’21 (expected), is enjoying her challenging internal medicine rotation as a fourth-year student at a clinic affiliated with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, she chose St. George’s University because, after speaking with a number of graduates practicing in the US and Canada in various specialties—all encouraged her to apply. “I am glad I did,” she said.

Hoping to inspire more black women to go into medicine, Miss Akinfemiwa is active within the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), serving as vice chair of the national chapter’s Community Service Committee. SNMA is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students by addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of “clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.”

Get to know Miss Akinfemiwa below.

1. What are you learning right now in your internal medicine rotation?

Ololade Akinfemiwa: I am currently on an outpatient rotation and I am learning the importance of effective communication of health-related information. It makes a huge difference when patients have a good understanding of their medical conditions and how to manage them.

2. What is the most surprising or exciting lesson/case learned while in clinical rotations?

Akinfemiwa: I saw a patient with Lyme disease with the classic rash that looks like a bull’s eye. I had so many questions about it and was excited to actually see it in person.

3. Do you plan to go into primary care or specialize?

Akinfemiwa: I plan on going into emergency medicine and I have an interest in global health.

4. Favorite rotation/elective so far?

Akinfemiwa: Emergency medicine, of course!

5. What do you miss most about Grenada?

Akinfemiwa: I miss the warm weather, beaches, and Umbrellas Beach Bar.

6. What has been the most challenging part of clinicals?

Akinfemiwa: Right now, the most challenging part of clinicals has been seeing the devastating effects of COVID firsthand.

7. What has stood out to you most about the role of physicians during this pandemic and how has it affected the type of doctor you aspire to be?

Akinfemiwa: This pandemic has highlighted the need for more doctors and revealed the vulnerabilities in the healthcare system. Knowing that things could have gone better has only inspired me to be a part of making that possible.

8. February 3 is National Women Physicians Day. What does it mean to you to be a black woman about to enter the medical field? What do you hope to accomplish as a doctor?

Akinfemiwa: Black female doctors represent only about 2 percent of physicians in the US. I decided to go into medicine to help fight for health equity. I hope to inspire more black women to pursue medicine because we are truly needed. Black physicians are essential to achieving equity in medical care and I look forward to supporting and advocating for patients as an emergency medicine physician.

9. Best piece of advice about clinical rotations for basic sciences med students?

Akinfemiwa: Take care of yourself and listen to your body. If you love to take naps like me, take those naps!



— Laurie Chartorynsky


The News Stories that Defined the School of Veterinary Medicine in 2020

top vet stories of 2020

From being on the front lines of animal care during the COVID pandemic to discussions on diversity and equality within the veterinary field, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine students, faculty, and alumni made their mark in 2020.

In early June, 180 SVM graduates joined the network of more than 1,900 Doctors of Veterinary Medicine making an impact through veterinary medicine around the world. Many of these graduates took the next step in their careers as aspiring veterinarians by matching into highly competitive postgraduate positions.

When it comes to the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians, including in zoos and aquariums. In Grenada, School of Veterinary Medicine also sprung into action as the country’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.

It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.

These are the stories that underscore the School of Veterinary Medicine’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of animal health professionals around the world. Read on to see the top SVM news stories of 2020 on

SVM Commencement 2020

The School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 17th annual commencement on June 6, with 180 students from nine countries and 39 US states graduating from the school. For the first time in history, the ceremony was held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many SVM alums began highly competitive postgraduate positions in a variety of clinical specialty areas such as orthopedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, immunology, diagnostic imaging, and pathology, matching into positions at reputable veterinary hospitals throughout the US and Canada.


Dr. Heather Douglas, DVM ’06

How COVID Impacted Veterinarians

It’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted as a result of the COVID pandemic—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians.

Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, for example, discussed how the disease is changing the way that small animal veterinarians treat patients and interact with pet owners.

“Initially, businesses like my own were slow when lockdowns were in place,” said Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, owner of Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, MN. “Then in mid- to late-April the floodgates opened. This influx was due to clients waiting to bring their pets in during lockdown, clients paying more attention to their pets while at home for extended periods so that illnesses were being detected much sooner, and people adopting new pets to decrease loneliness and feelings of isolation at home. … I’ve had to become more efficient and spend more time communicating with owners.”


SGU's Large Animal Resource Facility

A Look Inside SVM’s Large Animal Resource Facility

SGU’s Large Animal Resource Facility (LARF) is a one-acre farm that is home to the equine and bovine teaching herds that students of the School of Veterinary Medicine use to gain crucial large animal clinical skills prior to their fourth year.

Dr. Inga Karasek, director of the Large Animal Resource Facility, was one of a handful of SGU staff who remained on the island to care for the animals during the early days of the global pandemic. In this video, she shared why the farm’s ecosystem—even while students are learning remotely—is important to studying veterinary medicine at SGU.


The Laboratory Personnel Behind SGU’s COVID Testing Site

Even before the coronavirus disease reached the shores of Grenada, the School of Veterinary Medicine, together with the Government of Grenada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), were prepared for it. With the proper equipment and a team led by two staff members—both SGU graduates—in the SVM’s molecular virology lab, served as Grenada’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.

The effort facilitated testing for more than 2,000 SGU students, faculty, and staff, over 1,200 members of the Grenadian community, as well as individuals arriving in Grenada via plane or cruise ship.


VOICE SGU chapter

VOICE Seeks to Champion Veterinarian Diversity at The Student Level

It’s no secret that Black and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in the veterinary profession. Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment, or VOICE, a national organization with student chapters across US and Caribbean veterinary schools, seeks to increase “awareness, respect, and sensitivity to differences among all individuals and communities in the field of veterinary medicine.”

VOICE SGU chapter and its current president, Antonia Nickleberry, MBA, a Term 2 student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, discussed with SGU News why diversity in the field matters and how SVM students can get involved.

“The world around is us diversifying rapidly,” Ms. Nickleberry said. “Veterinary medicine seems to have a delayed response to this diversification and therefore, those within the profession are not as aware as they should be. This can lead to major sensitivity issues between classmates and colleagues that can be avoided by educating and empowering those in this profession, starting with the students.”