Highlighting the Student National Medical Association: A Conversation with Leadership of the SGU Chapter

SNMA President Tom Diamond II, and Vice President, Jhanae O'Guin

The Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is a national association that 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.” SNMA chapters are based at allopathic and osteopathic medical schools throughout the US, with programs designed to serve the health needs of underserved communities and communities of color.

In addition, SNMA is dedicated both to ensuring that medical education and services are culturally sensitive to the needs of diverse populations and to increasing the number of African American, Latino, and other students of color entering and completing medical school. The SGU chapter of the SNMA has nearly 200 members and implements programs that benefit underserved communities in Grenada.

We spoke with SGU Chapter President Tom Diamond II, a soon-to-be Term 5 student and aspiring cardiologist, and Vice President Jhanae O’Guin, a Term 3 student and aspiring OB/GYN, who shared their perspectives on the importance of the organization’s mission, not just now but year-round, and how students can get involved.

What is the overall mission for the Student National Medical Association?

TD: Our mission is to simply diversify the face of medicine, both at the physician level by increasing the number of minority physicians and physicians of color, and also at a socioeconomic level, where physicians use their skills to treat people in low-income and underserved areas—areas that are so-called medical deserts.


What does the organization do to champion equality in healthcare career throughout the year?

JO: We do a lot of mentoring. It can be a very hard road as a physician, period, but as a minority physician, it can be even harder. So being able to reach out to someone who took that class or that session before you, who can give you valuable advice that you can trust, who is walking a similar pathway to you, is a big part of what we do. We are hoping to ramp up our mentoring program even more this semester than ever. We think it’s very important because, as Tom was saying, these physicians are going to go into these medical deserts and it’s critical that we talk about the importance of how patients see their doctors—if they feel like they can identify with them, they are more likely to have better health.

Can you share examples of the activities that the SGU chapter has done on the island to enhance medical services to underserved communities?

JO: We partner with local Grenadian schools to mentor local children and we call it “mini med school.” The goal of that activity is to get local Grenadians interested in medicine. And we also know that in general, if we can bolster these programs and also create these pathways for these students, that the healthcare system in Grenada could stand to be improved that way.

Another program that we do is we raise money to support JJ Robinson Trust scholarships for children. That’s important because we know, in general, educational outcomes are associated with good health outcomes. We typically do a game night to raise the money for a scholarship program.

Lastly, and probably most notably, is our diabetes clinic. I had the pleasure of being the diabetes clinic coordinator this past semester. This particular program is so important because it targets diseases that are impacting minorities at a disparaging rate. So, during these clinics we do high blood pressure monitoring; diabetes monitoring; we check vision deficits; and we counsel on nutrition and good overall health. And we give Grenadians an opportunity to also consult with SGU-trained physicians, who we partner with to do this event. Every year, we go to a different parish and it gives Grenadians the opportunity to interact with us, for us to get some hands-on experience, and of course help the community.

Why is it important to showcase diversity within the medical profession?

TD: In medicine, one of the things we learn about is contributing factors and its impact on health prognosis. A contributing factor to a diagnosis may be miscommunication. If a person cannot relate to you or there’s any type of communication barrier that impacts the prognosis, that impacts the probability of a healthier, better outcome. If you don’t understand what a patient’s lifestyle is, if you are not able to communicate with them about their eating habits, where they live, the environmental stressors that they face, you’re going to miss how to assess and how to interact with that patient. That’s why it’s so important to diversify the face of medicine. We need people who understand medicine and who will be able to relate to patients.

How do you feel that the campus’ overall diversity has contributed to your academic experience? How do you think it will help you in your eventual careers?

TD: SGU has physicians and facilitators from all over the world. I’m going to quote one of my favorite professors, Dr. Kesava Mandalaneni who said that “Accent is the paint brush of life. And that gives us the color to how we live.” You become used to speaking with patients who may not sound like you, who may not pronounce the same words the way you do, who may not have the same cultural background as you, but on a daily basis, we meet people from different countries and you learn to communicate with them.

JO: I agree 100 percent with that. And it does make you more attentive to people when they’re speaking, because you want to try to do your best to catch what they’re saying. And I think it’s important as a doctor to be a good listener. So being able to de-code what someone’s saying is an essential tool as a great physician.

I would also say that being at SGU, the students are coming from many backgrounds, countries, and cultures. And I think that has been enriching experience. And while there are more initiatives for diversity that can be implemented, including increased workshops, possibly a selective on health disparities affecting communities of color, and inclusion of minority students on decision-making boards, I believe that this experience at SGU in particular will contribute meaningfully to a career as a future physician because we’re interacting with different cultures already and getting some basis for what their cultural norms are.

This also highlights the meaningfulness of SNMA at SGU because we are an organization that is trying to encourage different cultures to come together. And I always like to use the example that when I came to SGU and I joined SNMA, that’s where I met Tom. Tom saw me studying in Taylor Hall and offered to help on me on a topic I was studying. This interaction empowered me to forge a relationship with him and ask him to be my mentor. And now he is my mentor. Without the SNMA, I probably would not have had that opportunity.

In what ways have the recent events in the US reinvigorated you on your path to becoming a physician?

TD: That’s probably the biggest question of today for the answer is multi-faceted. Many people like me set out as first-generation physicians of color, first-generation physicians of our family, and first-generation physicians in our communities. It’s not that blacks and African Americans don’t want to get into medicine—there is some kind of invisible barrier that stopped them from being able to move in.

There are four historically black colleges or university medical schools in the United States…for a population of people that represent 13 to 16 percent of the nation. So, there is no equality at the level of even physician training. And then you look at what’s happening in the world right now. It’s just a reminder that racism is still present. Unfortunately, it’s ingrained into American society in some ways to the degree that people don’t even understand how their actions affect others, because they’re so used to doing it.

One of the things that’s been damaging to myself and students all across the country and, and especially SNMA nationwide—we have medical students right now who are having to focus on rigorous curriculums while being online, and on top of all that they’re experiencing trauma (from the recent news of George Floyd’s death). Without letting it bog you down or mentally deter you; it should light a fire under you and invigorate you to understand that I have a part to play in eradicating racism. We all do. But more specifically, I have a part to play in eradicating racism and health disparity for people of minorities and for everybody by giving people healthier lives, by standing up to institutions that deny people access from basic need of health. And so as hard as it is, especially at moments like this to focus, it’s your responsibility, it’s your burden. You feel a charge to produce these outcomes for yourself in order to be able to impact the community at large.

JO: I’ll just follow up and say, maybe you’re not able to be on the front lines, doing your part in that way, but in a lot of ways, being in medical school as an African American, that is doing your part, because you want to be in a position where you can pour back into your community. So if anything, when it’s hard and you’re taking that class or you’re getting ready for that test, and you’re seeing this happening, you can’t give up, not only in yourself, but because you have people counting on you to be the change that people are so desperately on the front lines fighting for.

What inspired you to become a doctor? What are your future career plans?

TD: I’m from Jacksonville, FL. I am a graduate of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. One of the things that inspired me to become a physician is that, in the area of the city where I grew up, there is a major health disparity as far as simply just it’s a medical desert. There is one hospital that sits centrally located that is supposed to service the entire north side. You have quarter of a million people who live in this area that have one hospital.

The second reason is just the lack of representation that I saw growing up. And I knew that this is an area of concern. African Americans lead nationwide in cardiac disease, hypertension, diabetes—those kinds of things. I have a passion for helping people. And so, it led me here, and thank God it led me to SGU because the school is allowing me to chase my dreams. I want to go into internal medicine and eventually enter a fellowship in cardiology.

JO: When I was in kindergarten, I got this Mason jar that my teacher said I shouldn’t open until I graduate. Well, graduation came and went, I had already completed a semester of undergraduate college, I was already involved in a medical academy, and I finally opened it and found this piece of paper. My teacher asked me what I wanted to be—I told her I wanted to be a doctor. It even surprised me because I don’t remember wanting to be a doctor. I thought I wanted to be a teacher before, but apparently when I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a doctor. So, this pathway is in a lot of ways for me a self-fulfilling prophecy derived as a kindergartener.

I am from Houston, TX. I went to Prairie View A&M University. And then after that, I continued my education to get my master’s degree in public health in health promotion and health education with a concentration in maternal and child health, bolstering my passion for women’s health. There are just a lot of disparities, including infant mortality and low birth-weight babies that are affecting people of color and just bad maternal outcomes for women of color. So, a lot of that has been a catalyst for me wanting to go into obstetrics and gynecology. If not that, I know that I want to work in primary care. I can impact the most people in helping with these chronic diseases and ailments that are impacting my community. And so, all of that’s very important to me because I believe that women’s health is the foundation of good family health. Because when we have healthy mothers, we have healthy children and healthy spouses.

The SGU chapter of the SNMA is actively welcoming new members for the August semester and will be transitioning many of their programs to a virtual setting. Students who are interested in joining are welcome to reach out to the organization via its Facebook and Instagram pages.

–Laurie Chartorynsky


SGS Class of 2020 Encouraged to Embrace Its Uniqueness and the Prospects of Tomorrow

Dr. Calum Macpherson, SGS Dean

The School of Graduate Studies virtual commencement ceremony began with Dr. Calum Macpherson, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and the University’s chancellor, Dr. Charles R . Modica, who offered the 2020 graduating class a warm welcome as well as congratulatory remarks.

Although the current health climate prompted St. George’s University to move its customary in-person event online, the 2020 School of Graduate Studies (SGS) commencement ceremony nevertheless featured the celebratory nature and well wishes that have become a hallmark of events held each year in Grenada. The virtual ceremony was held on held on Saturday, May 30.

In total, the class’s 150 graduands from 34 countries were bestowed degrees such as a Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. In addition, SGU hosts the Gamma Kappa chapter of the Delta Omega Honors Society and inducted the top 10 percent of this year’s MPH graduates into the chapter for demonstrating excellence in education and scholarship in research and service.

To begin the online ceremony—the first of its kind in the University’s 43-year history—Dr. Calum Macpherson, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and the University’s chancellor, Dr. Charles R. Modica, offered the 2020 graduating class a warm welcome as well as congratulatory remarks. They then gave the virtual stage to this year’s speaker, the Honorable Nickolas Steele, Grenada’s Minister for Health, Social Security, and International Business, who shared his excitement for the graduates’ future.

“Your class is unique in so many ways,” said Minister Steele. “Embrace that uniqueness and let it be the beacon that guides your future steps. You are armed with not just any education but with a St. George’s University education—an institution with not just a spirit but a mantra of overcoming challenges. So, go forward, onwards and upwards with your personal stock, the tools you have been given by SGU, the benefits of the battles you have just fought, and the certainty in the opportunities of tomorrow’s uncertainty.

“The difficult we do today, the impossible—tomorrow,” added Minister Steele. “You are the product of the very institution that epitomizes this and as such, the difficult you will do today, you will graduate today; the impossible you will do tomorrow, you will change the world.”

Class speaker Tanya Martelly, MBA ’20, offered a few heartfelt words on behalf of her fellow graduands, echoing the minister’s words acknowledging that this year had been filled with uncertainty and a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, anticipation, and excitement.

“However, regardless of the origins of the emotions we felt,” stated Ms. Martelly. “What caused each of us to start our academic journey was courage, and a desire to move forward in our lives. Today, I encourage you to seek and ascertain what your purpose is in this life and decide on the impact you want to have on this world beyond yourself. With courage and God’s leading, you will be able to make the difference that this world so desperately needs. God bless you all in your academic and professional endeavors and congratulations.”

The School of Graduate Studies was launched 17 years after establishing a successful  School of Medicine, further evolving St. George’s University as an international center for excellence. Last year, the school celebrated 25 years of excellence, having graduated more than 1,300 students. At present, the SGS has 34 different graduate degree programs, and also provides students the opportunity to earn dual degrees such as the DVM/MSc, DVM/MBA, MD/MSc, and MD/MPH, which has more than 1,000 graduates and celebrated its 20th anniversary, last year.


–Ray-Donna Peters


AMSA SGU Receives Prestigious Chapter Success Award

St. George’s University’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) recently received international recognition, as it was honored with the Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award at this year’s AMSA National Conference and Exposition.

The award, named after AMSA Executive Director Emeritus Paul R. Wright, emphasizes chapter commitment to improving member solidarity by promoting AMSA’s mission of inspiring future physicians through local events, innovative programming, leadership development, calls to action and the display of teamwork.

“We are honored and deeply humbled to receive this award,” said Tasha Phillips-Wilson, former president of AMSA SGU. “However, the best part about it is being able to give back to a place that has given us so much. We can never repay what Grenada has given us. St. George’s University has opened the door for us to fulfill our dreams and participating in AMSA SGU chapter activities is just one of the ways that we try to show our gratitude.”

AMSA National notified the students of their candidacy earlier this year and invited them to Washington, DC to receive the award at this year’s conference, scheduled for April 16-18. However, in light of travel restrictions and an ever-evolving situation related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, AMSA National made the necessary adjustments to the 2020 convention and awarded the students virtually. The conference included three days of more than 30 sessions, speakers, competitions, and fairs to join medical students from across the globe through full accessibility from the safety of their homes.

“Winning the Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award at the 2020 AMSA National Convention in the US is an outstanding accomplishment by our AMSA SGU chapter,” praised Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU. “It is a culmination of sustained efforts by our students for over the past two decades. It is also an acknowledgement of our students—future physicians, who have gone above the traditional requirements of the medical school curriculum. It recognizes their passion to help uplift the community even when they don’t necessarily have the time and inspires future medical students to go beyond the books and give more of themselves.”

The SGU chapter is the largest international AMSA chapter and is actively involved in the Grenadian community, coordinating health fairs, blood drives and promoting medical education on the island.

“Being a physician is about service, and AMSA SGU really takes that to heart,” said Ms. Phillips-Wilson. “Our team is always so excited about participating in the community health fair experiences because it parallels our future patient-physician relationships and allows us to build on those skills while serving the Grenadian community.”

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is the oldest and largest independent association of physicians-in-training in the United States. Today, AMSA is a student-governed, national organization committed to representing the concerns of physicians-in-training. AMSA members are medical students, premedical students, interns, residents, and practicing physicians. Founded in 1950, AMSA continues its commitment to improving medical training and has more than 62,000 national and international members.

–Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University Students Form a Line of Pride in Support of Grenada

TRUE BLUE, Grenada, March 14, 2020 — St. George’s University (SGU) has been continuing to follow the global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and has been working collaboratively with the leaders of the Government of Grenada to address the Coronavirus pandemic.

The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff and the larger Grenadian community continue to be of paramount importance to SGU. At this time, we continue to encourage students to leave the island to lessen the burden on Grenada, and a significant portion has chosen to do so. To facilitate these efforts, SGU has chartered aircrafts that have already made a number of flights to major U.S. hubs.

“The measures we are taking are in line with best practice and guidelines being encouraged by global health organizations and followed by universities throughout the world,” said Richard Liebowitz, MD, Vice Chancellor of St. George’s University. “Our goal is to ensure our students and faculty help reduce density on campus and on the island of Grenada to reduce any potential future spread of the virus and free up resources on the island for those who may need them most. Our actions were not related to any specific medical situation on the island, but to achieve the goal of lessening the spread of disease in the future.”

SGU is working collaboratively with key stakeholders in the Grenadian community, including the Ministries of Health and Education, as well as the Grenada Airport Authority to help manage the situation and facilitate a smooth process. SGU will not direct students to return to Grenada until it is safe to do so for all and will be transitioning to online learning activities for all students, including the School of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Arts and Sciences, over the next week.

While SGU continues to facilitate students, who want to leave the island, some have chosen to remain in Grenada, both on and off campus. The campus will remain operational, and SGU intends to maintain full staff pay and benefits during this pandemic. SGU is continuing to assess the situation and is actively communicating with those on campus.

SGU is also continuing to work closely with the Government of Grenada to assist with preparations for enhancing the public health infrastructure on the island.

“As in past crises, SGU stands with the people and Government of Grenada to address any challenges and provide appropriate support as we face this challenge together,” Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of SGU, stated. “Our students lined up at the airport represent a line of pride for their medical education in Grenada and their commitment as future physicians to unburden the Grenadian health care system during this unprecedented pandemic.”

Chancellor Modica added: “We are actively in the process of assisting in procuring and providing medical equipment to the Grenada General Hospital and laboratory, as well as professional assistance to support both local needs and those of students and best prepare the island’s health care system for the potential threat.”

To date, no member of the university community has contracted COVID-19. SGU remains vigilant and will continue to coordinate with Grenada’s Ministry of Health, and our international partners.

SGU Sim Lab Director Receives Prestigious Spice Isle Award

Samantha Dickson, SGU SIM Lab coordinator

For St. George’s University faculty member Samantha Dickson, touching and saving lives has been a lifelong mission. From the age of 17, she has been a teacher, a youth volunteer, an advisor, and a leader in Grenada, and is the first female to have been elected president of the Grenada Red Cross Society (GRCS).

For her contribution of more than 30 years to Grenada’s public service, Ms. Dickson was recently awarded the 2020 Spice Isle Award by the Government of Grenada. She, along with the other awardees, was acknowledged at the 46th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations at Grenada’s National Stadium prior to receiving her award at an official ceremony held at the Governor General’s Residence on February 20.

“I am deeply humbled to have been awarded this honor,” said Ms. Dickson, the coordinator of SGU’s simulation center as well as the American Heart Association (AHA) International Training Center. “Most of all, I am thankful to my family for supporting me because I had to sacrifice spending time with them in order to help others. I am also grateful to the Red Cross because this is where it all started for me. It’s amazing to think that initially I wasn’t sure this was something I would want to do, but after attending that first two-day workshop on how to educate young teachers to become leaders in 1988, that was it; I was converted into a lifelong member of this organization.”

In 1988, she joined the public service of Grenada as a teacher, becoming a youth volunteer and leader of the GRCS a year later. After serving in numerous advisory roles throughout the years, including as a member of the Health Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), today she serves as the organization’s president.

“I’ve always had a calling to make a difference and to save lives,” said Ms. Dickson. “I went into teaching because it gave me an opportunity to have a huge impact on shaping and molding the lives of our nation’s children. Even as a 17-year-old teacher to 16-year-old students, I still felt like I was able to change their lives.”

Established in 2007, the National Honours and Awards Act No. 32 allows for the granting of awards to citizens of Grenada and other persons for distinguished, outstanding, or meritorious services or achievements, or for gallantry and related matters. The Spice Isle Award in particular is awarded to any person who has rendered truly emulative service in any field of human endeavor or for other humane action.

Ms. Dickson has dedicated her life to humanitarian services and has travelled to more than 45 countries experiencing, teaching, and learning. She has served as a teacher, guidance counselor, health director of the Red Cross, and deputy/acting national disaster coordinator of the National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA).

“After 30 years of service to my country, I have made lifelong friends,” stated Ms. Dickson. “I have touched many lives and have loved the opportunity to be of service and give back to others. In the future, I plan to continue being a role model and mentor, especially to young women, and to set the path to encourage others so that when I can no longer be of service someone else can pick up the mantle and continue on doing an even better job than I did.”

Additionally, Ms. Dickson has functioned as the deputy of operations for the response and recovery to Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005. During these operations, she managed the British Housing Recovery Project—rebuilding homes and recovering livelihoods. She has managed the Caribbean Tripartite Agreement—a regional First Aid project between Grenada, Trinidad and Belize—as well as the UNICEF/Grenada Red Cross component of the “Return to Happiness” a psychosocial program, reaching 10,000 children ages 6 to 12 within the span of six months.

In 2005, she had the honor of meeting Queen Sofia of Spain to receive an award on behalf of the outstanding work of the Grenada Red Cross volunteers.

Ms. Dickson is currently completing a master’s degree in emergency services administration at California State University, Long Beach. She continues to participate in numerous humanitarian initiatives including as a member of the coordination group for the Global Network for Women Leaders in the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement (GLOW Red) and as one of only five doping control officers in Grenada for the Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organization (Caribbean RADO).

–Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Welcomes Back Familiar Faces at Beyond Spice Family Weekend

SGU Family Weekend - January 2020

When Alex Gantz found out her husband, Benjamin, was accepted to St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, she was thrilled. Even though she was pregnant with their youngest child at the time and would be leaving their New Hampshire home for the move to Grenada, she was still excited about joining her husband on his new journey to becoming a veterinarian.

“Like most of us in the veterinary medical profession, I wanted to become a vet since I was a child,” shared Mr. Gantz, a Term 3 SVM student. “Then life happened. I got married and had two kids. But as I got older and wiser, I decided to go for it. Now I’m in my second year in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. I’m thankful to SGU for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my childhood dream.”

This year the couple was joined once again by his parents, who made SGU’s Beyond Spice Family Weekend their family getaway for the second year in a row.

“At first, it took a little getting used to a new country and culture,” said Ms. Gantz. “But now we love it here and so do Ben’s parents. They’ve had so much fun on the sea excursion and at the sunset barbecue that they just keep coming back. For them, family vacation means SGU’s Family Weekend.”

The Gantz family weren’t the only repeat visitors this year. The University also welcomed much of its alumni, coming back and bringing with them many additions to the incoming class. Francis Rienzo, MD ’88, and his brother, Peter Rienzo, MD ’85, returned to coat their children, Emily and Jake Rienzo, at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony, as did Abayomi Odubela, MD ’83, who also shared in that honor by coating his daughter, Ibironke. Altogether, this spring’s incoming SOM and SVM class welcomed backed five SGU graduates, including members of the Class of 1983, 1985, and 1988 to join in the special privilege of coating their children.

Now celebrating its 12th year since the inception of Family Weekend, SGU continually looks forward to opening its doors to host students’ families who’ve come to visit the country and campus that their students now call home. The bi-annual festivities include guided campus tours; the historical sightseeing tour of Fort Frederick, the famous Grand Etang Lake, and the 30-foot Annandale Waterfalls; and lunch at Belmont Estate, a fully functional and historic plantation, among other activities.

“Family Weekend serves as more than an occasion to bring families together; it is a chance to celebrate the University’s growth and success by now welcoming the children of our graduates to continue their legacy,” stated Colin Dowe, associate dean of admissions. “Additionally, our goal is to also provide an atmosphere where our visitors can explore all that the University and Grenada have to offer and be converted into lifelong visitors to our beautiful tri-island state.”

Family Weekend Fall 2020 is set for August 26- 30. Learn more about the festivities by visiting the Family Weekend webpage or by emailing familyweekend@sgu.edu.

–Ray-Donna Peters

Newest Class of Nursing Students Encouraged to Communicate and Collaborate

SGU's newest class of nursing students

It had been three years since St. George’s University alumnus and keynote speaker, Tahira Adams, BSN ’19, attended her own spring nursing induction ceremony, signifying her entrance into the nursing profession. Three years since she had sat in those very same seats at Bourne Lecture Hall and felt the excitement of being one step closer to fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse. Yet, she remembers the words of her mentor Dr. Jennifer Solomon, chair and director of the Nursing Department, as if it were yesterday: “Stay on the train. Do not allow it to leave without you.”

Nurse Adams took those words to heart. As the semesters passed by, the workload got heavier and more challenging, some passengers got off the train. But for those who stayed on, they became each other’s keeper. They learned how to take care of each other and, by extension, how to take care of their patients.

“There are days when the train ride will feel overwhelming and endless, and you’ll feel like getting off,” shared Nurse Adams. “There will be days when the train itself malfunctions, but through good communication and collaboration, you will overcome these adversities.”

Quoting author Corrie ten Boom, “when the train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit there and trust the engineer,” Nurse Adams urged the incoming class to trust their engineers—the remarkable faculty at SGU—their greatest resource. She encouraged the future nurses to use them, for they will help them reach their full potential, just as they had done for her and her cohort.

“Our journey had not only prepared us academically for the world of work,” said Nurse Adams. “It molded us into strong, mature, efficient, independent, confident, young women. Therefore, please do enjoy your ride. Have a little fun but let self-discipline be your guide, perseverance your compass, and a strong support network to keep you motivated.”

A highlight of the evening’s ceremony was the presentation of the Outstanding Service Award to Ann Hopkin, OBE by St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds. The award recognizes people who contribute to and shape nursing education and inspire others to promote health wherever they go. Mrs. Hopkin, a tireless advocate of health, had built a 62-year career in health professions, a career so highly regarded that she was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in June 2014.

“She is a woman of substance, one who strives to empower patients and their healthcare workers, taking great pride in the next generation of nurses who will care for the nation,” praised Dr. Olds. “It is an honor to present Mrs. Ann Hopkin with this award.”

Graciously accepting her award at the podium, Mrs. Hopkin implored the new nursing inductees to be compassionate, have integrity, follow instructions, and to not just be an “okay” nurse but to be an excellent nurse.

Upon being presented with lamps, a symbol of the care and devotion administered by nurses, and reciting the International Council of Nurses Pledge along with the practicing nurses in the audience, Dr. Solomon left the future nurses with a few last words of wisdom.

“We have witnessed the transfer of nursing education to universities,” said Dr. Solomon. “We have seen nurses extend and expand in their role to meet the challenges in delivery of healthcare in a continuously changing world.

“In 1881 Florence Nightingale wrote, ‘let us value our training, not that it makes us cleverer or superior to others but insomuch as it enables us to be more useful and helpful to our fellow creatures—the sick, those who need us most. Let it be our ambition, good nurses, and let us never feel ashamed of the name nurse.’”

St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences Nursing Program features many aspects of interdisciplinary learning and teaching. Uniquely structured, it allows the students to be taught by professors from both the Schools of Medicine and Arts and Sciences, as well as visiting professors from outside of Grenada. Their training experience will include working at the General Hospital, lab work at SGU’s Simulation Center, and community work. At the end of their training and with the completion of their regional and international licensing exams, the students will become fully fledged Registered Nurses as approved by the Caribbean Nursing Council.

–Ray-Donna Peters

Future Veterinarians Encouraged to Move Mountains at Spring 2020 White Coat Ceremony

As parents, Jan and Sean Kane always knew that their daughter Sara was destined to accomplish great things. Yet, when the day arrived for her to profess her commitment to the study and practice of veterinary medicine, they were surprised as well as proud. Visiting Grenada for the first time, the couple left their home in Washington State to attend the Spring 2020 SVM White Coat Ceremony, sitting front and center to share in their daughter’s special moment.

“I can’t even express in words how proud I am of Sara right now,” shared Jan. “It has been an amazing three years leading up to this moment and it couldn’t get any better.”

“The campus is gorgeous,” added Sean. “And I know you’re not supposed to be jealous of your kid, but this is definitely an awesome place to spend the next few years.”

According to the Kanes, much of the credit for their daughter’s decision to enter into the veterinary medical profession must go to her grandmother, Dr. Eileen Rowan, a practicing veterinarian for more than 30 years. In addition to giving some gentle prodding, Dr. Rowan took her granddaughter to an animal hospital one day for a behind-the-scenes look into a vet’s world, and since then she’s never looked back.

“I’m so overjoyed that my granddaughter is going to be following in my footsteps,” said Dr. Rowan. “Going up on that stage and coating her, I had to concentrate very hard not to cry. Growing up, Sara’s always loved animals, but she had never considered pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. I’m glad I gave her that push she needed because she’s very talented. She has a real gift that she didn’t even know she had.”

During the ceremony, Dr. Rowan joined her husband on stage, SGU’s own dean of admission, Robert Ryan, to share in the privilege of coating their granddaughter along with five SGU graduates who returned for this spring’s SOM and SVM White Coat Ceremonies.

“I must say that this was one of the best experiences of my life since being at St. George’s,” said Mr. Ryan. “I’ve been here for 25 years and I absolutely love this island. I also love the faculty, staff, and most importantly, my interactions with the students. And now to see my granddaughter become a student here is just phenomenal. After completing three years in the preveterinary medical program to now witness her entry into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, as well as have the honor of coating her along with my wife is just amazing. It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”

“Originally I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” admitted Sara. “But I’ve always been that kid who brought home stray animals and I was constantly interested in my pets’ health. I thank my grandmother for getting me into gear. She told me to give it a try, and the second I did, I fell in love. Later, when I saw my first surgery, that’s exactly when I knew I needed to be a veterinarian. It was my calling.”

Ms. Kane began her journey toward joining the ranks of nearly 1,700 graduates of the School of Veterinary Medicine who have gone on to practice in 49 states in the United States and 16 other countries around the world. The SVM also maintains partnerships with 31 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.


According to alumnus and master of ceremonies, Thomas Hanson, MD ‘11, getting into veterinary medical school was easy, the hard part was getting out.

“Now that you’ve gotten into vet school, what do you do with this mountain that’s before you?” asked Dr. Hanson. “My favorite Chinese proverb says, ‘those who move mountains start by carrying away small stones.’”

The first stone Dr. Hanson described was dedication, reminding the veterinarians-in-training that they already carried that one; otherwise they wouldn’t have enrolled. Next came organization, which had two stones—the first meant to get organized for class and study, and the second meant to get involved in joining various organizations and clubs. Another small stone to carry was their fellow classmates. He suggested getting to know them because they would always be there for them. Teachers was the next stone he mentioned, commending the SGU faculty which was made up of world-class professors from across the globe. Another small stone to be carried was open-mindedness. Dr. Hanson reminded them that vet school, like any other university, was challenging. The final small stone was recreation. He encouraged them to take full advantage of living on an island and to get out there and enjoy it.

“Four years are going to pass in the blink of an eye,” stated Dr. Hanson. “This group will then reconvene in New York and you’ll look at that first handful of small stones that you’ve carried; determination, organization, classmates, teachers, open-mindedness, and recreation and realize that the letters of those first stones spell out what you’ve grown to become—a DOCTOR.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Sara Baillie, emeritus professor at the University of Bristol in the UK, gave a lively presentation detailing her passion for developing new approaches in clinical skills teaching. Dr. Baillie also has a PhD in computer science, developing and validating virtual reality simulators for training veterinary students and is responsible for opening the clinical skills center at Bristol.

“I’ve had a wonderful career with so many opportunities,” said Dr. Baillie. “I absolutely loved being a clinician and I really enjoyed working with people and animals. Then I was able to go on and become an educational researcher and through that I can actually affect change and improve the ways we teach you. At the heart of me, I’ve always loved being a teacher and working with students and I know the faculty that will be teaching you here are very much of that same mindset.”

She finished her speech with a quote from Aleen Cust, the first female veterinarian who graduated in 1897: “My wish for you is that you may all feel as I do after a lifetime—that the profession you’ve chosen is the best profession in the world.”

Now in its 20th year, the School of Veterinary Medicine continues to add to its list of accolades with its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program recently receiving full accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). SGU’s DVM graduates who have completed the Global Veterinary Health Track will now be eligible to register as members of the RCVS and practice in the UK without further examination.

As a result of the accreditation, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine is now one of the few 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

SGU Pathology Professor Receives Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Shivayogi Bhusnurmath received the "Excellence in International Pathology Education Award" from Group for Research in Pathology Education (GRIPE).

Dr. Shivayogi Bhusnurmath received the “Excellence in International Pathology Education Award” from Group for Research in Pathology Education (GRIPE).

St. George’s University pathology professor Shivayogi Bhusnurmath was honored last month with a lifetime achievement award by the Group for Research in Pathology Education (GRIPE), the organization that sets the standards in pathology education, providing educational development and resources for pathology educators worldwide.

Dr. Bhusnurmath was presented the Excellence in International Pathology Education Award, which is given to GRIPE members who have significantly contributed to pathology education globally by “enhancing the teaching of pathology at medical institutions in multiple locations outside of North America,” according to the organization’s website. The award was given to Dr. Bhusnurmath during the organization’s annual meeting in San Antonio, TX, where he was invited to deliver the conference’s keynote address to attendees that included pathology professors and course directors from North America.

“In many ways, Dr. Bhusnurmath set the high standards we have today in the first two years of medical school. His mixture of both classic and innovative teaching methods in the pathology course has been a major contributor to student’s outstanding performance on USMLE Step 1,” said Dr. Stephen Weitzman, Dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. Bhusnurmath is truly a dedicated educationalist. This award is well-deserved.”

Dr. Bhusnurmath’s keynote highlighted examples of educational principles that he and his wife, Bharti, who is also a professor in pathology at SGU, implemented during their more than four-decade tenure teaching pathology to medical students and postgraduate residents across the world, including at SGU. As two of SGU’s longest-tenured faculty members and co-chairs of the pathology department, the pair has significantly contributed to the School of Medicine’s curriculum and teaching methods, coming to SGU in 1996. Dr. Shivayogi Bhusnurmath is also SGU’s dean of academic affairs and director of SOM’s clinical tutor teaching and research fellowship program.

Among the accomplishments that Dr. Bhusnurmath and his wife have achieved during their stints with SGU include:

  • Launched a formal international clinical tutor teaching fellowship program to recruit and train recent physicians from across the globe to serve as full-time faculty, helping to mentor small group learning activities in pathology. The program has grown from four tutors in 1997 to more than 260 tutors currently from India, Nigeria, Sudan, Caribbean, Turkey, The Philippines, Australia, UK, Guyana, and more. The method has become the foundation of all teaching activities in SOM’s basic sciences.
  • Started a postgraduate certificate program in medical education for clinical tutors.
  • Introduced the personal response system—Clickers—in 2007 as a means of encouraging active participation by students in lectures by projecting questions to the whole class and getting a feedback instantly to correct any misconceptions during the lecture.
  • Helped create SGU’s fourth-year elective in pathology—one of the few departments in North America that offer this—which is beneficial to those interested in a career in pathology.
  • Bhusnurmath run a two-week selective for SGU students—the India Medical Experience at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences in Karad, India, every July and December, which helps train and inform students of the healthcare system in India.
  • Bharti Bhusnurmath started a medical pathology diagnostic lab on the campus in 1997, providing the University community and Grenada doctors with state-of-the-art quality-controlled diagnostic services. SGU is the only Caribbean school that provides such a facility.
  • Bhusnurmath have both been invited as consultants to review the medical school curricula at the University of Arizona as well as Creighton University in Nebraska.

Bharti Bhusnurmath and Shivayogi Bhusnurmath.

“Over 60 percent of the USMLE Step 1 is pathology. The questions are all clinical case analysis, interpretation, and problem solving,” Dr. Bhusnurmath said. “With the changes we introduced to teach pathology as a basis for clinical medicine, our students have been tremendously successful on their USMLEs.”

Added Dr. Bhusnurmath: “The knowledge they take from these courses are invaluable irrespective of which specialty they take up later on in their career. Many alumni confess that the pathology small-group learning was the one activity that stays as the most helpful activity in their basic sciences even years after they have moved on.”

Dr. Bhusnurmath has held faculty positions in Oman, Canada, Nigeria, and India. He has also worked as a visiting professor in the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, Sudan, and several medical colleges in India. He has published more than 135 works on medical education and pathology, and presented at more than 250 workshops, seminars, and guest lectures on these topics.

-Laurie Chartorynsky

Continuing the Legacy: Class of 2024 Welcomed to Medical Profession at School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony

Cousins Jake and Emily Rienzo join their fathers and proud SGU graduates to accept their white coats at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat CeremonyFor the Rienzo family, practicing medicine seemed to run in their blood. Thus, it came as no surprise when cousins Jake and Emily Rienzo also decided to join the family business, taking their first steps into the medical profession at the Spring 2020 School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony.

Sharing the stage with them were their fathers and proud SGU graduates, Francis Rienzo, MD ’88, and his brother, Peter Rienzo, MD ’85, who had the honor of coating them. Emily, a CityDoctors Scholarship recipient, will also be the first female physician continuing the legacy in their family. Both she and Jake grew up being regaled with stories of SGU by their dads, who even carry their old SGU ID cards with them still to this day.

“I’m just so proud of my daughter; words can’t even express it,” said Dr. F. Rienzo, now an internist practicing in New Jersey. “Jake and Emily are going to be fourth-generation physicians following in both their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, and I couldn’t be more excited to be back in Grenada for their White Coat Ceremony.”

“I’m elated that they chose to follow in our footsteps and attend SGU,” added Dr. P Rienzo, an anesthesiologist also practicing in New Jersey. “It’s great to be back and see how far the University has come and how it continues to provide opportunities for success for so many people from different countries all over the world.”

The Rienzos weren’t the only alumni coming back to SGU to coat their loved ones. Altogether, this spring’s incoming SOM and SVM class welcomed backed five SGU graduates, including members of the Class of 1983, 1985, and 1988 to join in the special privilege of coating their children.

Among them was alumnus Abayomi Odubela, MD ’83, who also shared in that honor by coating his daughter, Ibironke. Since graduating over three decades ago, Dr. Odubela has been back to Grenada three times to visit the place where he began his medical career.

“Today I am so happy to see the tremendous growth and expansion of SGU,” praised Dr. Odubela. “I am extremely proud that she has chosen to take the same path as I did. SGU’s success rate and the high caliber of its faculty makes me feel confident that she’s in good hands.”

The 2024 Grenada class joined its fellow students from St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four- and Five-Year Program, who began their journey two weeks earlier at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. This spring, SGU also welcomed 277 Caribbean students, 94 of whom are aspiring physicians in the School of Medicine. The students represent 10 countries, including Grenada, Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, Cayman Islands, and Guyana.

In his keynote address, current president and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, Dr. Richard Levin shared the reason behind the creation of the White Coat Ceremony, explaining that it was a “modern invention to correct a modern problem.” The Ceremony was devised after recognizing a shift during the late ’70s and early ’80s of students being taught to move further away from the patients, both literally and figuratively. According to Dr. Levin, rounds moved from the bedside to the hallway and now to the screen. Doctors were spending more time with data than with their patients and it had become harder to remember that illness affected a family and a community as well as the patient in the bed.

“The White Coat Ceremony is designed to remind you, your faculty, and everyone who loves you that fundamentally medicine is a human interaction,” stated Dr. Levin. “Today’s ceremony is intended to emphasize the importance of that connection right from the beginning of your training.”

A highlight of Dr. Levin’s address was his endorsement of this year’s master of ceremonies and alumnus Cholene Espinoza, MD ’15. He called on Dr. Espinoza to share the podium with him as he completed his speech.

“An extraordinary example of humanistic practice is our master of ceremonies today, Dr. Cholene Espinoza,” extoled Dr. Levin.  “She has led a life that has put her in harm’s way: as a pilot in the US Air Force she has been shot at, she was an embedded radio journalist in the Iraq war, and she is now an OB/GYN who believes that humanistic practice is as important as scientific excellence. If any of us are an example for you as you start out on this pathway, I think it is Cholene Espinoza.”

After a resounding round of applause, Dr. Espinoza shared a few words of wisdom of her own with the Class of 2024.

“I want you to really focus today on what it means to be here—to enter this profession which I call a tribe, to wear this white coat, and the immense privilege it is to be able to be a part of this institution and enter into your patients’ lives,” she said. “It is also very important to acknowledge what you have achieved to this point. I know you’re probably nervous about whether or not you’ll make it to the end, but this is an enormous achievement and you need to do a victory lap with your family, who got you here.”

Additionally, the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies kicked off the first full day of activities of the University’s Beyond Spice Family Weekend. A customary element to each term in Grenada, students and family members soaked up nature and culture prior to attending the special ceremony that serves as a rite of passage for aspiring physicians. 

– Ray-Donna Peters