Victory! After Two-Year Hiatus, SOM College Olympics Returns

After a two-year hiatus, St. George’s University School of Medicine Olympics returned last weekend. Students and faculty of each of the nine Colleges competed in a battle of physical endurance to win the title of “Olympic Champions.”

The event took place on the True Blue campus playing field, where students and faculty competed in games that included friendly competition in volleyball, dodgeball, an obstacle course, 100-meter race, 400-meter relay, three-legged and wheelbarrow races, and the highly anticipated tug-of-war. The day also featured a half-time show performance by SGU’s cheerleading squad and ended in a prize giving ceremony announcing this year’s Olympic Champions.

“The SOM College Olympics’ primary purpose is to bring together students, staff, and faculty to participate in a day of healthy competition,” said Dr. Vivek Nuguri, Curie College director and clinical instructor within the Department of Pathology. “Additionally, it fulfills another major objective of helping the students relax amid their challenging schedules. It also helps inculcate a feeling of fraternity and togetherness among the students and faculty and helps improve campus wellness.”

 

 

The triumphant team was decided by winning the evening’s most popular event—the tug-of-war. Rivals Galen and Blackwell Colleges met in the final rounds, but it was the Galen team that emerged victorious this year. With the additional 50 points earned from winning the tug-of-war, Galen College was able to secure the lead at 286 points, followed by Fleming College with 217 points, and Blackwell College placing third with 211 points.

“This win means so much to me personally,” shared Chukwuebuka Udokporo, SOM Term 5 student and Galen College member.

“This is my last semester here at SGU, so I’m really happy I got to participate in the games before I leave the island,” Mr. Udokporo said. “The memory of this experience is something I get to take back with me to the United States when I do my clinical rotations. When I arrived on the field today, I didn’t know anybody outside of my college but over the course of the day I got to meet new people and form friendships that will hopefully last a lifetime.”

The SOM College system was created in 2018 and named after influential physicians and scientists in history—consisting of Blackwell, Galen, Taylor, McIndoe, Peabody, Curie, Fleming, Metrodora, and Hippocrates Colleges. The mission of the system is to create an intimate learning environment in which students are consistently supported (both socially and academically) as they develop the knowledge, skills, compassion, and integrity required to be a practicing physician while adjusting to life in Grenada.

During the competition’s inaugural event in 2019, it was the Curie College team that was victorious, despite entering the Olympic games as underdogs. The event was then canceled for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic. Staff and faculty were eager to restart the games this year.

“Each College represents an academic family that supports the wellness of students and fosters the academic, personal, and professional development of its membership,” said Dr. Lucy Clunes, SGU’s dean of students, and a proud member of Galen College. “The SOM College Olympics and other intercollegiate social events and competitions were created to nurture that feeling of school spirit by providing an opportunity for the campus community to both compete—and get out there and have some fun.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

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SGU President Offers Advice to Medical School Applicants in U.S. News & World Report

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report demystifies the challenge of getting into medical school, featuring insights from St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds.

The article, “Why Is It So Hard to Get Into Medical School?” breaks down why applying to medical school has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Overall, there has been an increase in medical school applicants without an equal increase in programs themselves. The situation is often daunting for prospective students.

According to Dr. Olds, few medical schools opened between the late 1970s and early 2000s, with very little expansion of med schools during that period thanks to an inaccurate but widely publicized labor market forecast projecting a doctor surplus. Meanwhile, the need for doctors in the U.S. was rapidly rising due to a growing and aging population.

“The aging is still going on despite losing a lot of older Americans to COVID,” he said, “Aging, by the way, is the biggest driver of our need for more physicians.”

The COVID pandemic has also exacerbated longstanding shortages of primary care physicians, Dr. Olds explained.

Despite current trends, the takeaway message for prospective students: Apply.

“Premeds who cast a wide net and apply to schools at a range of selectivity levels are the most likely to get accepted,” Dr. Olds said.

 

Aspiring physicians commit to the medical profession at Spring White Coat Ceremony

In celebration of the milestone moment that marks the entry into the noble profession of medicine, last week St. George’s University held virtual White Coat Ceremonies for students who recently entered medical school.

“This moment is big deal,” said Dr. Gabrielle Walcott-Bedeau, MBA ’17, an assistant professor in the Department of Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavioral Science and the day’s master of ceremonies. “The white coat comes with great responsibility and to whom much is given, much is expected.”

In her prepared remarks during the ceremonies, Dr. Walcott-Bedeau congratulated the physicians-in-training on joining the SGU family and reminisced on the sense of pride she felt when donning her own white coat, which she touts as the most recognizable symbol of her profession.

White Coat Ceremonies are a storied tradition within medical school. The ceremony signifies students’ official beginning on their journeys to becoming physicians. During the event, a white coat is placed on each student’s shoulders—sometimes by family members or mentors who have become doctors before them. Students then recite the Oath of Professionalism, in which they pledge to uphold the highest of ethical standards while treating patients.

SGU held two virtual White Coat Ceremonies—on March 12 and 13 for January 2022-entering students and will hold an additional two ceremonies on March 26 and 27 for August 2021-entering students.

 

“Your faculty will teach you all about health and disease and how to diagnose it and treat it, but it’s your patients that will teach you how to be a better doctor—listen to them.”

 

This year’s White Coat Ceremony keynote speaker was Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU and a tropical disease specialist. He shared some words of wisdom with the newest class of future doctors as they go through their careers.

“I’m sure all of your family and friends are very proud of you today, and it’s with great excitement that you put on that white coat,” said Dr. Olds. “However, when you put it on, remember that it signifies what’s most important among physicians. Your faculty will teach you all about health and disease and how to diagnose it and treat it, but it’s your patients that will teach you how to be a better doctor—listen to them.”

Starting Medical School During a Global Pandemic 

During the ceremonies, SGU Provost Dr. Glen Jacobs praised the medical students for continuing to adapt to the global changes around them. He acknowledged that although challenging at times, these experiences would contribute to their resilience and help them navigate life as they grew personally and professionally throughout their time at SGU and thereafter.

“We remain dedicated to supporting you as you start your journey in the School of Medicine,” Dr. Jacobs said in his welcome remarks,. “I’m looking forward to the day when all of you will be back on campus, but for now focus on how this pledge of commitment to your chosen lifelong profession brings you together as future physicians.”

Dr. Marios Loukas, the dean of the School of Medicine, also welcomed the Class of 2026, reminding them that as they now wear their white coat, they pledge an oath of professionalism and service.

“In entering the field of medicine you will join a community where (being part of a) team is of utmost importance to success, as compared to individual effort,” stated Dr. Loukas. “To this end, you must strive for excellence in your pursuit of knowledge.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

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New SGU Orthopaedic Surgery Club Preps Students for Competitive Specialty

The Orthopaedic Surgery Club is one of St. George’s University’s newest student organizations and was formed to help introduce School of Medicine students to the competitive field of orthopedics early on in medical school. SGU News spoke with Tiamo Blankenship, the club’s president, about the motivation for forming the club and how students can get involved.

St. George’s University: Congratulations on the formation of the Orthopaedic Surgery Club. What was the inspiration for creating this club?

Tiamo Blankenship: This club was formed to provide a place for students and alumni to share their experience about programs that are receptive to internal medicine graduates, and to help them navigate the many pathways into orthopaedics.

Every year SGU students match into this competitive specialty. Part of matching into orthopedics means raising awareness about the specialty and offering advice to students to help them match into this specialty. All of our guest speakers this term are SGU alumni. We are excited to hear about their experiences when applying to orthopedic residency programs and becoming orthopedic residents themselves.

SGU News: Who can join the club?

Ms. Blankenship: Membership is not just limited to just students in their basic sciences—any student who is currently enrolled in the SGU School of Medicine program is welcome to join. Because the advice and experience of clinical year students is invaluable, we have representative students for the club who are currently in their clinical years. Despite this being our first term being the official SGU Orthopaedic Surgery Club, we have already established great connections.

Get in touch!

Visit the SGU Orthopaedic Surgery Club on the University Portal

SGU News: You just had your inaugural meeting. What was on the agenda? 

Ms. Blankenship: We could not believe the support we received during our first meeting. We had almost 70 people show up! At our first general body meeting, we shared our plans for the year including our guest speaker series, a splinting workshop, and our philanthropy events. We also brought up our idea for a mentor/mentee program and heard some great feedback. It was great to see the collaboration between all of the members.

SGU News: How often will you meet? 

Ms. Blankenship: We plan to have general body meetings with all members of the club once a month in order to give updates on club progress and activities to all members. We will also have meetings with the term reps and E-board members every two weeks. We have a wonderful team.

SGU News: How often do you elect board members and a club president?

 

“We want to support students who are interested in orthopedics and provide as many resources as possible.”

 

Ms. Blankenship: We have executive board positions for our club with about one to three term reps for each term, including representative positions for clinical year students. Elections will be conducted before the end of April for the Fall 2022 OSC E-board. Each person has a vital role in contributing to the goals of the club.

The president, for example, oversees all activities of the group and is also responsible for reaching out to orthopedic surgeon alumni, local Grenadian orthopedic surgeons, and meeting regularly with our faculty advisor and executive committee to discuss group progress. Our faculty advisor, Dr. Bashir Heidari, has been a great support. We also have three to four guest speakers planned for this term who are all SGU alumni. Our SGU alumni in the field of orthopedics will also be an outlet for any questions our members have about becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

SGU News: How do you interact with other clubs on campus? 

Ms. Blankenship: For this term, we already have a Splinting and Fractures Clinic planned for early April with the SGU Sports Medicine Club. This clinic will be for both in-person and online students so that every member has an opportunity. We are also planning on working with the SGU Radiology club on campus. We’re happy that we have great connections with a variety of clubs on campus and can interact with other specialties.

SGU News: Why is the formation of this club especially timely for SGU students?

Ms. Blankenship: We want to support students who are interested in orthopedics and provide as many resources as possible. It is a very competitive field. But with a lot of hard work and dedication, we have seen students from SGU create their own paths into successfully matching into orthopedics. We have great connections with clinical year students and fellow alumni who are graciously willing to dedicate time to help other students with similar aspirations.

 

 — Paul Burch

 

 

 

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SGU student organizations contribute valuable funds and expertise to host country

Highlighting the Student National Medical Association: A conversation with leadership of the SGU chapter

Black History Month: SOM Students and Grads Hope to Inspire Next Generation of Doctors

With the need to improve overall representation of minority doctors in medicine, students and graduates of St. George’s University School of Medicine who identify as Black or African American plan to make a difference in the field by advocating for underserved communities and the patients they serve, and by inspiring tomorrow’s minority physicians through mentorship and education.

According to the Association of American Colleges, just 5 percent of active physicians identified as Black or African American in 2018. Even more astonishing, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found only 4.6 percent of surgeons identify themselves as Black or African American.

This year’s theme for Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness.” SGU News spoke with School of Medicine students and graduates about their motivations to go to medical school and their career path of choice, the challenges they perceive for minority physicians, and how they can inspire the next generation of Black and African American doctors. Our panel consisted of:

  • Jasmine Shackelford, MD ’20, family medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine
  • Paul Osunwa, MD ’21, first-year anesthesia resident physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Melissa Cheong, SOM Term 5, president of SGU’s Student National Medical Association
  • Amanda Herbert, SOM fourth-year student, Class of 2022
  • Okechukwu Nwosu, SOM fourth-year student, Class of 2022
  • Hannah Terefe, third-year SOM student, who also writes for the blog Women in White Coats.

Jasmine Shackelford, MD ’20, a family medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine.

St. George’s University: What inspired you to enter the field of medicine?

Dr. Jasmine Shackelford: My inspiration for pursuing medicine started as a young girl where I witnessed a lot of apprehension from family members as it pertained to trusting and maintaining healthy relationships with healthcare providers. I wanted to make a difference in helping to eliminate the health disparities that exist in my community, as well as to encourage people to take charge of their health.

Dr. Paul Osunwa: I was originally a business major in undergrad and switched to nursing when the stock market crash occurred in 2008. I also competed in Division 1 athletics as a shot putter on the track and field team at Texas Christian University. My mother was a nurse and two of my cousins were nurses. I was surrounded by individuals who had been in healthcare. I took it to the next level by attaining my MD.

Melissa Cheong: At the age of five, my mother got extremely sick and was in and out of the hospital as I was growing up. Being around medicine at a young age was intriguing and I always found myself asking questions and wanting to get involved. This passion only grew stronger as I got older. Medicine allows for me to interact with people on a daily, while also using my science background to problem solve. I love interacting with people and making individuals feel comfortable in difficult times and situations.

Okechukwu Nwosu: So many people are going through so much, and I want to listen to their problems and help them make good decisions. I also want to be a role model for my community. If I have little kids looking up to me, and if they watch what I do and consider my advice, whether it’s telling them to look after their body, to eat right, not to smoke, then I’ve set them on a good course.

Paul Osunwa, MD ’21, a first-year anesthesia resident physician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

SGU: What are the biggest challenges for black men and women in medicine?

Dr. Shackelford: Representation. Although there has been an increase in the number of women practicing medicine, specifically underrepresented minority women, there are still more advancements to be made. Representation matters and it is critical to combat the long-standing history of mistrust that exists between the healthcare systems in minority communities. We must acknowledge the disparities that exist within this field, the negative clinical outcomes related to those disparities, and collectively work together towards change.

Dr. Osunwa: The biggest obstacle black medical providers have is believing that we don’t have a place in medicine. Removing the seeds of self-doubt is important.

Melissa Cheong, SOM student, president of SGU’s Student National Medical Association.

Ms. Cheong: The biggest challenge is navigating through a field where we do not see very many individuals who look like us. It can be discouraging at times. Being a minority in medicine also introduces imposter syndrome. The challenge may present itself as us asking ourselves: “Do we belong here?”, “Did I diagnosis my patient correctly?”

Amanda Herbert: Knowing that you are good enough! When you are in a room full of doctors and residents and your skin color, hair, background, and body type are different, the question sometimes arises: Am I good enough to be in this room? I must remind myself, with all my differences, I bring something unique to the table that makes me better than “good enough.”

Mr. Nwosu: People tend to gravitate to people who look like them, people they feel they can relate to and trust. In the rotation I’m on right now, most of the parents and patients are African American. We need more Black doctors so we can educate that community on how to take care of their body and address health morbidities before they even become an issue. Trust is huge in the patient-doctor relationship, so training more minority physicians can help increase medical knowledge and compliance of practices within minority populations.

 

“Representation matters and it is critical to combat the long-standing history of mistrust that exists between the healthcare systems in minority communities.”

 

Hannah Terefe: I think there’s always going to be more work to be done in improving the culture we are expected to thrive in. With the increase in awareness and conversations surrounding topics that affect Black and Brown doctors, I’m hopeful that we can one day get to a point where we are able to claim our spaces within the medical field comfortably. Until then, we will continue to further the legacy of those who came before us and fight for our voices to be heard and respected.

School of Medicine student, Okechukwu Nwosu.

SGU: What do you love most about your work/studies?

Dr. Shackelford: By choosing to become a primary care physician, specifically trained in family medicine, I find immense joy in those long-lasting relationships that I can have with my patients and their families through all walks of life. The continuity is unmatched! I thoroughly enjoy being at the center of their healthcare team and making sure that I am doing my best for these individuals to help prevent illnesses.

Dr. Osunwa: I love to see a positive end to any situation I’m dealing with—whether it’s a tough diagnosis that has been worked up for several days or a patient who has been on the decline that finally makes a turnaround for a full recovery.

Celebrating Black History Month: SVM students and grads eager to pave the way for change in veterinary medicine

Ms. Cheong: I love learning about the different systems in medicine and how each system interconnects. It truly allows for me to look at the body holistically and approach medicine with an open mind.

Ms. Terefe: During my last rotation in OB/GYN, I realized that no matter what specialty or field of medicine you’re interested in, there’s always more work to be done in protecting the safety, well-being, and mental health of our patients. This aspect of medicine is what keeps me motivated to continuously study to ensure that I provide my patient with the best holistic care possible.

School of Medicine student, Hannah Terefe.

SGU: How can Black doctors “pay it forward”? How do you plan to make a difference? 

Dr. Shackelford: I think the best way to “pay it forward” is to continue to be advocates for the minority patients we serve and to help create opportunities for future black physicians that will come after us. Working towards eliminating the health disparities that exist within our communities will lead these vulnerable populations towards better health outcomes.

Dr. Osunwa: As the saying goes “charity begins at home.” I plan to continue advocating for those who I am in close contact with and letting that light illuminate others. If each of us take a part in advocating and correcting microaggressions the workplace, it will make a broad difference overall.

Ms. Cheong: By serving underprivileged communities where people don’t have adequate access to healthcare and insurance. And by becoming mentors for the medical community, being available, and remembering where we all started and where we are all heading. I want to serve as a mentor and tutor to students in the field of medicine. I will advocate for minorities in medicine by making sure there is diversity and inclusion programs where we attend school or a residency.

 

“I plan to pay it forward primarily through mentorship. I’ve watched students give up their dreams of becoming a physician mostly because they weren’t aware of how to seek support.”

 

Ms. Herbert: We must mentor up-and-coming black doctors every step of the way. The support I received from Black healthcare professionals on my journey was priceless. I plan to make a difference by allowing pre-med students to shadow my practice.

Mr. Nwosu: Black doctors can pay it forward by inspiring our youth by visiting elementary schools. We need to make these areas of expertise as exciting as the areas of athletics and entertainment within black culture. Holding each other accountable and helping each other strive for greatness will increase the interest of young African Americans in going into the fields of science, technology, and mathematics.

Ms. Terefe: I plan to pay it forward primarily through mentorship. In the last few years, I’ve watched students give up their dreams of becoming a physician mostly because they weren’t aware of how to seek support. Mentorship looks different for everyone. For me, it means serving as a bank of experiential knowledge for others. If I can hand off the lessons I’ve gained, then they can continue to build upon their own foundation and path to medicine.

 

School of Medicine student, Amanda Herbert.

 

 

— Paul Burch

 

 

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Marine, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Degree Gains Accreditation from Royal Society of Biology

St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) is pleased to announce that the Bachelor of Science Honors (BSc Hons) in Marine, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (MWC) has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology (RSB). It becomes the first program in the Western Hemisphere to obtain this distinction, further establishing SAS as a premier higher learning institution in the Caribbean. 

The degree program is housed within the SAS’s Department of Biology, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC). It is only the 11th program outside of the United Kingdom to earn RSB accreditation, which will last through the end of 2026.  

“We are very enthusiastic not only about the breadth of opportunities available in this program but also about its potential for current and future students,” said Dr. Lucy Eugene, dean of the SAS. “There is nowhere quite like Grenada for studying marine and terrestrial biology, and we’re so proud of what this program has become, and of all the incredible faculty and staff members who helped us attain this accreditation.”  

This marks another accreditation by an international body joining other SGU programs: 

  • School of Medicine: Grenada Medical and Dental Council (GMDC) 
  • School of Veterinary Medicine: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) 
  • SAS BSc Nursing degree: Grenada Nursing and Midwifery Council (GNMC) and the Caribbean’s Nursing Board
  • Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Master of Public Health (MPH) degree: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

“With this accreditation, our students can be confident that their program is consistent with internationally recognized standards and that they are prepared to undertake graduate programs,” said Dr. Cristofre Martin, chair of the Department of Biology, Ecology, and Conservation. “It also gives future employers and advisors confidence that their employees have been well trained in marine and terrestrial biology,” 

To graduate, students are required to complete 121 hours of coursework in lectures, the laboratory, and in the field, where they develop skills required to conduct ecological surveys, measure abiotic parameters, and manage and analyze data, while implementing a research design.  

“Grenada is ideal to study marine, wildlife, and conservation biology,” said Dr. Patricia Rosa, BEC deputy chair and MWC program director. “It offers a unique learning environment considering our classrooms are rainforest, dry forest, mangroves, estuaries, freshwater, and ocean ecosystems. This diversity of ecosystems is also readily accessible; one can go from the beach to a mountain peak in the same day.”  

 

“We’re so proud of what this program has become, and of all the incredible faculty and staff members who helped us attain this accreditation.”

 

All students must also complete an independent research project and a capstone thesis in their final year to graduate. Upon doing so, graduates receive an accredited honors degree and a certificate outlining the mastery of 75 technical skills related to marine biology, as well as transferrable job skills such as leadership, communications, and project management. 

“This accreditation will lead to more opportunities and recognition for our students and graduates,” said Dr. Rosa. “It will also enable our department to enhance research capacity and train more highly qualified personnel for conservation in the Caribbean.” 

What graduates are saying about the MWC program

Farihah Khan (Trinidad and Tobago), Class of 2019: 

“I can confidently say that my time at SGU as a MWC student was well spent.  The program’s high academic standards allowed me to develop a solid foundation in science and instilled in me a strong work ethic and sense of professionalism. Its Environment Conservation Outreach (ECO) student organization also encouraged me to balance academic work with extracurricular club activities. The rapport between students and educators was excellent and the teaching is unparalleled. It sets you on a positive trajectory as you enter the working world or continued studies.” 

Saiyana Baksh (Guyana), Class of 2021: 

“My experience at SGU has been no less than exceptional and enlightening. The University overall is challenging, and being an international student had additional challenges. SGU’s commitment to providing students with high academic and professional skills is constant and reliable. It has made me capable of handling anything that’s thrown my way. Their commitment to quality education allowed me to reach a level of maturity and wisdom that may not have been possible under different circumstances.” 

Why You Should Join the SGU AMSA Chapter

Photo courtesy of SGU AMSA chapter.

With more than 500 members, the St. George’s University chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) is the organization’s largest international chapter and one of more than 60 student-led clubs hosted by the University.

“It is a great way to meet medical students at other schools,” said AMSA member Azka Iqbal, who served as the chapter’s president during the fall 2021 term. “AMSA national has opportunities that are one of a kind. You can connect with leaders in different medical fields and the experience can be life changing.”

The student organization is also a vital part of the Grenadian community providing health fairs and blood drives, and promoting medical education throughout the island.

In January, the SGU AMSA chapter welcomed Jeanette Carillo, a Term 2 School of Medicine student, as its new president for the spring term.

SGU News spoke with Ms. Carillo, an aspiring pediatrician, to celebrate the start of her tenure and to learn more about the club’s mission and community outreach.

St. George’s University: Congratulations! What are you most excited about doing in your new role as president?

Ms. Carillo: Thank you! I am most excited about leading such a strong group of students from around the world. As president, I hope to create awareness of the environmental and social determinants that impact health and how we as a chapter can alleviate those barriers to good health. I am also looking forward to working alongside other SOM clubs as well as clubs within the Schools of Veterinary Medicine and the Arts and Sciences, particularly the SAS nursing program.

SGU: For those who are new to AMSA, what is the mission of the organization?

Ms. Carillo: The AMSA was founded in 1950 to promote active improvement in medical education and the enhancement of social, moral, and ethical obligations of the medical profession. AMSA’s vision is a world where healthcare is accessible, medicine is affordable, and systems support the diversity around us. Advocacy is central to AMSA.

SGU: How does AMSA serve others?

Ms. Carillo: The SGU chapter of AMSA holds and participates in a number of events like blood drives, health fairs, and COVID-19 vaccination drives that promote equitability in healthcare for the Grenadian communities.

SGU: What are some of the challenges you aim to address as part of your term?

Ms. Carillo: Since many of our students are online due to the pandemic, we are in the process of creating workshops and panels that will allow them to feel supported and encouraged to continue to work alongside AMSA virtually or on campus.

In addition, we are so grateful for the support from our faculty advisors, Dr. Karl Theodore and Dr. Chamarthy Subbarao, who are guiding us to incorporate these new programs that prepare students and aid them towards becoming inspiring physicians.

Follow AMSA

Instagram: @amsa.sgu

Facebook: @amsasgu

Twitter: @amsa_sgu

Email: amsa.sgu@gmail.com

SGU: What would you say to students to encourage them to join? 

Ms. Carillo: Joining AMSA is a wonderful opportunity to expand your skills as a medical student, enhance your network through residency panels, and develop a strong understanding of the current issues facing healthcare. Becoming a member allows students the opportunity to influence change through leading and advocating for continued improvement and advancement in healthcare for all.

SGU: Is AMSA open to all students?

Ms. Carillo: AMSA welcomes all School of Medicine students from Term 1-5 both online and in person. In addition, premedical students from the School of Arts and Sciences can also join our chapter.

SGU: How active is your group?

Ms. Carillo: We are quite active as each term is about four months. The executive board meets a few times a month, but members on the e-board are in communication daily/weekly to discuss upcoming events. Since most of the e-board is online, we stay in contact via WhatsApp, email, and Zoom. The general body meetings are held monthly, and we are currently planning our first meeting for early February.

SGU: What other projects is the chapter working on?

Ms. Carillo: Currently we are collaborating with other clubs on several events that include COVID-19 vaccination drives, a phlebotomy lab, an anatomy crossover lab, and a CDC lecture and discussion on One Health.

In addition, we are working on a fundraising event to support the Grenada Heart Foundation. We are also hoping to incorporate more events that enable students to develop stronger clinical skills.

SGU: How can students join?

Ms. Carillo: Go to mycampus.sgu.edu, select student resources, then select student organizations from the drop-down tab. Our sign-up link and additional information about AMSA will be found there! Also, at the beginning of each term, you can sign up and learn more about us at the Student Organizational Fair. blood drives, health fairs, and COVID-19 vaccination drives. Visit our website.

 


Photos courtesy of SGU AMSA chapter.

 

— Paul Burch

 

 

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New DNA sequencing ability at WINDREF aids Grenada in identifying new COVID variants

Drawing on the strong partnership between St. George’s University and the Government of Grenada throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, new DNA sequencing capabilities at the campus-based Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) will help to identify new variants of the virus in Grenada—and be a resource for the country and other Caribbean nations to identify additional infectious disease variants.

“The potential public health impacts of having this research tool available to Grenada and potentially for the Caribbean region is significant,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, director of WINDREF and dean of SGU’s School of Graduate Studies. “Being able to provide findings on the variants that are circulating in Grenada, as well as those that have circulated in the past and any new variants that arise, is critical information that can be referred to when creating policies and responses to the virus as a country and region.”

With funding from SGU, WINDREF acquired two DNA sequencing machines in early December to identify pathogen variants. The process, which entails testing infected individuals’ RNA samples for viral load, and then comparing the results to global databases, was used to confirm that the Omicron variant was detected in patients in Grenada as of the end of December.

The research team at WINDREF underwent an intense six-hour online training session in order to learn how to use the sequencer. The training was provided by Dr. Nikita Shadeo, Mr. Vernie Ramkisson, and Mr. Soren Nicholls from the PAHO-WHO Reference Sequencing Lab at the UWI St. Augustine Campus located in Trinidad, which is headed by Professor Christine Carrington.

 

“The potential public health impacts of having this research tool available to Grenada and potentially for the Caribbean region is significant.”

 

Among those who are now qualified to work on the sequencing data is Vanessa Matthew-Belmar, MSc ’16, who is going to use this technique to study the evolution of the variants found in Grenada over time as part of her research work towards her PhD. Ms. Matthew-Belmar is also a member of the COVID-19 testing team that assisted in the nation’s PCR testing program. In the early stages of the pandemic, the testing program was based on the SGU campus.

“I will use the potential of the sequencing equipment to investigate important epidemiological, viral, and public health issues raised by the circulating variants over time,” said Ms. Matthew-Belmar.

Other members of the sequencing team include: Dr. Trevor Noel, deputy director of WINDREF; Clarkson University MSc student, Nandy Noel, WINDREF lab technician, Elsa Chitan, an SGU MPH graduate, and Nikita Cudjoe, WINDREF’S COVID-19 testing team manager.

Going forward, Dr. Macpherson said that any patients admitted to the Grenada General Hospital or who pass away with a diagnosis of COVID-19 will have their samples sequenced to determine the variant.

The sequencing equipment is not only available to analyze the SARS-CoV-2 variants seen in Grenada since the start of the outbreak, but it also will provide a valuable resource for regional requests for disease sequencing to be conducted for other Caribbean countries, said Minister of Health, the Hon. Nickolas Steele.

“We are proud to be able to offer this service, which reflects the close partnership between the Ministry of Health, SGU, WINDREF, UWI, CARPHA, and PAHO-WHO,” said Minister Steele. “As one of only two labs in the English-speaking Caribbean region that can conduct sequencing, we are adding to the global body of knowledge, which is important for PAHO and WHO.”

Beyond COVID, the new equipment also provides “enormous potential” for understanding the further evolution of viral, bacterial, and other infectious diseases, such as dengue and the zoonotic potential of the canine hookworm species, Dr. Macpherson noted.

“Going forward, not only can we use this equipment to sequence any SARs-CoV-2, but we can also use it to sequence all other diseases,” he said. “It’s an incredibly powerful technique that can be an important diagnostic addition in Grenada’s toolbox as we continue to fight this pandemic.”

 

-Laurie Chartorynsky

 

 

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New SOM Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs Champions Equity and Inclusion Amongst Med School Community

Home to students and faculty from 151 countries, St. George’s University is committed to developing initiatives and activities designed to nurture and celebrate the cultural differences of the SGU community. The recent appointment of Dr. Arlette Herry as the School of Medicine’s assistant dean for multicultural affairs, equity, and inclusion is another step in achieving that goal.

“We live and work in a global community and we see the impact of how connected our world is every day,” said Dr. Marios Loukas, dean of the School of Medicine. “It is therefore important to learn how to navigate that world. With Dr. Herry’s expertise and more than a decade-long commitment to SGU, we look forward to her guiding us to an even more equitable and inclusive environment within the School of Medicine.”

Dr. Herry has been with SGU for more than 15 years of her 20-year career as a psychologist. She also serves as SGU’s ombudsperson and as assistant professor of behavioral sciences in SOM’s Department of Physiology, Neuroscience, and Behavioral sciences.

 

“In this new role, my main goal is to provide avenues to embrace the diversity that is the foundation of our SGU community, from recruitment and retention, to curriculum, and faculty development.”

 

Her mission in her new position: to enrich the educational environment for SOM students and graduates who will embrace these values and draw on them when serving patients. More specifically, Dr. Herry is responsible for creating processes to enhance the school’s commitment to the belief that a culturally diverse faculty and student body is essential for successful teaching, learning, research, and service.

“This is an opportune time for multicultural affairs to be at the front and center of our everyday lives,” Dr. Herry said. “In this new role, my main goal is to provide avenues to embrace the diversity that is the foundation of our SGU community, from recruitment and retention, to curriculum, and faculty development.”

Some of Dr. Herry’s plans for SOM include: the creation and implementation of a School of Medicine Diversity Policy and an anti-discrimination policy—both of which can be found in the faculty and students’ handbooks. She also has several other initiatives in the works including implicit bias training as part of the basic sciences and clinical curricula, and for faculty and staff.

“My hope is that we become more open to new experiences,” shared Dr. Herry. “SGU’s diversity provides a valuable opportunity to share our culture, perspectives, and goals with each other, and feel safe and supported in doing so. I am very happy about the direction that the School of Medicine is taking to broaden its horizons in this area, and to educate and train culturally competent physicians. I am excited to see what the future will be at SGUSOM.”

— Ray-Donna Peters

 

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How the Dean of Students Office promotes student success

As the dean of students at St. George’s University, Dr. Lucy Clunes and her team within the Office of the DOS work closely with all of SGU’s schools, non-academic departments, the Student Government Association, and importantly, with individual students, to ensure that the unique needs of the university’s student body are met.

“Our goal is to provide each student with a strong infrastructure that promotes student success,” Dr. Clunes said. “We also encourage, guide, and expect that all students accept individual responsibility for their own personal, professional, and academic development.”

Dr. Lucy Clunes is is dean of students at St. George’s University.

Dr. Clunes shared how the DOS seeks to assist all students, including those studying virtually, and what advice she has for new students.

St. George’s University: What are some aspects of student life that fall under the department’s purview?  

Dr. Clunes: DOS has assistant deans that are dedicated to each school. This allows for these deans to have an intimate knowledge of the student manual as it pertains to each school, making sure that students can navigate all policies and procedures appropriately.

In addition:

  • We coordinate student orientation events each term for all new students throughout SGU’s four schools.
  • Our International Students Office offers excellent support for our international students in everything from visa guidance to how to prepare local food.
  • DOS is responsible for the faculty advisor assignment in SAS and SVM and is now overseeing the SOM college system. This allows us to focus on how to support students not only in their academic ventures but how to optimize their student life and wellbeing.
  • In the School of Medicine, academic advising for both basic sciences and clinical students has recently been moved to under the DOS umbrella as well as the Office of Career Guidance.
  • Claire Purcell, SGU’s director of student campus life, also works with the more than 60 different student organizations to ensure students’ academic, spiritual, and cultural needs are all met.

SGU: How has COVID changed the way that DOS provides support to students?

Dr. Clunes: We recognize that students are under much more stress than in normal years. The COVID pandemic has caused personal, family, health, and financial challenges for our students. DOS is focused on making sure that students know where to find us and the support they need. My main priority is responsiveness—if a student reaches out for help, they should know that they can receive an answer within a short period of time.

Get in touch! 

Email: DOS@sgu.edu 

For students in NU, email: DOSNU@sgu.edu

For students in their clinical years, email: dosclinical@sgu.edu

SGU: What are some examples of changes made to campus to help students during the pandemic?

Dr. Clunes: Assistant Dean David Twum-Barimah has worked to optimize the use of all study venues as well as develop a student-friendly app that will provide live updates on the availability of both individual and group study spaces. We hope this has decreased stress for students and increased their study time as they will not have to walk from venue to venue looking to see what is available.

Another example is related to use of the campus gym. Currently, the gym is open; however previous restrictions in Grenada had meant that the gym had to temporarily close. We worked to make sure that outdoor gym facilities were available and converted inside cardio and yoga classes to outside venues. We recognize the importance of exercise to our students and do all that we can during these challenging times to make sure that students have access to these amenities.

SGU: How do you ensure the needs of students studying online are met?

Dr. Clunes: The COVID pandemic has also led to us all being more familiar with online platforms such as Zoom; this has enhanced the level of support that DOS can offer. Reaching out to students across the world in all schools has never been so easy and felt more personal. A lot of students feel more relaxed during a virtual appointment which leads to them being more open about the challenges that they are facing and allows us to help more. This does not mean that in-person appointments are not occurring. We are happy to offer students phone, Zoom or in-person counseling.

As part of the broader support services provided by the Office of the Dean of Students, the International Students Office (ISO) offers a wide range of assistance and resources to new and returning students.

SGU: What should students know about COVID for the January ’22 term?

Dr. Clunes: While COVID is still providing us all with new challenges, we are here to listen and to advise. We are happy to work with a student’s individual situation and advise on what the best course of action is. For example, if a student tested positive over the break, we can transfer them to online learning until they are able to return to Grenada and can be transitioned back into in-person learning.

SGU: With the Office of Career Guidance now under the DOS, what changes have been made to streamline support for SOM students?

Dr. Clunes: Together with the School of Medicine’s Dean Loukas and dedicated faculty within the OCG, we have redesigned the department to further guide students toward residency starting their first day in medical school.

Our main goal is ensuring that the curriculum delivery and assessment is intertwined with preparing for residency applications and the matching process as early as possible. This will allow students to be even more competitive during the Match process.

For example, interview skills are not something that is developed the day before the interview but far earlier. One of our main goals is to enhance the interview skills of all our students early on.

In addition, SOM academic advisors in basic sciences as well ase clinical years now fall under the umbrella of DOS. This gives us a great opportunity to ensure our medical students have unfractured academic support from day one right up to graduation and beyond.

SGU: What advice would you give to students on campus for the first time?

Dr. Clunes: Don’t be afraid of asking questions, no matter how minor you may think they may be. We are here to help and support you, and if there is something that would make your life more comfortable, and therefore help you to be more successful academically, don’t hesitate to reach out.

SGU: You have been on island for over 13 years. Where is your favorite place for R&R on the island?

Dr. Clunes: Grenada is my home. My kids were born here and know more about Grenada than my home country—the UK. We are so lucky to have beautiful beaches, forests, wildlife, and beautiful sunsets which never fail to relax you after a long day. If you have not yet visited Carriacou, this is one of my favorite places. Life moves a little slower in Carriacou and a weekend away always manages to refresh me.

SGU: How can students get in touch with the DOS?

Dr. Clunes: Students can email DOS@sgu.edu or drop into the office at any time. They can also reach out to me directly at lclunes@sgu.edu.

 

 

– Laurie Chartorynsky

 

 

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