New SGU Infectious Diseases Student Group Aims to Help Students Develop Skills to Address Specialty

Cognizant of the benefits of active student involvement, St. George’s University is home to more than 60 student organizations centered on different areas of student life: cultural, religious, social, academic, professional, and community service. Today, as the healthcare industry grapples with treating those affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak, none seem more relevant than the newly founded SGU Infectious Diseases Society (SGU IDS).

“There seems to be a club for just about everything at SGU,” said founder and president Stephanie Moody-Geissler, a Term 2 medical student. “So why not one that focuses on infectious diseases, an area of science that has been so deeply entwined with our history and humanity since the dawn of our existence? Infectious diseases are a part of everyone’s lives, personally and professionally, and with the current world situation, I think that makes us one of the most significant student groups right now.”

Created to raise awareness of key issues and topics relating to global infectious diseases, as relevant to both human and animal health, the group is open to all SGU students. Its aim is to improve the understanding of infectious diseases in terms of individual health, communities, and society.

“What students can expect to get out of joining this group are skills and knowledge that they can carry forward in their careers through exposure to topics that are directly relevant and in some cases can significantly impact human and animal health,” said Dr. Joanna Rayner, faculty advisor, SGU IDS and chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pharmacology, “My role is to focus that interest in infectious diseases and provide them with advice, ideas and contacts to the wider microbiology and infectious disease community.”

Although the new student organization is faced with some restrictions as students are currently distance learning, it didn’t diminish their excitement at planning to host various virtual events this term. The group has lined up guest speakers, including an SGU alumnus, who had recently returned from the far East where he was working with the World Health Organization on the COVID-19 response; a skills-based workshop on spotting bad science; a journal club for students to improve and build much-needed critical thinking skills; and virtual community outreach to bring science and microbiology into schools in Grenada.

“With much of the current media focus on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that there are still many other infectious diseases that continue to be important worldwide,” commented Dr. Rayner. “The Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), one of the largest publicly available systems conducting global reporting of infectious diseases outbreaks, just recently posted updates on Ebola, malaria, West Nile Virus and tularemia. These and many other pathogenic microorganisms that cause morbidity and mortality in humans and animals have by no means gone away, providing further affirmation of the relevance and importance of this new student group.”

 

— Ray-Donna Peters 

Dual MD/MPH student creates hygiene training manual addressing public health in Grenada

Lucinda Dass, SOM student, creator of WASH training manual

For St. George’s University student Lucinda Dass, developing a hygiene manual—just as the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up—seemed more important than ever. As part of her public health practicum, Ms. Dass worked with Grenada’s Basic Needs Trust Fund Cycle Nine Program to create the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Training Manual, which emphasized the importance of clean water, reducing the spread of germs, and learning how to properly dispose of waste.

“All over the world, measures were being put in place to contain the spread of the virus,” said Ms. Dass, a Term 4 Doctor of Medicine (MD)/Master of Public Health (MPH) student at SGU. “From face coverings and hand sanitizers to social distancing and home isolation, they were all included in some capacity in the WASH manual. With so many of us thrust into this new lifestyle, it seemed as though the manual was completed at just the right time.”

Working closely with her advisor, Dr. Lindonne Glasgow, Ms. Dass originally researched and crafted the manual focusing on the island of Grenada and its citizens. However, the novel coronavirus has run rampant around the world, and hence she believes that the manual can be applied globally.

“As an MD/MPH student, I have the opportunity to not only earn both degrees but to also engage in several professional development projects,” said Ms. Dass. “This one in particular I enjoyed because it contributed to the greater good of the Grenadian community and public health in general. Hopefully I can continue doing more projects like this in the future because they are simple yet effective in educating everyone—adults, children, and society as a whole.”

Currently continuing her education via distance learning from her home in Mount Vernon, NY, Ms. Dass channels all of her energy on her studies in hopes of contributing even more to the field of medicine after her graduation.

“I realized that the medical field is for me because it is a career that involves working and interacting closely with people in need, and more importantly, helping them become healthier at the same time,” she said. “Also, how many doctors can say they were actually studying in medical school during a pandemic? This has been quite the learning experience. I am grateful that none of my immediate family members have been fatally affected by the virus, but seeing the entire planet suffer through this crisis has proved to me even more why I am needed and belong in this field.”

 

— Ray-Donna Peters 

A Peek Inside the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Distance Learning Program

Distance Learning at SGU

Learning how to do an ultrasound on an animal is never easy yet it is an important component of practicing veterinary medicine. Learning how to do one virtually is even harder, yet the faculty at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine have been able to successfully make the transition to a distance learning curriculum.

With classes conducted online for the Fall 2020 term, SVM administrators have shared how they were able to make the school’s virtual curriculum an engaging and stimulating experience for students.

“Our distance learning curriculum was developed with the student focus in mind,” said Dr. Neil Olson, DVM, PhD, dean of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “By working with the SVM Student Government Association and polling students multiple times throughout the spring, we were able to make sure that student input about programs and courses led our conversations about how to implement our virtual curriculum.”

First Steps in Creating SVM’s Virtual Curriculum

“The first thing we did was create a Distance Education Team,” said Dr. Anne Corrigan, associate dean of SVM’s academic programs and professor of small animal medicine and surgery.

Chaired by Brian Butler, DVM­­/MPH ’05, assistant dean of the SVM academic programs for the School of Veterinary Medicine and a pathology professor, the group identified online needs and worked closely with the Department of Educational Services (DES), IT, and the Enterprise Teaching departments to develop the courses needed.

The SVM also polled students to flag concerns and issues and included valuable input from the Student Government Association’s SVM Affairs class representatives in the schedule and syllabi review for the fall term, Dr. Corrigan said.

One such concern: making sure students had access to all the materials needed. “We know that not everyone has a conducive workspace in their home, especially with WiFi issues,” said Jennifer Kirk, DVM ’22 (expected), president of the SVM Affairs. “We have been advocating for these students and, as a result, SVM made recordings downloadable so that students can stay on track despite these problems.”

The SVM Affairs group continues to communicate regularly with its Executive Board, its faculty advisor, Dr. Arend Werners, as well as University and SVM leadership.

Faculty Training

To prepare for the term, SVM faculty has been involved in intensive training on the new educational tools with the help of SGU’s IT team, Dr. Corrigan said.

The Distance Education Team also developed a best practices document for faculty to more appropriately choose the tools that will be of most benefit for their courses. SVM faculty also developed instructional clinical skills videos for students to promote muscle memory and develop the skills to perform certain procedures.

“Because we are delivering curriculum with a blended approach, which includes real-time content delivery and asynchronous programs, it’s really helping us become adaptive to use multiple types of technologies,” Dr. Corrigan said.

Hands-On Learning

One of the biggest challenges SVM faces is how to teach and train students hands-on clinical skills virtually. However, it has turned this challenge into some early successes.

Last term, students sent videos of themselves completing a skill, such as suturing, to faculty, who would then play each recording back during a live interactive session so that all students can watch their peers learning the same skills simultaneously. Students were then graded on how well they were able to master the skill, and received peer reviews from other students, helping all to address common mistakes.

“The key here is they gained confidence,” Dr. Corrigan said. “If we can still give them that confidence, even if they are not doing the skill directly in front of us, it will go a long way to helping them as future veterinarians.”

In addition, wetlabs allow students to attend a demonstration of a specific clinical skills performed by an SVM faculty member—this semester they will be done virtually.

“Even though students will not be able to use their own hands, the 3D demonstration will simulate as if they were really there,” Dr. Corrigan said. “They will be able to see a kidney in longitudinal and cross-section views. They will be able to see my hand moving on the screen. It’s another example of how we’re teaching hands-on clinical skills through online simulations.”

Some skills still must be taught in person, and SVM also developed a large group of private practitioners—more than 100 practices and counting across North America—willing to be clinical mentors for sixth-term students. In this scenario, students are paired with local veterinarians practitioners, including some SGU alumni, to establish professional relationships and receive instructional training.

Staying Connected in a Virtual World

Not lost in all the academia was the need for the interaction aspect of learning, especially since students can’t be together on campus.

“I think it’s especially important to provide the incoming Term 1 students with that inclusive aspect as they are not able to be in Grenada, and they don’t get to facilitate vital in-person relationships with their professors and peers,” Ms. Kirk said.

Dr. Corrigan acknowledged that what students want most within the distance learning platform is to feel connected—to other students, to faculty, and to the school overall. On the first day of classes, 90 students showed up for office hours.

“They were not there for office hours,” Dr. Corrigan said. “They were there looking for a way to connect with the SGU family.”

This term, with the help and guidance of faculty advisors, vet-centered student clubs will be looking at further ways to offer students a sense of community by hosting virtual events. In addition, SVM is also looking to put together virtual mentoring relationships between lower- and upper-class students.

“We want students to stay engaged and stay in communication with us, because we’re here for them, even though we are not physically together,” Dr. Corrigan said.

— Laurie Chartorynsky

Advocating for Vet Students: Spotlight on the SGA’s SVM Affairs Group

Jennifer Kirk (left), DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s president of SVM Affairs, and Maria Coppola (right), DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s vice president of SVM Affairs, shared the importance of the group’s mission and how students can get involved.

The School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) Affairs group is a part of the St. George’s University Student Government Association (SGA), working primarily to address student issues and concerns related to the School of Veterinary Medicine.

SGU News spoke with Jennifer Kirk, DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s president of SVM Affairs, and Maria Coppola, DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s vice president of SVM Affairs, who shared the importance of the group’s mission, how it was crucial in helping to formulate SVM’s distance learning curriculum, and how students can get involved.

SGU: How do you advocate for SVM students at SGU?

Jennifer Kirk: We have four main priorities that we focus on. They include:

  • Communications between the SGA SVM representatives and the student body;
  • Facilitating effective communication between students and professors;
  • Advocating for the SVM student organizations and clubs; and
  • Addressing both nonacademic and academic concerns with the SVM and University leadership teams.

SGU: SVM Affairs was very involved in helping vet students navigate the early days of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Can you share some key instances where you were able to help students in Grenada?

JK: We played a significant role in assisting students during the evacuation. We made sure to work with the administration to figure out logistics to allow all pets to evacuate with their owner and helped coordinate that. We advocated for the students that still had mid-term exams to take during the evacuation. We had multiple SVM students at the airport and at Modica Hall making sure that the process to get everyone home safely went smoothly.

We also made sure to constantly update students via the VetMed and SGA Facebook pages.

SGU: As the School of Veterinary Medicine ramped up its distance learning program, how did SVM Affairs contribute to the process?

JK: We were in many meetings during the evacuation to ease the transition from in-person to online learning. We gathered feedback for the SVM crisis team that was crucial in implementing new protocols for the best online learning experience.

One such concern we had was making sure students had access to all the materials needed. We know that not everyone has a conducive workspace in their home, especially with WiFi issues. We advocated for these students and, as a result, SVM made recordings downloadable so that students can stay on track despite these problems.

We continue to communicate regularly with our Executive Board, faculty advisor, Dr. Arend Werners, as well as University and SVM leadership.

SGU: What is the most important aspect that students are looking for as part of distance learning education?

JK: Students really need the interaction aspect of learning. I think it’s especially important to provide the incoming Term 1 students with that inclusive aspect as they are not able to be in Grenada, and they don’t get to facilitate vital in-person relationships with their professors and peers.

SGU: Can you name some initiatives that the group will be working on for students this term?

JK: I would say mental health. As taboo as it is to talk about it in society, I do think it is imperative—especially now that we are all isolated at home—to talk openly about how we are dealing with the pandemic. The SGA will be hosting a virtual movie night on September 11 to talk about burnout in the medical and veterinary fields, but I would like to include more mental health awareness initiatives for SVM students this semester.

Maria Coppola: My answer would be increased communications to vet students, which is even more important now that we’re not all together. It’s important that we check in with students and that students check in with us. We try to make ourselves available as often as possible throughout the day, whether that be on Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc. You name it, we are most likely available on it!

SGU: How can other students get involved?

MC: At the beginning of every semester, we send out a call for representatives. Students can easily join by filling out the application and sending in a headshot. If there are numerous applicants, we then hold an election and each term will vote for who they would like to represent their class.

In addition, the Student Government Association has launched its own website and it has a public Facebook page. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time! We are ready and willing to help.

Students are welcome to contact Jennifer Kirk at jkirk@sgu.edu or Maria Coppola at mcoppola@sgu.edu.

 

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

 

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