SGU Sim Lab Director Receives Prestigious Spice Isle Award

Samantha Dickson, SGU SIM Lab coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Welcomes Back Familiar Faces at Beyond Spice Family Weekend

SGU Family Weekend - January 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Ray-Donna Peters

Newest Class of Nursing Students Encouraged to Communicate and Collaborate

SGU's newest class of nursing students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Ray-Donna Peters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Kane began her journey toward joining the ranks of nearly 1,700 graduates of the School of Veterinary Medicine who have gone on to practice in 49 states in the United States and 16 other countries around the world. The SVM also maintains partnerships with 31 universities and clinical facilities in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia, where fourth-year students spend a year of clinical training at an affiliated veterinary school.

THE  STONES OF SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a result of the accreditation, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine is now one of the few schools in the world to be accredited by both the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) in the United States and Canada, as well as the RCVS in the UK.

– Ray-Donna Peters

SGU Pathology Professor Receives Prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bharti Bhusnurmath and Shivayogi Bhusnurmath.

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

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

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

-Laurie Chartorynsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ray-Donna Peters

 

 

Giving Back in 2019: SGU Student Organizations Contributed Valuable Funds and Expertise to Host Country

Since St. George’s University opened more than 40 years ago, Grenada has been a second home for SGU students who have descended upon the True Blue peninsula from countries all over the world. Collectively, through the more than 60 student organizations on campus, these students have given back to the country that has welcomed them warmly.

The connection between a student body and the community was clear in 2019. In addition to promoting and developing their specific club interests, these organizations were extensively involved in more than 1,100 events and volunteering over 9,000 hours of their time, benefitting the people and animals of Grenada through the donation of funds, supplies, and services, according to SGU’s 2019 Student Organization Report.

“Grenada and its people have been very kind to us as the host island of our institution so there’s a very strong bond between the students of the University and the community at large,” said Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU. “Whether it’s raising funds for the Grenada General Hospital or donating to the elderly and orphanages on the island, students have an overwhelming desire to give back to the country helping them to receive their medical and veterinary education.”

Among the wide range of active student groups was Women in Medicine, which advocates for the interests of women physicians-in-training and promotes women’s health. Over the course of the year, the organization raised approximately EC$18,000 for the Grenada Cancer Society and contributed more than 900 service hours through health fairs and pap smear clinics on the island.

Tropical showers couldn’t stop the more than 100 participants who came out for WiM’s annual 5k Pink Run and fundraiser in November, where students, faculty, staff—and pets—ran, jogged, and walked to raise money for the Grenada Cancer Society. In addition, after the run, WiM faculty and students provided cervical cancer screenings at the University clinic—all part of an ongoing effort to enhance the quality of care for women battling reproductive cancers in Grenada.

 

“Students have an overwhelming desire to give back to the country helping them to receive their medical and veterinary education.”

Dr. C.V. Rao, dean of students at SGU

 

The School of Medicine Surgery Club raised and donated a total of EC$6,000 to various organizations, including the Grenada General Hospital, Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital, and the Fund for the Orphans and Elderly. The organization, which provides students an opportunity to learn suturing techniques as well as observing surgeries in the local hospital, counts nearly 500 students as part of its constituency.

“We are extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to come to a country that has opened their arms to us to learn medicine, and we want to give back as much as we can,” said Juxhesta Cakrani, vice president of finance for SOM’s Surgery Club and a fifth-term medical student.

With more than 800 members, SGU’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), promotes active improvement in medical education, world healthcare delivery, and the enhancement of social, moral, and ethical obligations of the medical profession. Each semester, the chapter hosts health fairs, including its annual One Health One Medicine Health Fair, where student members visit the island’s communities to provide free healthcare to those in need, including check-ups and diagnostic health services, as well as education on mental health and healthy eating. In total, the group donated in excess of 2,300 of community service hours in 2019 to benefit the Grenadian people, the report noted.

Given the drastic need for life-saving blood donations on the island, SGU’s AMSA chapter also organized two on-campus blood drives this fall to benefit Grenada General Hospital. And through its Valentine’s Day Date Auction, its biggest and popular annual fundraising event, the chapter was able to donate proceeds of EC$16,000 to the Grenada Heart Foundation, which provides lifesaving interventional cardiac care to those in need, especially children.

“Grenada is very underserved—not everyone has access to transportation or the finances to be able to get the healthcare they need,” said Tasha Phillips-Wilson, SGU AMSA’s chapter president for the fall 2019 semester and a third-year med student. “We go out into the community—we set up tents and tables—and students are able to treat patients. The communities are quite grateful and appreciative for that.”

For the students partaking in activities, they are able to apply classroom-learned concepts to real medical situations. “Students get to practice clinical skills and these events are a great opportunity to work on the patient-physician interaction,” added Mrs. Phillips-Wilson.

The report noted several other student organizations that volunteered significant amounts of time in 2019, including:

  • The Significant Others Organization put in nearly 2,500 of service hours through various outreach and aid activities at the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Dorothy Hopkins Home for the Disabled, and Queen Elizabeth Home for Children.
  • The Orphanage Students Organization spent more than 750 hours with children in need from the Bel Air Children’s Home and the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children, taking them to the beach and other enjoying other activities with the children.
  • The Pediatrics Club clocked over 600 volunteer hours through health fairs and clinic days at the Bel Air Children’s Home and the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children.

Students also raised funds for and dedicated their services to the animals on the island of Grenada.

  • Organizations including SGU’s Angels in Armor (AAARF), Feral Cat Project (FCP), and Spay Neuter Pot Hounds (SNP) raised more than EC$30,000 for SGU’s Small Animal Clinic (SAC), which serves the people of Grenada and their pets. These organizations utilized a range of fundraising activities such as sales, raffles, cocktails, and trivia nights.
  • Student members of the American Veterinary Medical Association chapter volunteered nearly 1,500 hours to various veterinary outreach initiatives and SGU’s One Health One Medicine Clinics.
  • SGU’s Exotic and Wildlife Society volunteered more than 2,300 hours to various marine and terrestrial wildlife protection activities around Grenada.

Being a part of these organizations not only helps students hone their clinical skills but teaches many of those who become officers the value of leadership, how to budget, and other managerial skills, added Dr. Rao.

“Some organizations have a budget and it is our expectation that they generate funds for their own organization, and they do it,” he said. “These are additional skills learned that will come in handy as they climb the ladder of their careers.”

Added Dr. Rao: “We are proud of our student organizations and all they have accomplished in 2019. We are looking forward to another year of strong community service and participation from our student groups.”

– Laurie Chartorynsky

St. George’s University School of Medicine to Welcome First April Class of Students

St. George’s University School of Medicine announced that it will launch a new spring class that will allow students to begin pursuing their medical degrees in April.

“St. George’s is a leader in medical education, and our new April Class will enable us to offer our world-class educational experience to even more students from all over the globe,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University. “We look forward to welcoming a diverse group of talented students seeking a more flexible medical education to campus this spring.”

Students who enroll in the April class will become part of an intimate learning community that will help them adjust to the rigors of medical school. Members of the April Class will have access to all the same academic supports and services as students who enroll in January and August. Additionally, each student who enrolls in the April class will receive an Inaugural April Class Grant and are eligible to receive other merit- and need-based scholarships.

April enrollees have additional time to prepare for Step 1 and Step 2 of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, just as those who start in January do. They’ll also have more time to prepare for residency. They will have the opportunity to complete more electives in competitive specialties and will gain increased exposure to residency directors prior to the match process.

St. George’s is the second-largest provider of licensed physicians to the U.S. healthcare system.[1] In 2019, its graduates matched into residency programs in 18 different medical specialties across 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.[2]

“St. George’s strives to make medical school accessible for aspiring physicians from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds alike,” Dr. Liebowitz said. “We are excited to help a new class of students fulfill their dreams of becoming doctors.”

[1] https://www.fsmb.org/siteassets/advocacy/publications/2018census.pdf p. 13-14

[2] https://www.sgu.edu/academic-programs/school-of-medicine/graduate-success/

SGU Year in Review: A Look Back at the New Stories that Defined Us in 2019

2019 was a monumental year for students, faculty, and alumni of St. George’s University. SGU became the second-largest source of doctors for the entire US workforce. We placed 979 graduates into US and Canadian residencies—our highest number to date.

But that’s not all.

The School of Veterinary Medicine received full accreditation by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), and is now one of the few schools in the world that is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association in the United States and RCVS in the UK. The School of Arts and Sciences welcomed its first Caribbean national as dean.

SGU profiled many graduates who are making waves in human and animal healthcare industries—showcasing the diversity and reach of our global alumni—and how becoming a doctor (or veterinarian) has changed their lives and the lives of their patients.

These are the stories that underscore SGU’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of healthcare professionals around the world. Read on to see the top news stories of 2019 on SGU.edu.

Match Day 2019

On Match Day 2019, hundreds of SGU students secured first-year residency positions in the United States. Students matched into highly competitive positions in fields such as anesthesiology, child neurology, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, internal medicine/emergency medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pathology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, surgery, urology, vascular surgery. They joined residency programs in 42 US states and the District of Columbia over the summer.

In addition, SGU students and graduates obtained first-year residency positions through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Profound Impact: SGU Educated Second-Most Licensed Physicians in US In 2018

For more than 40 years, St. George’s University has provided highly qualified physicians to the United States, and never before has its impact been more evident. According to a report published in the Journal of Medical Regulation, SGU educated the second-most licensed physicians in the United States in 2018.

SGU Commencement 2019

In June, the School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians convened together one last time in New York City for SGU’s annual commencement ceremonies. Family and friends gathered at Lincoln Center to watch the graduates join an alumni network of more than 17,000 physicians who have gone on to practice in all 50 United States and in over 50 countries worldwide.

In addition, animals of all shapes and sizes gained caretakers and advocates when the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine granted Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees to 83 new veterinarians in New York City. New veterinarians joined an alumni network of 1,670 veterinarians who built a foundation for their careers at SGU.

In Grenada, graduates from 31 countries were among the 2019 class that included more than 230 students from the School of Arts and Sciences, and 110 from the School of Graduate Studies, with one PhD graduate in attendance.

DVM Program Gains Full Accreditation from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

Adding to its growing list of achievements, the St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program received full accreditation from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the organization that sets the standards of veterinary care in the United Kingdom, through 2024.

Grenada-Born SGU Alum Returns Home to Care for His Nation’s Heart

As a practicing cardiologist, Diego Humphrey, MD ’84, a native Grenadian, serves the retired men and women of the US Armed Forces at the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Muskogee, OK. Yet Dr. Humphrey, who never forgot his roots, returns each year to donate his time and expertise to the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network.

Commonwealth Conference Focuses On Student Success

More than 350 educators from Grenada and around the world descended on SGU for the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) 2019 annual conference. The 2019 conference marked the first time that the CEC’s annual event had been held in the Caribbean region.

Mother’s Cancer Battle Motivates SGU Grad to Become Breast Surgeon

Joseph Di Como, MD '14

A doctor delivered the news—cancer, an aggressive form. Joseph Di Como’s mother, a cornerstone of the family, would have to undergo surgery and many months of treatment. Her struggle changed the course of his life forever. More than 15 years later, now a doctor, Joseph Di Como, MD ’14, is providing important care and instilling hope in patients as a breast surgical oncology fellow at Brown University, Women and Infants’ Hospital of Rhode Island.

Major Canadian Hospital Joins SGU’s Burgeoning Clinical Network

Adding to more than 70 clinical training locations across North America and the United Kingdom, St. George’s University finalized an agreement with Pembroke Regional Hospital in Ontario, Canada that will offer fourth-year students a range of disciplines to choose from for their clinical electives.

Eugene Becomes First Caribbean National to Lead SAS

As the new Dean of St. George’s University’s School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), Dr. Lucy Eugene is deeply committed to its growth. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, she is the first Caribbean national to become the school’s dean.

Equine Veterinarian Shares Path to Horse Country

When S. Heath Soignier, DVM ’12, CVMST, isn’t visiting his equine patients, one can usually find him practicing new holistic veterinary medicine techniques on his quarter horse, Margarita.

“To me horses and dogs are two of the best animals: if you trust them completely, they are most willing to reciprocate that trust. Not a lot of animals are like that,” Dr. Soignier said. “I love that I get to work with horses all day long.”

—Laurie Chartorynsky

Global Touch of Medicine Selective Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

This past November, faculty members with the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four- and Five-Year MD Program celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Global Touch of Medicine (GToM) selective, hosting its landmark 150th event.

Professor Steve Clark, a consultant cardiopulmonary surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals, delivered a lecture as part of the Global Scholars Lecture Series, speaking on the topic of “Robotics in Heart and Lung Surgery – Friend or Foe?” A regular contributor to the GToM selective, Professor Clark is one of over 60 physicians and scientists who have given presentations to the students studying in the SGU/NU program. Other examples of regular contributors include Professor Alan Fenwick from Imperial College, London on “The Fight Against Neglected Tropical Diseases”; Professor Simon Bailey, consultant paediatric oncologist at The Great North Children’s Hospital on “Children with Cancer in Malawi”; and Professor Deiary Kader, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, SW London Elective Orthopaedic Centre, on “The Work of the Newcastle-Gateshead Medical Volunteers in Orthopaedic Surgery in Iraq and the International Red Cross in The Lebanon.” Topics have ranged from the Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs and practice relating to “Blood Conservation and Non-Blood Management” to the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres in South Sudan, Haiti, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone).

Students taking the GToM selective have also benefitted from hearing presentations by some of their fellow students who have been on SGU’s international selectives in India, Kenya, Prague, Thailand and Sweden. The accounts of the experiences of these students are delivered with professionalism and enthusiasm and have inspired many students in their audience to also participate in such selectives when the opportunity arises.

The Global Touch of Medicine selective was initiated in the early years of the Global Scholars Program by SGU faculty members, Drs. Robbie Hage and David Holmes, with the aim of giving the SGU MD students studying in Newcastle the opportunity to learn more about various aspects of global medicine. The Global Scholars Lecture Series has welcomed eminent physicians and scientists to present their experiences of working in various countries worldwide and give students and faculty the opportunity to learn about medical practices in the developed world that may be applicable globally, now or in the future. Selective activities have also included workshops on global medical issues (e.g. FGM and malaria), visits to medical museums in the UK (e.g. The Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh), and attendance at the North of England Physicians Symposia at various hospital locations in the North East England.

Cardiology in Ghana

In terms of knowledge and understanding of global health issues, the SGU/NU MD students taking the GToM selective benefit in many ways, not least in the appreciation of the humanitarian ethos that is so fundamental to medical practice. The following account of the work of a group of local UK physicians carrying out cardiac surgery in Ghana, presented in another Fall 2019 GSLS lecture, is a good example of the ethos that the GToM selective attempts to instill in its participants.

In September, students and faculty from the SGU/NU program were privileged to hear a presentation by Mr. Enoch Akowuah, clinical director and cardiothoracic surgeon at South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust, about the work of his team in performing heart operations in an under-resourced region of Ghana. His team included cardiologists, surgeons, an anesthesiologist, intensive care nurses, and technicians. Their destination was Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, which they visited in February 2019. The audience learned that Ghana’s only functioning cardiothoracic center is located in southern city of Accra. In central and northern Ghana—the area served by KATH—there has been no access to cardiac surgery for the 15 million people who live there. Although KATH had recently appointed a cardiac surgeon, there was a severe lack of the equipment required to carry out heart surgery for the many patients who require operations.

The incidence of acute rheumatic fever in Ghana is very high, with 13 percent of the population being throat carriers of Group A Streptococcus, 40 percent of whom develop rheumatic heart disease. In KATH itself, rheumatic heart disease accounts for 22 percent of all admissions with heart failure. By contrast, the mainly Western condition of ischemic heart disease accounts for only 4 percent of cases. The median age of patients admitted with heart failure is 29 and, of all deaths in KATH, 29 percent are due to heart failure resulting from rheumatic heart disease. Until the visit of Mr. Ahowuah’s team, no patients received surgery for this condition.

The Teeside team was inspired by the work of Dr. Emily Farkas, a US cardiac surgeon famed for her humanitarian work in developing countries. Dr. Farkas’ CTSNet video on her work in Nigeria was the trigger for Ghanaian-born Enoch Akowuah to bring together a team for the medical mission to Kumasi. Indeed, Dr. Farkas was present on the team’s arrival at KATH to support them with her wealth of experience in similar missions throughout the world.

Mr. Akowuah explained to his audience that, before the mission could start, £30,000 needed to be raised to fund the equipment and medical supplies required for the intended operations. His videos about the logistics of raising that sum of money, together with the purchasing, storing, transporting, and unpacking the equipment in Ghana, allowed the audience to appreciate the amount of work and planning required even before the mission began.

Videos were also shown of the South Tees team enacting a “practice run” operation on a manikin; this highlighted issues, particularly in resources, that needed to be resolved before surgery was performed on real patients. Mr. Akowuah then showed clips of operations involving both heart valve replacement and the fitting of pacemakers on actual patients.

It was sobering to hear that the cost of a pacemaker is about $6,000 whilst the average annual income in Ghana is $2,200. Not surprisingly, the many young adults in the locality who have rheumatic heart disease cannot afford treatment. However, the work of this volunteer team is ongoing, and they hope to continue to fund the equipment required for the operations, including artificial heart valves and cardiopulmonary bypass circuits. In addition to the work the team carried out in Ghana, 10 KATH doctors are currently being trained at the Teeside University hospitals, with the intention of them being able to carry on the work of Mr. Akowuah’s team in the future. Indeed three of the physicians from Kumasi—Dr. Yaw Adu-Boakye (cardiologist) Dr. Lambert Appiah, (cardiologist), and Dr. Samuel Kontoh (pharmacist)—were present at the lecture and were able to have further discussions with the SGU MD students afterwards, including the possibility of raising funds for the vital work being carried out in Ghana.

Learn more about this initiative by visiting justgiving.com/crowdfunding/heartsurgerymissiontoghana.