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.

Grenada-Born SGU Alum Returns Home To Care For His Nation’s Heart

For Diego Humphrey, MD ’84, the road to achieving his dreams of becoming a doctor was not an easy one. Although fraught with obstacles, especially financial ones, he never deviated from his path to one day practice medicine.

Now with more than 35 years as a practicing cardiologist, the 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.

Dr. Humphrey was born in Birchgrove, St. Andrew’s, but grew up in the bustling industrial area of Grand Anse after his mother moved their family so she could be closer to her job at a nearby hotel. Upon completing secondary school, he received partial sponsorship from the Grenadian government to attend SGU, graduating in 1984 as one of the original members of the first class of Grenadian-born SGU alumni.

After graduating, he spent two years at the General Hospital serving the Grenadian people. That’s when he stepped out of his comfort zone.

“In 1986, I felt destined to venture out for additional training and took a big chance in relocating to the US,” he said. “In those days—unlike today—it was very difficult to get into a residency training program as an international medical graduate. It took three years before I got an internship/resident position at Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. Once I got my foot in the door, my passion, drive, and hard work paid off when I became one of the first to be accepted into the cardiology fellowship program.”

SGU students now have access to clinical training opportunities at over 70 leading hospitals and clinical centers in the United States, Canada, Grenada, and United Kingdom, and secure quality US-based residencies every year, including more than 960 first-year positions in 2019 alone.

 

“I am proud to be part of a program that, since its inception in 2008, has provided millions of dollars in service to the Grenadian people and has saved countless lives.”

Diego Humphrey, MD

 

After achieving much success in the US, Dr. Humphrey, who never forgot his roots, turned his eye back to Grenada, officially joining the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN) in 2016. He now returns each year, donating his time and expertise to the program that enables St. George’s University alumni and friends to aid the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in providing cost-free healthcare services such as ophthalmology, podiatry, endoscopy, and cardiology among others to the country’s citizens.

“Dr. Diego Humphrey is unique to us at SGU-PHuN in that he is our only Grenadian cardiologist within the adult cardiology program” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “As one of the first Grenadian graduates of St. George’s University School of Medicine, he continues to support his home country by providing desperately needed cardiology services. SGU and the island of Grenada are extremely proud and grateful for the work that he has been doing for us and wish to have him on board for many years to come.”

“The work we do here in Grenada is priceless,” stated Dr. Humphrey. “I am proud to be a part of a program that, since its inception in 2008, has provided millions of dollars in service to the Grenadian people and has saved countless lives. In the future, I would like to go a step further and develop a registry of cardiovascular medicine, which would allow us—the Grenadian medical community—to know how we’re doing in managing this chronic disease that poses such a danger to us.”

To that end, Dr. Humphrey, who also practices preventive medicine, has founded Green Heart Mobile Clinic, an organization created to spread information from parish to parish on maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, as well as provide essential cardiology services such as diagnosing, monitoring, and treating cardiovascular disease island-wide.

“Attention needs to be paid not just to treating the problem but to preventing the problem in the first place,” stated Dr. Humphrey. “My mission is to go around the island, especially the rural communities, informing people of the status of their cardiovascular health to help prevent congestive heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.”

He hopes to one day see these efforts culminate in a competition between the parishes for the title of Healthiest Parish in Grenada.

– Ray-Donna Peters

Major Canadian Hospital Joins SGU’s Burgeoning Clinical Network

Pembroke Regional Hospital, Ontario, CanadaAdding to more than 70 clinical training locations across North America and the United Kingdom, St. George’s University has 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.

SGU is the first Caribbean medical school to secure an agreement of this kind with Pembroke. Students will be able to apply for an elective at Pembroke starting in early 2020, selecting from a menu of specialties spanning radiology, surgery, anesthesiology, and more to be announced in the new year.

With more than 80 percent of SGU’s Canadian students from the Ontario area, “this is a golden opportunity for SGU Canadian students to do electives in a major hospital near their home,” said Charles Furey, SGU’s director of admissions for Canada. “Electives are important because of two major reasons—it gives the students the clinical experience and ability to network in a hospital, as well as the opportunity to achieve a letter of reference which is solid gold when seeking residencies.”

Added Furey: “In addition, the agreement also provides an opportunity for Pembroke to have a look firsthand at the quality at SGU students and attempt to recruit them following their residencies. It’s a win-win.”

Located 150 kilometers northwest of Ottawa, Pembroke Regional Hospital delivers a broad range of acute, post-acute, outpatient, and diagnostic services to a mixed urban and rural population of approximately 55,000 residents in the city of Pembroke, the town of Petawawa, and surrounding municipalities, including Petawawa Military Base.

“The medical staff at the Pembroke Regional Hospital are excited to provide an opportunity to SGU students to experience medical practice in a community hospital,” said Dr. Tom Hurley, chief of staff at Pembroke Regional Hospital. “Fourth-year students will be introduced to the Canadian healthcare system through a variety of specialties ranging from internal medicine to surgical subspecialties. Teaching well-trained students is one of many ways we ensure our physicians remain current in their areas of expertise.”

SGU has been building its clinical network north of the US border. SGU recently announced new agreements with two Canadian facilities—Ottawa Cardiovascular Centre and Booth Neurology Clinic—further expanding the opportunities available to fourth-year students to broaden their skills and knowledge in preparation for residency.

Canadians have flourished at SGU and beyond, with 94 percent of eligible students and graduates applying for residency in North America successfully obtaining one in 2019. Eighteen Canadians who applied through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) secured residencies this year in competitive fields ranging from anesthesiology and emergency medicine to pathology and psychiatry.

“St. George’s University is committed to preparing our students with the foundation of knowledge and clinical skills to prosper in their medical careers,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor at St. George’s University. “Adding a premier institution like Pembroke Regional Hospital to our clinical network is a major feather in our cap for students who wish to return to Canada to obtain a valuable and rich experience across a wide variety of disciplines.”

– Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU Veterinary Students Present Research at Parasitology Conference and Heartworm Symposium

 

SGU Veterinary Students Present Research at Parasitology Conference and Heartworm Symposium

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine student Rebecca Howell has stayed the course. An animal aficionado from a young age, she shadowed a veterinarian in both middle school and high school, and later worked in a vet’s office.

Now in her sixth term at SGU, the aspiring veterinarian seized the opportunity to present her first poster at the 27th Conference of the World Association for the Advancement of Veterinary Parasitology (WAAVP) in Madison, WI. Her research titled, “Leptospira: Asymptomatic Carrier Status and Seroprevalence in Unvaccinated Canines Presented for Elective Sterilization to the St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine Junior Surgery and Anesthesia Lab” focused on spreading awareness of the zoonotic bacteria, which poses a serious public health concern since it can be transmitted from animals to humans, as well as encouraging exercising safe practices when cleaning up after pets, since the disease is spread through their urine.

“Attending my first-ever conference was a great experience,” Ms. Howell said. “In addition to connecting with fellow vet students and analyzing research from all over the world, I also learned about new technologies being used in the field today. For example, in Europe there’s an app that allows pet owners and veterinarians to report ticks, therefore it can help track the migration of ticks from one country to the next. This is something that is useful in animal adoption, especially from other countries, because when you adopt an animal, you adopt their diseases as well.”

Also representing SGU at her first international conference was fellow SVM fifth-term student Kathleen Kila. She presented her poster at the 16th Triennial Heartworm Symposium, in New Orleans. Titled, “Reducing ambiguity in canine heartworm disease classification” Ms. Kila’s research unveiled a new classification scheme for identifying heartworm disease in dogs.

“Attending the American Heartworm Society’s meeting was a big deal for me,” stated Ms. Kila. “Getting the chance to present our research on the international stage has been an invaluable experience. With this study, we hoped that by making the process of classifying the different stages of heartworm disease easier, it would remove much of the overlap between classifications that was found within the old system. Our goal was to improve the system by getting rid of that ambiguity thereby making it more objective when evaluating each clinical case of the disease.”

The research conducted by Ms. Howell and Ms. Kila both stemmed from their Veterinary Research Investigator class, a series of SVM core curriculum courses developed in order to enhance student exposure and involvement in research. Students from terms 1 through 4 were placed into small research groups and paired with a faculty mentor, together with whom they worked through each step of designing and implementing a small research project—tackling a different phase of research each term, including writing a manuscript and creating a poster.

“I think the opportunity for our students to conduct research is beneficial because it exposes them to research methodology,” said Dr. Tara Paterson, associate professor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery. “Having the knowledge of how research is conducted allows them to gain a better understanding of evidence-based medicine, which is what we encourage throughout our curriculum so that our students learn to be more critical in their review of scientific work.

“For Rebecca and Kathleen, I believe allowing them the opportunity to present their work to the wider veterinary community at these conferences has not only boosted their self-confidence but has also helped to validate the work they’ve done during this series of courses.”

– Ray-Donna Peters 

SGU APAMSA Student Organization Recognized at National Conference

St. George’s University’s chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) was recently presented the Best Fundraiser Award at the 2019 APAMSA National Conference, held this year at the New York University School of Medicine. It marks the second consecutive year that the student organization has been recognized for its achievements in promoting diversity and awareness in Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) healthcare, having previously won the award last year for Best Chapter of the Year.

“As the first and only international medical school to be a part of APAMSA, we are extremely grateful for the recognition at the national level for two years in a row,” said Kathy Guo, a fourth-year medical student currently completing her clinical rotations at Brooklyn Hospital Center. She is also a former president of the SGU chapter of APAMSA. “While studying in Grenada, we became really involved with the Mt. Airy Young Readers Literacy Program. In addition to our volunteer work tutoring the Young Readers, we received this award for our continued fundraising efforts in which we donate all event proceeds toward this program.”

Themed “The Land of Opportunity: Breaking the Barriers in APIA Healthcare”, this year’s conference focused on the evolving landscape of healthcare and how representation of APIA physicians in leadership positions play an important role in this change. The three-day conference brought together pre-health and health students from across the country to share information on addressing and analyzing a variety of health topics in hopes of inspiring the next generation of leaders that advocate for APIA healthcare issues in their communities.

“We joined APAMSA’s national organization in the US because we wanted our chapter’s involvement to be part of something bigger,” said Ms. Guo. “Many of us who attended this year’s national conference were founding members of the SGU chapter—including our own Clara Sze, who was recently appointed to a national board position as the 2019-2020 Network Director.

“The conference provided invaluable interactions with other medical students from the US where we heard about their experience in med school and during their clinical years,” added Ms. Guo. “They told us about what kind of adversity they encountered, ways to counteract that, and how to help educate our colleagues when navigating our future medical careers.”

About APAMSA

The Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association (APAMSA) is a national organization of medical and pre-medical students committed to addressing the unique health challenges of Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) communities. APAMSA serves as a forum for student leaders to engage these health issues and develop initiatives and projects addressing those needs. The local, regional, and national activities of APAMSA aim to promote the health of the APIA community and help healthcare workers understand how to care for APIA patients in a culturally sensitive manner. Finally, APAMSA provides an important venue for medical students to meet, exchange experiences, and develop personally and professionally through leadership and service.

– Ray-Donna Peters

US Navy Inspires SGU Students During Visit to Grenada

The US Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, while on a five-month deployment to Central and South America and the Caribbean, stopped in Grenada last month as part of the US Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. During their visit, US service members and medical professionals toured St. George’s University’s True Blue campus, and met with SGU students, faculty, and staff to showcase the ship’s medical capabilities and answer questions about life as a physician aboard the Comfort.

“Trying to give long-term care to patients when you only see them for 20 minutes is very tricky,” said Captain Jill Emerick, a 27-year Navy veteran and pediatric endocrinologist. “I joined this mission to learn more about humanitarian medicine and to give back—however, I got back much more than I expected. It’s been amazing interacting with the host nations’ physicians and medical students and learning how things are done in different countries. We were happy to answer all of the students’ questions and felt like we were really making an impact on their future medical careers.

“The most rewarding part of the mission has been in providing patient education,” she added. “It has allowed us to help fill in some of the gaps that there might be in their current health care setting.”

The Comfort’s current team consists of more than 900 personnel, including medical specialists from the military, non-governmental organization volunteers and personnel from partner nations. The 12-country mission includes stops to Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti. So far, the Comfort has had over 40,000 outpatient encounters and performed more than 850 surgeries during the Enduring Promise 2019 initiative.

“I enjoyed meeting the crew and hearing their thoughts on being a doctor in the Navy,” said Matthew Carvey, a second-year medical student and president of the Emergency Medicine Club. “I wanted to learn about their camaraderie and how well they work alongside each other after being cooped up together for months at a time. I deeply respect and admire people in the Navy for lending their time and expertise to these missions. I also think that, after I become a physician, possibly joining them one day would be a great experience.”

Originally the SS Rose City, built in 1976 as a San Clemente Class oil tanker, the USNS Comfort was converted into a hospital ship in 1987. Today, the Comfort is equipped with 1,000 beds, a full-service laboratory and pharmacy, and can provide clinical support such as, casualty transportation, decontamination, oxygen production and portable water production. Its medical site capabilities include pediatrics, cardiology, optometry, dental medicine, physical therapy, and preventive medicine.

“SGU is grateful to the crew members of the USNS Comfort for their candor in sharing the pros and cons of being a physician in the US Navy,” said Dr. Anna Cyrus-Murden, deputy chair of SGU’s Department of Clinical Skills. “Those in attendance all seemed to value the experience, especially the students. Their visit has not only impacted some students’ choice of specialties but has also piqued some of their interests in now serving in the Navy as well.”

Since 2007, personnel involved in USNS Comfort deployments have treated more than 488,000 patients, performed over 5,500 surgeries, completed more than 100 engineering projects, and conducted countless other assistance activities. Their visit to Grenada reflects the United States’ ongoing commitment to friendship, partnership, and solidarity with partner nations.

-Ray-Donna Peters

Cardiologist’s Heart Is With Grenada

St. George’s University graduate Thomas Vazzana, MD ’85, feels compelled to give back to the place where he began his three-decade-long career in medicine. Now a practicing interventional cardiologist in New York, Dr. Vazzana provides essential cardiology services to the people of Grenada free of charge.

The impact of his visits is undeniable, but there is still work to be done, which is why he returns two to three times a year to the island that gave him his start.

“Education is key, especially when explaining how important it is for patients to continue taking their medication—but I think we’re making progress,” said Dr. Vazzana, associate director of the cardiology fellowship program at Staten Island University Hospital. “I see several of the same patients and follow up with them when I’m here, and they’re doing fine.”

His visits are arranged through the SGU-Physician Humanitarian Network (SGU-PHuN), a program that enables St. George’s University alumni and friends to aid the Ministry of Health and Government of Grenada in improving healthcare in the country.

Since its official launch in 2008, the adult cardiology program continues to provide much-needed heart care services for at least 10 months of the year. With each visit seeing approximately 15-20 patients per day and about 80 each week, the program offers consultations, cardiac testing, pacemaker implantations, angioplasties, echocardiograms, and referrals for those needing advanced care. It has provided millions of dollars in service to the Grenadian community, resulting in countless lives saved.

“Dr. Vazzana is a very special member of our cardiology team,” said Brendon La Grenade, vice provost for institutional advancement. “He makes up one of only a handful of interventional cardiologists providing vital cardiovascular services to our population. From the program’s inception under coordinator Johansen Sylvester, MD ’00, to now in its 11th year, we at SGU are thankful to Dr. Vazzana and the vast network of alumni and friends who allow SGU and the Government of Grenada to bridge the cap in healthcare disparity.”

For several years, Dr. Vazzana has been making the trip to Grenada with his wife, Kathleen, a hospital administrator who serves as his clinical assistant while in Grenada. Now, also eager to return is their daughter Virginia Vazzana, MD ’17, who attended SGU after she and her older sister participated in the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy a few years earlier. While there, Dr. V. Vazzana also married fellow SGU alum Hamfreth Shaul Rahming, MD ’17. Both are currently completing their residencies in pediatric endocrinology and internal medicine respectively. According to the elder Vazzana, he made sure to pass along his passion for paying it forward.

“I always say, especially to my students, ‘when you get to your final destination, don’t forget where you came from,’” Dr. Vazzana added. “Because if it wasn’t for here, you wouldn’t have gotten to there.”

 

About Dr. Vazzana

Dr. Thomas Vazzana graduated with a bachelor’s degree from New York University in 1981 before earning his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in 1985. He then completed an internship and residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson, NJ, before serving as a cardiology fellow at the former St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center, West Brighton (now Richmond University Medical Center). He became an attending physician at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan and held the same position at the former Doctors’ Hospital in Concord and again in West Brighton until July 1991, when he opened his own practice.

Two years later, Dr. Vazzana teamed up with fellow cardiologist, Dr. Marc Bogin and was managing partner at Vazzana and Bogin Cardiology Associates in Staten Island until 2011. Dr. Vazzana also served as co-director of the cardiology division for the Staten Island Physician Practice until 2012 and is currently an associate professor at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University.

– Ray-Donna Peters