9 Questions with MD Student Ololade Akinfemiwa

Ololade Akinfemiwa

Ololade Akinfemiwa, MD ’21 (expected), is enjoying her challenging internal medicine rotation as a fourth-year student at a clinic affiliated with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, she chose St. George’s University because, after speaking with a number of graduates practicing in the US and Canada in various specialties—all encouraged her to apply. “I am glad I did,” she said.

Hoping to inspire more black women to go into medicine, Miss Akinfemiwa is active within the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), serving as vice chair of the national chapter’s Community Service Committee. SNMA is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students by addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of “clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.”

Get to know Miss Akinfemiwa below.

1. What are you learning right now in your internal medicine rotation?

Ololade Akinfemiwa: I am currently on an outpatient rotation and I am learning the importance of effective communication of health-related information. It makes a huge difference when patients have a good understanding of their medical conditions and how to manage them.

2. What is the most surprising or exciting lesson/case learned while in clinical rotations?

Akinfemiwa: I saw a patient with Lyme disease with the classic rash that looks like a bull’s eye. I had so many questions about it and was excited to actually see it in person.

3. Do you plan to go into primary care or specialize?

Akinfemiwa: I plan on going into emergency medicine and I have an interest in global health.

4. Favorite rotation/elective so far?

Akinfemiwa: Emergency medicine, of course!

5. What do you miss most about Grenada?

Akinfemiwa: I miss the warm weather, beaches, and Umbrellas Beach Bar.

6. What has been the most challenging part of clinicals?

Akinfemiwa: Right now, the most challenging part of clinicals has been seeing the devastating effects of COVID firsthand.

7. What has stood out to you most about the role of physicians during this pandemic and how has it affected the type of doctor you aspire to be?

Akinfemiwa: This pandemic has highlighted the need for more doctors and revealed the vulnerabilities in the healthcare system. Knowing that things could have gone better has only inspired me to be a part of making that possible.

8. February 3 is National Women Physicians Day. What does it mean to you to be a black woman about to enter the medical field? What do you hope to accomplish as a doctor?

Akinfemiwa: Black female doctors represent only about 2 percent of physicians in the US. I decided to go into medicine to help fight for health equity. I hope to inspire more black women to pursue medicine because we are truly needed. Black physicians are essential to achieving equity in medical care and I look forward to supporting and advocating for patients as an emergency medicine physician.

9. Best piece of advice about clinical rotations for basic sciences med students?

Akinfemiwa: Take care of yourself and listen to your body. If you love to take naps like me, take those naps!

 

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

 

The News Stories that Defined the School of Veterinary Medicine in 2020

top vet stories of 2020

From being on the front lines of animal care during the COVID pandemic to discussions on diversity and equality within the veterinary field, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine students, faculty, and alumni made their mark in 2020.

In early June, 180 SVM graduates joined the network of more than 1,900 Doctors of Veterinary Medicine making an impact through veterinary medicine around the world. Many of these graduates took the next step in their careers as aspiring veterinarians by matching into highly competitive postgraduate positions.

When it comes to the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians, including in zoos and aquariums. In Grenada, School of Veterinary Medicine also sprung into action as the country’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.

It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.

These are the stories that underscore the School of Veterinary Medicine’s strengths and define us as a University as we aim to enhance student success and grow the number of animal health professionals around the world. Read on to see the top SVM news stories of 2020 on SGU.edu.

SVM Commencement 2020

The School of Veterinary Medicine celebrated its 17th annual commencement on June 6, with 180 students from nine countries and 39 US states graduating from the school. For the first time in history, the ceremony was held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many SVM alums began highly competitive postgraduate positions in a variety of clinical specialty areas such as orthopedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, immunology, diagnostic imaging, and pathology, matching into positions at reputable veterinary hospitals throughout the US and Canada.

 

Dr. Heather Douglas, DVM ’06

How COVID Impacted Veterinarians

It’s not just human healthcare that has been dramatically impacted as a result of the COVID pandemic—animal medicine had its own challenges and some surprising opportunities for veterinarians.

Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, for example, discussed how the disease is changing the way that small animal veterinarians treat patients and interact with pet owners.

“Initially, businesses like my own were slow when lockdowns were in place,” said Heather Douglas, DVM ’06, owner of Douglas Animal Hospital in Osseo, MN. “Then in mid- to late-April the floodgates opened. This influx was due to clients waiting to bring their pets in during lockdown, clients paying more attention to their pets while at home for extended periods so that illnesses were being detected much sooner, and people adopting new pets to decrease loneliness and feelings of isolation at home. … I’ve had to become more efficient and spend more time communicating with owners.”

 

SGU's Large Animal Resource Facility

A Look Inside SVM’s Large Animal Resource Facility

SGU’s Large Animal Resource Facility (LARF) is a one-acre farm that is home to the equine and bovine teaching herds that students of the School of Veterinary Medicine use to gain crucial large animal clinical skills prior to their fourth year.

Dr. Inga Karasek, director of the Large Animal Resource Facility, was one of a handful of SGU staff who remained on the island to care for the animals during the early days of the global pandemic. In this video, she shared why the farm’s ecosystem—even while students are learning remotely—is important to studying veterinary medicine at SGU.

 

The Laboratory Personnel Behind SGU’s COVID Testing Site

Even before the coronavirus disease reached the shores of Grenada, the School of Veterinary Medicine, together with the Government of Grenada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), were prepared for it. With the proper equipment and a team led by two staff members—both SGU graduates—in the SVM’s molecular virology lab, served as Grenada’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic.

The effort facilitated testing for more than 2,000 SGU students, faculty, and staff, over 1,200 members of the Grenadian community, as well as individuals arriving in Grenada via plane or cruise ship.

 

VOICE SGU chapter

VOICE Seeks to Champion Veterinarian Diversity at The Student Level

It’s no secret that Black and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in the veterinary profession. Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment, or VOICE, a national organization with student chapters across US and Caribbean veterinary schools, seeks to increase “awareness, respect, and sensitivity to differences among all individuals and communities in the field of veterinary medicine.”

VOICE SGU chapter and its current president, Antonia Nickleberry, MBA, a Term 2 student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, discussed with SGU News why diversity in the field matters and how SVM students can get involved.

“The world around is us diversifying rapidly,” Ms. Nickleberry said. “Veterinary medicine seems to have a delayed response to this diversification and therefore, those within the profession are not as aware as they should be. This can lead to major sensitivity issues between classmates and colleagues that can be avoided by educating and empowering those in this profession, starting with the students.”

The News Stories that Defined the School of Medicine in 2020

2020 Top News Stories

For a wide range of reasons, 2020 is a year that we won’t soon forget—from the heroism on the front lines of medicine, powerful demonstrations surrounding racial equality, and the change to our day-to-day lives and our perspectives.

It was a monumental year in so many ways for St. George’s University School of Medicine, its faculty, staff, and students. SGU made history when students and graduates secured 1,124 residency positions across the US and Canada in 2020—a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies* and a record for the University. Over the summer, approximately 450 of those grads began their residencies in New York-New Jersey area hospitals, some of the hardest-hit hospitals in the nation during the early days of the COVID pandemic.

SGU profiled many alumni across specialties and locales who tirelessly donated their time and services to help those suffering from the disease, some of those who sacrificed seeing their own families to help the sickest of COVID patients.

It was also a year in which diversity and equality was brought to the limelight. The University had frank discussions with its entire community about the importance of listening, learning, and supporting, not only in the current climate but going forward.

These are the stories that underscore the School of Medicine’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 2020 on SGU.edu.

*SGU student data as of November 2020

Match Day 2020

Match Day 2020

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SGU students and graduates were called on to assist in the fight against the virus. On Match Day 2020 in March, they learned of where they would begin their career as physicians. Positions were secured across a wide range of specialties—including anesthesiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pathology, and many more—and spanned across the United States.

All told, 1,124 SGU graduates had started residency in the US and Canada in 2020, which equals a 95 percent residency placement rate for eligible 2020 US graduates who applied for US residencies*—a record for the University—including some 450 SGU grads in New York-New Jersey area hospitals. They joined a proud network of 18,000 SGU physicians who have made a difference in healthcare around the world.

*SGU student data as of November 2020

 

A Conversation on Diversity in the Medical Profession: Thoughts from SGU’s Student National Medical Association

With the tragic deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, and as social justice events were held around the world, SGU News connected with SGU chapter members of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). The national organization is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students by addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of “clinically excellent, culturally competent, and socially conscious physicians.” SGU chapter members shared their perspectives on the world around us, the importance of the SNMA’s mission, and how students can get involved.

 

Wyckoff Hospital

SGU Adds New US Clinical Sites for Medical School Student Core Rotations

SGU’s clinical network is growing. This fall, seven US hospitals joined the SGU family, including several in California as well as a new venue into the South that allow third-year medical students to receive core clinical training during a crucial time in healthcare.

These hospitals included:

  • Baton Rouge General Medical Center in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto, CA
  • Hemet Valley Medical Center in Hemet, CA
  • MacNeal Hospital in Maywood, IL
  • Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, CA
  • Westchester General Hospital in Miami, FL
  • Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY

 

Georgios Mihalopulos, MD '18

True Calling: From the Navy to the OR

Critical problem solving. A wide array of challenges. The operating room was exactly the type of workplace atmosphere that Georgios Mihalopulos, MD ’18, set out to find when he began working toward a career in medicine. It also mirrored his life as an officer in the Canadian Navy, a position that he held before and during medical school.

“I always say I love stress and I hate sleep, so that’s why surgery is the perfect field for me,” said Mihalopulos, now a third-year surgery resident at Waterbury Hospital in Connecticut. “It just seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do.”

 

SGU and Grenada partner to address COVID-19 pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic spread throughout the world, SGU and the Government of Grenada worked hand in hand, developing and operating a COVID testing facility, and bringing in new devices to treat ill patients.

VOICE: Championing Diversity in the Veterinary Profession at the Student Level

VOICE SGU chapter

It’s no secret that Black and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in the veterinary profession. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 104,000 veterinarians in the US in 2019, 89.8 percent were white, 6.1 percent were Asian, while just 1.6 percent were Hispanic or Latino, and virtually none were Black or African American.

Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment, or VOICE, seeks to increase “awareness, respect, and sensitivity to differences among all individuals and communities in the field of veterinary medicine.” The national organization has nearly two dozen student chapters across US and Caribbean veterinary schools.

Veterinary students at St. George’s University created the VOICE SGU chapter in 2018 and currently has more than 280 members, according to its Facebook group.

SGU News reached out the VOICE SGU’s current president, Antonia Nickleberry, MBA, a Term 2 student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, to hear more about why diversity in the field matters and how SVM students can get involved.VOICE SGU 2020-2021 president, Antonia Nickleberry, MBA, a Term 2 student in the School of Veterinary Medicine

St. George’s University: What is the overall mission of VOICE SGU?

Antonia Nickleberry: The overall mission of VOICE can be best described by the following excerpt on the national website: The organization aims to “celebrate diversity within our profession, to encourage campus environments that embrace diversity and promote the success of all students, and to emphasize the importance of cross-cultural awareness in veterinary medicine in order to meet the needs of our diversifying clientele. Lastly, in order to ensure a more diverse future for veterinary medicine, VOICE chapters provide leadership and mentorship to youth, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, who are interested in careers as veterinarians.”

SGU: Why is it important to raise awareness of and encourage diversity in vet medicine?

Antonia Nickleberry: The world around is us diversifying rapidly. Veterinary medicine seems to have a delayed response to this diversification and therefore, those within the profession are not as aware as they should be. This can lead to major sensitivity issues between classmates and colleagues that can be avoided by educating and empowering those in this profession, starting with the students.

SGU: How does the organization champion equality and diversity in veterinary medicine at the student level?

Antonia Nickleberry: The organization brings awareness to our classmates. It is important that we begin, and continue to understand, that diversity is more than just race; it is also age, gender, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. These differences commonly separate us. However, by acknowledging and being aware of those differences, we can make a large impact not only within veterinary medicine, but across the world.

SGU: What kinds of activities/events are you holding, especially as students are virtual, to bring the group together?

Antonia Nickleberry: The pandemic has made it fairly difficult to host events, but we hosted our first virtual diversity trivia night via Zoom on November 17. It was a huge success! We had about 22 attendees and we were able to have fun and open dialogue about overall diversity as well as diversity specific to veterinary medicine. There were first, second, and third place winners who won $100, $60, $30 electronic visa gift cards, respectively.

Additionally, every month, we feature a “DVM of the Month” on our Facebook page, which highlights veterinarians of all backgrounds to shatter the image of who and what a veterinarian looks like. Being that the field was dominated by white men for many years before shifting to white women, we believe it is important to display those who can identify in different genders, races, nationalities, etc. Diversity is cloaked in this profession and this is our way of removing that cloak.

In addition, when we are on campus, we also visit children at the orphanages in Grenada. While visiting, we spend time with the children and teach them how to handle animals as well as inform them on what veterinarians do and what the field of veterinary medicine consists of. This event allows us to impact these children and hopefully influence the future racial demographic of veterinary medicine.

SGU: How has SGU’s overall student/faculty diversity contributed to the mission of VOICE SGU? And how will it help students in their overall careers as veterinarians?

Antonia Nickleberry: The diverse student and faculty population encourages diverse relationships and fosters an environment that is comfortable for students from all walks of life. This will better prepare students to interact with diverse clientele once they begin practicing.

SGU: Who should join VOICE SGU? How can they join?

Antonia Nickleberry: Anyone who desires a diverse, aware, educated, and empowering experience in veterinary medicine should join VOICE SGU—no matter what race, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status they represent. Being that VOICE is a sub-organization of Student American Veterinary Medical Association, there are no dues and students are able to join by attending our general body meetings, following us on Facebook, and participating in our events.

SGU: What are your personal career aspirations and why did you choose vet medicine as your career?

Antonia Nickleberry: I am originally from Texarkana, TX. I am interested in specializing in radiology, surgery, or emergency medicine, and starting my own private practice. Additionally, I aspire to continue to give back to the veterinary community by providing resources, scholarships, and mentorship to Black pre-veterinary and veterinary students through my newly founded online resource platform, TwoPointOne.

 

– Laurie Chartorynsky

 

SAS grad: Don’t miss out on “the entire experience” at SGU

2020 graduate Dominic Gaspard has used his degree to earn a teaching position at Anglican High School in St. George’s.

From his time as a student at St. George’s University, Dominic Gaspard values the people he met and the adventures he went on as much as foundation it provided for his career

“If you come to SGU with the mindset of obtaining a degree as fast as possible, you would have missed the entire experience,” said the 2020 School of Arts and Sciences alum who earned degrees in international business as well as accounting and finance.

Currently a teacher at the Anglican High School in Grenada, Mr. Gaspard is also a full-time entrepreneur involved in two business ventures, one of which started as a project for the SAS Principles of Marketing course in which they were tasked with creating a marketing plan for a new product. Their product of choice: insect repellent candles.

SAS grad Dominic Gaspard encourages students to take advantage of the “entire experience” at SGU

After receiving positive reviews, he encouraged his classmates to join him in pursuing the concept further. They later took the idea to the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation’s Young Innovators Challenge where similar sentiments were echoed.

“Most of my time at SGU was actually spent with the SGU community and forming relationships. I’ve learned so much more outside the classroom thanks to the network I’ve built,” said Mr. Gaspard. “The level of student support and student engagement greatly enhanced my studies, especially given the additional responsibilities at home with my mom.”

The highlight of his time was the opportunity to participate in the 2018 Global X-Culture Conference and Symposium held at the University of Macerata in Italy. There he competed among 140 students from 29 countries, and he and his team captured one of only four company challenge trophies. In addition, the international experience provided him with the opportunity to learn about various cultures, interact with different nationalities and understand the importance of global perspectives.

“To SGU, I would say thank you—it’s the most enlightening experience I have ever had is my university experience,” he said. “That slogan ‘Think Beyond’ is something that has been branded into me and I don’t see the world the same way as I used to. I’m always looking at the bigger picture.”

It was not only a reward for him and his colleagues, but when he was faced with personal challenges leading up the Symposium—prompting him to second-guess his participation—he was instead buoyed by the enormous outpouring of support from his fellow classmates, as well as faculty and staff alike.

“I have been involved with another universities, and when I assess the level of student support systems SGU has in place, I can tell there is a conscious effort to take care of both students and staff,” he said.

During his time at SGU, Mr. Gaspard was also named president of the Business Students Association and served as a key member of the orientation team.  For those who aspire to pursue any number of careers locally, regionally, or around the world, he would implore them weigh all their options but also to know that “being a product of St. George’s University, including the quality of the education, the level of student support, and the extensive ability to network, prepares you for life.”

– Tornia Charles

Then a student, Dominic Gaspard (left), aided by his team of international students, was presented with one of the four company challenge trophies at the 2018 Global X-Culture Conference and Symposium held in Italy.

4 Generations of Nurses: The Solomon Legacy Continues at SGU

Nursing student Molly Solomon (left) with her mother, Dr. Jennifer Solomon, who are part of a long line of nurses in the family.

On Jennifer Solomon’s bookshelf sits “The Complete System of Nursing”, a book passed down from through the generations of nurses in her family. The book’s inside front cover includes handwritten notes from her now deceased mother and grandmother, pearls of wisdom and inspiration that she holds dear.

Dr. Solomon, the chair of nursing and allied health science at St. George’s University, beams with pride when talking about her predecessors in the field, and especially so when discussing the fourth-generation nurse to be—her daughter, now a first-term student at SGU this fall.

“It’s such a proud feeling to be part of this family of nurses as I’ve gained all the principles passed on through the years,” according to Dr. Solomon.

As a soon-to-be nurse herself, her daughter, Molly, feels she has benefitted immensely from the values passed down through the generations. “I feel that being a fourth-generation nurse has given me a chance to pass on and learn the amazing and life changing skills nurses have,” she said. “It has helped me as a nursing student by seeing the bigger picture, how my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother have impacted their world, and the fact that I have a chance to help and change my generation as a nurse pushes me to be the best I can.”

 

 

“Nursing teaches you communication skills, critical thinking, people management, cultural nuances, and other life skills that you need,” Dr. Solomon added. “You are there at people’s most vulnerable moments. It is such an honor and privilege to be there when someone needs you.”

Although she was never “urged” to enter nursing, Dr. Solomon recalls aspiring to be like her mom, who was well respected in the community and worked long hours, yet still managed to attend all her extracurricular activities. Her grandmother attended nursing school in the late 1950s in Manchester, England, a time when there was little psychological support to nurses experiencing trauma from patient ordeals.

Dr. Solomon, too, studied nursing in England, a certification that has allowed her to travel extensively while working, and opened the door to a new life in Grenada. She and her husband visited the island while sailing throughout the Caribbean from England, and enjoyed it so much that they decided to make it their home.

Although the first three generations of nurses were trained in England, her daughter, Molly, will learn in a vastly different environment—Grenada. Nurse Solomon praises St. George’s University’s nursing program as it equips students with the tools and support needed to manage any traumatic experiences had while training.

 

“You are there at people’s most vulnerable moments. It is such an honor and privilege to be there when someone needs you.”

 

“I had the opportunity to send my daughter to the UK to study nursing, but I honestly believe in this program,” said Doctor Solomon.

The three-year nursing program leads to graduates being eligible to sit the Regional Exam for Nursing Registration (RENR) exam which, upon successful completion, allows students to for acquire licensure to work as registered nurses in the CARICOM member states.

“As a first-year nursing student, I am excited and intrigued as to what the nursing program can offer for me,” said Molly Solomon. “Thus far, looking at the courses I will be taking, I am ready for the challenge.”

For more information on the St. George’s University degree in General Nursing, please visit the website or register for a virtual information session delivered by the School of Arts and Sciences where your most important questions will be answered.

– Tornia Charles

World Health Organization redesignates collaborating center at SGU

As public health has become even more of a focus with the emergence of COVID-19 worldwide, St. George’s University continues to be a beacon for education, research, and service collaboration in the Caribbean. The World Health Organization (WHO), together with its regional representative, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), recently re-designated SGU’s Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (DPHPM) as a Collaborating Center (WHO CC) on Environmental and Occupational Health through August 2023.

Such centers are established to support global health initiatives implemented by the WHO, for the benefit of all member countries. The designation provides a foundation for collaborating centers to develop partnerships with national and international authorities, as well as to generate resources from funding partners.

Dr. Christine Richards

“The continued efforts by faculty and students as well as civil society, governmental and international partnerships demonstrate the benefit of collaboration in public health, which the WHO CC symbolizes,” said Dr. Christine Richards, DPHPM interim chair, who leads the Collaborating Center with SGU faculty member Odran Nigel Edwards.

The WHO CC was originally established on the SGU campus in 2012. The DPHPM, together with the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), also located on SGU’s campus, are uniquely positioned to lend support, having collaborated on several environmental research programs that addressed occupational health among nutmeg workers and health care workers, renewable energy, land degradation, food and water borne diseases, and zoonotic diseases and presently the response to COVID-19.

SGU’s DPHPM, along with WINDREF, also serves as the Caribbean’s only United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) since 2013. The UNFCCC RCC’s primary goal is to work with public and private sector organizations, as well as government agencies, to enhance the implementation of clear technology activities for the Caribbean the region in order to achieve carbon reduction targets to mitigate climate change.

– Brett Mauser

SVM Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise Dishes on Crucial Communication Skills for Veterinarians

Vet telehealth

At the heart of any relationship, including doctor-to-patient, and whether that patient is human or animal, is good communication.

Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise, assistant dean of fourth-year clinical training for the School of Veterinary Medicine and professor in the Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery, explained why it is important that vet students receive ample training and preparation of effective client communication skills, including a focus on the growing practice of telehealth within vet medicine.

St. George’s University: How are communication topics taught to vet students?

Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise, assistant dean of fourth-year clinical training for the School of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise

Dr. Lauren Nicki Wise: Students are required to take client communication labs as part of SVM’s Professional Development Curriculum, which is a set of six courses that occur in Terms 1-6. The curriculum focuses on the “non-technical competencies” that successful veterinarian’s practice on a daily basis. These competencies include, but are not limited to:

  • leadership
  • communication
  • ethics
  • wellness
  • business/financial literacy
  • evidence-based practice

Part of the communication curriculum includes laboratory sessions where students practice client communication with simulated clients (SCs), or actors who have been trained extensively to fill this role in the curriculum. Through these simulations, students gain invaluable experience before being placed into a real exam room with a real client. These labs are mandatory and occur in Terms 5 and 6.

SGU: How did the curriculum translate to virtual learning once the pandemic hit?

Dr. Wise: Before COVID, these labs occurred in person but when the pandemic forced campus closure, we adapted the labs to an online format over Zoom. Working with our collaborators in the Washington State University CVM Clinical Communication Program, for the Fall 2020 term we have altered these labs to focus on telehealth and the role that this plays in the lives of veterinarians all over the world due to the pandemic. Aside from the SCs, the labs are team taught by SVM faculty who are passionate about this topic and have been trained to coach the students through these experiences.

SGU: Do the labs include both small and large animal cases?

Dr. Wise: For the Fall 2020 term we only focused on small animal cases, but for the Spring 2021 term we will be adding large animal as well. But the beauty of communication skills is that it really has nothing to do with the species or the details of the case. You can connect with your client in the same way, using the same skills, whether you are examining a kitten or a chicken.

SGU: What are the key takeaways that students should know after taking the course?

Dr. Wise: First, it is important that students realize these skills are learned just like learning to spay a dog. You are not born being a good communicator. It takes work and practice—yet mastering these skills is extremely important to be a successful veterinarian.

Secondly, everyone’s communication style is different. It takes lots of practice to find what works for you and your clients. And these labs give them the tools and experience to continue their growth in clinical year and once in practice.

SGU: Why is telemedicine is an increasingly important practice in vet medicine?

Dr. Wise: The pandemic has created a situation where many veterinarians are reducing their contact with the public to protect themselves and their staff. As such, many client interactions are being done over the phone or on Zoom. We felt it was very important to use these labs as a platform for students to be exposed to this type of communication since many of them will likely need to feel comfortable with it in the future.

SGU: Why will it be important for students to know these skills as they enter their careers?

Dr. Wise: Being able to effectively communicate with your clients is one of the main skills that most veterinarians will use on a daily basis. Research shows us that effective communication reduces client complaints, increases client compliance (which results in healthier pets), and enhances veterinary job satisfaction (and thus wellness).

– Laurie Chartorynsky

School of Veterinary Medicine Spotlight: A Look Inside the Large Animal Resource Facility

St. George’s University’s Large Animal Resource Facility (LARF) is a one-acre farm located just outside of its True Blue campus in Grenada. The facility is home to the equine and bovine teaching herds that students of the School of Veterinary Medicine use to gain crucial large animal clinical skills prior to their fourth year.

Dr. Inga Karasek, director of the Large Animal Resource Facility and an assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine, is one of a dozen SGU faculty and staff members, including technicians, clerks, and veterinarians, who care for the animals living on the LARF. She was also one of a handful of SGU staff who remained on the island to care for the animals during the early days of the global pandemic. Dr. Karasek shared why the farm’s ecosystem—even while students are learning remotely—is important to studying veterinary medicine at SGU.

St. George’s University: Why is the facility important for students who are learning veterinary medicine?

Inga Karasek: The majority of today’s students come from cities or heavily populated areas. Gone are the days where most veterinary students came from rural counties. This means that the average veterinary student has had no or minimal exposure to large animals. Veterinary students are expected to become proficient in dealing with all species by the time they are finished with their curriculum. It is important for them to acquire the skills and the confidence of handling large animals prior to their clinical year.

SGU: What type of hands-on experience do students receive through the LARF?

IK: Students learn to complete physical examinations on the cows, horses, and donkeys with more specialized examinations in upper terms, e.g. lameness examinations and neurologic examinations in horses. In their last year, they are also able to perform reproductive examinations on the bovine herd.

SGU: How has the LARF incorporated distance learning while students are away from campus?

IK: We recently did a live zoom session for SGU’s large animal society where we looked at a couple of lame horses on the yard. Our large animal professors are also incorporating live physical examination sessions for their courses as well. In addition, there are a handful of term 6 students on island and they came to the LARF to cover their clinical skills externship requirements for the term. We also allow a small number of students to come and help at the weekends if they so wish. All, of course, following COVID protocols.

SGU: How do you protect the animals?

IK: Animals are vaccinated against endemic diseases and have 24/7 veterinary care. Every time an animal is used in a lab with students, it is noted in their “Animal Use” files to ensure that animals are not being overused. This is also a mandate of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which every institution that uses live animals for teaching or research purposes must have in place. (The IACUC reviews the practices on the LARF and other areas at SGU where live animals are to ensure that animals are always treated fairly.)

SGU: During the height of the COVID pandemic, who took care of the animals? What precautions were put in place and continue to be practiced for safe veterinary care?

IK: The farm staff, myself, and Drs. Janicke and Nigito took care of the animals. During the early days of the pandemic, we implemented an initiative where only two staff members and one veterinarian were allowed to be on the farm at a time. This allowed us to practice social distancing, even if it did make some jobs more challenging accomplish. Today, masks must be worn if persons are working in close proximity with each other, while handwashing/sanitizing is to be done prior to entering the LARF and on leaving. There is a boot wash to walk through on entering and leaving. As mandated by SGU, all staff and faculty are PCR tested as well.

SGU: What is one thing you would like the SGU community to know about the LARF?

IK: Students really enjoy spending time on the LARF, and many have made the point that they were surprised by how much they enjoyed working with the horses and cows. These experiences really open their eyes to the possibility of working in mixed animal or large animal practices upon graduation. This is a great thing—as North America is lacking large animal veterinarians, especially in very rural areas, and this will affect the care of the production of animals in those regions (cattle, pigs, chickens, etc.).

The veterinarians that work here are also those involved in the One Health, One Medicine clinics and go out to local farms with students to take care of the community’s large animals.

SGU: Anything else about the SGU community should know about the LARF?

IK: I believe one of the strengths of the program at SGU is that because of the relatively basic setup of our facility, students get multiple opportunities to practice real-life general practitioner’s difficulties that need creative solutions. This makes our students (and faculty) become more flexible and resourceful people, and able to find solutions with minimal resources.

We are proud of the work that the LARF does and its contributions to making SGU students’ excellent veterinarians.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

School of Veterinary Medicine Hosts Virtual Wellness Event for Students

More than 50 veterinary students attended a virtual wellness event on Saturday, October 17, hosted by St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and the SVM Affairs group.

The Zoom presentation featured Dr. Melanie Goble, vice president and a founding board member of Not One More Vet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterinarians in need of mental health support. Dr. Goble’s presentation was titled “Finding Motivation, Setting Boundaries, and Life During COVID.”

Following Dr. Goble’s speech, there was a question-and-answer panel consisting of Dr. Goble; Dr. Barbara Landon, director of SGU’s Psychological Services Center; Dr. Adria Rodriguez, SVM’s wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion officer and the faculty advisor the SVM Wellness Committee; as well as Drs. India Paharsingh, Arend Werners, and Anne Marie Corrigan. The Q&A consisted of questions submitted by the students of the SVM community.

“We are thrilled with the turnout for our virtual mental health event,” said Jennifer Kirk, DVM ’22 (expected), SGA’s president of SVM Affairs. “Mental health is a very serious issue in the field of veterinary medicine, particularly during this unprecedented time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal was to provide students with resources and an opportunity to ask questions and provide a sense of community and support that we are all in this together.”

Dr. Corrigan, SVM’s associate dean of academic programs and professor of small animal medicine and Surgery, echoed Ms. Kirk’s sentiment: “Dr. Goble provided a very engaging discussion about the necessity of self-care. We plan to host more of these events for our students.”

Emotional and Psychological Support  

To acknowledge World Mental Health Day, SGU reminded students of the free mental health support resources provided by the school.

If you or one of your colleagues needs help, there are several options:

  • Email PSCscheduling@sgu.edu to set up an appointment with a psychologist. Crisis appointments are available 24/7 by phoning the Psychological Services Center at (473) 439-2277 during business hours, or after 5pm and on weekends through the University Health Clinic at (473) 444-4671.
  • To receive 24/7 counseling services, register with Brooklyn Counseling Service at SGU-BCS Counseling or call (877) 328-0993.
  • Visit our self-help resources page or our Instagram page for tips about managing stress and isolation related to COVID-19.
  • Visit the Well on the SGU portal for a collection of health and wellness activities and resources from SGU designed to help your mind, body, and soul.
  • Use the self-help therapy app WellTrack for self-help. WellTrack will track your mood, and contains quick recorded lessons for managing depression, anxiety, and stress.

Additional Mental Health Resources

Dr. Landon hosts a weekly Mindfulness Workshop on Thursdays at 12pm AST. All are invited to join (https://sgu.zoom.us/j/97007160217; Meeting ID: 970 0716 0217).

Students are encouraged to take advantage of these services and to review the resources available from the Psychological Services Center.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky