On Saturday, May 16, the School of Veterinary Medicine held its semiannual awards ceremony, welcoming students across all terms to a virtual event celebrating the highest-achieving veterinary students and faculty members.
The ceremony has long been a customary sendoff of sorts for Term 6 students, a final farewell before they advance to their fourth-year clinical studies. However, with students participating in distance education curriculum as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the SVM held the ceremony online.
“We are so proud of the strides that these students have made toward their careers and the way they have responded to challenges that have arisen,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of the SVM. “It was only right that we came together to acknowledge their achievements and wish them the best of luck as they enter their clinical year.”
To honor the exiting class, Dr. Olson, Dr. Anne Marie Corrigan, associate dean of academics and professor; Dr. Tara Paterson, associate professor and president of the school’s alumni association; and Dr. Inga Karasek, assistant professor, addressed the online crowd, which averaged about 150 attendees. In addition to a wide range of traditional awards acknowledging the best students in all classes, student organizations were welcome to nominate one outstanding sixth-term student for an award.
“Term 6 is really an important time for faculty and students,” said Dr. Paterson, a 2003 SGU graduate herself. “It’s always a little sad because we form these strong connections with our students, but at the same time, it’s exciting to see them move on. They’re one step closer to becoming a veterinarian.”
In addition, the SVM acknowledged two retiring faculty members—Drs. Diana Stone and Ulrike Zieger—with SVM Recognition of Service Awards. Dr. Stone has been a professor in the Department of Pathobiology since 2006, with a stint as its chair from 2014-2017, while Dr. Zieger has served the Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology in several capacities since 2000, including most recently as a professor of veterinary physiology and coordinator of the DVM/MSc Wildlife Conservation Medicine program.
They, like all SVM faculty members, have formed a strong bond with each class of students who calls Grenada home for the first three years of study, a bond that lasts into their time as practicing veterinarians.
“One of the advantages of being at SGU that we have a relatively small faculty, and it’s a very family-oriented type of feel when you’re a member of the vet school,” Dr. Paterson said. “It’s a tight-knit community. The students obviously make very close connections with each other, and they also make connections with the faculty.
“Term 6 is exciting and terrifying at the same time,” she continued. “They’ve finally finished their three years of studies in Grenada and are moving on to their clinical year. For a faculty member, it’s almost like a mama bird watching a baby bird fly away from the nest.”
SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE SPRING 2020 AWARDS
Outstanding Colleague Awards
Term 1: Perry Jacobs
Term 2: Ireny Barsoum
Term 3: Adriana Kalaska
Term 4: Maria Coppola
Term 5: Jennifer Kirk
Term 6: Carley Jones, Jaclyn Gremley
Adrienne Lotton Memorial Award: Carley Jones
Zoetis Revolution Awards
Small Animal Internal Medicine: Teresa Munro
Small Animal Surgery: Kelsey Atamanchuk
Equine Medicine: Kari Schultz
Large Animal Internal Medicine: Tiffany McElroy
Scholarship of Service: Carley Jones
Student Research: Arielle Bierman
SVM Alumni Scholarship award: Brittnee Frizzol
SVM Alumni Award: Michael Gonzales
GPGH Hercules Award: Marissa Turner
PAWS Recognition – 6th Term Facilitators
Kailah Buchanan, Collin Hummel, Sibel Catto, Amanda James, AJ Fruges, Cate Wadman, Maria Barandica, Carley Jones, Kelly Larabee
SCAVMA: Student Chapter of the AVMA
SAVMA Award: Carley Jones, Sloane Hoffman, Ashley Schimshock
Feral Cat Project
Most Valuable Trapper: Erin Pedone
Veterinary Public Health Committee
One Health One Medicine Community Leader Award: Mariana Reyes
SGUSVM Large Animal Society
Most Valuable LAS Member: Katie Murray
IVSA: International Veterinary Student Association
Officer Extraordinaire: Kayla Mochizuki
SVM Wellness Committee
Wellness MVP Award: Rebekah DesMarteau, Alexis Garbarino
SCACVIM: Student Chapter of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Internal Medicine MVP Award: Jaclyn Turturro
SVECCS: Student Chapter of the Emergency and Critical Care Society
Outstanding 6th Termer: Marissa Turner
SCASV: Student Chapter of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians
Shelter Scholar: Lauren Kiebler
SCACVP: Student Chapter of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists
The MVP (Most Valuable Pathologist): Maria Barahona
EWS: Exotics and Wildlife Society
Most Valuable Primate Award: Kaitlynn Samborsky
WVLDI: Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative
WVLDI Warrior: Kaylene Passione
VBMA: Veterinary Business Management Association
Impact Award: Rachel Painter
Green Medal Award: Deborah Murphy
SGA: Student Government Association
George B. Daniel Award: Jaclyn Gremley
SGU SVM Outstanding Faculty Term 1-3: Dr. Arno Werners
SGU SVM Outstanding Faculty Term 4-6: Dr. Talia Guttin
SGU SVM Outstanding Staff: Elizabeth Peach
Diana Stone Public Health Award: May Yu Wang
SGUSVM Recognition of Service
Diana Stone, Ulrike Zieger
With the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, St. George’s University students and graduates who will be called on to assist in the fight against the virus received much awaited news on Match Day 2020. On Friday, 1,027 soon-to-be physicians learned of where they will begin their residencies in the United States this summer, the news coming down from the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) as the clock struck noon. The residency match number is expected to climb even higher in the coming weeks and months.
Positions were secured across a wide range of specialties—including anesthesiology, emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery, pathology, and many more—and spanned 43 of the United States. The newest class of residents join a proud network of SGU physicians who are making a difference in healthcare throughout hospitals around the world.
“It is especially in times like these that we, as physicians, are turned to in order to provide valuable, high-quality care in communities around the world, for individuals who desperately need it,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “With the skills and knowledge with which they have been equipped, I am confident that our students are prepared to meet this challenge head-on.”
In the place of in-person celebrations, SGU students and graduates utilized technology to celebrate Match Day with their colleagues. For Nick Mulchan, MD ’20 (expected), he and his medical school friends connected via video chat, each opening up their emails from the NRMP simultaneously to simulate SGU’s annual Match Day Luncheon in New York City, which was canceled for the safety of all attendees.
Mr. Mulchan’s excitement was evident on the call, having matched into a neurology residency at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.
“It was helpful to experience it with everyone who I went to med school with,” he said. “We all looked out for each other. It was great to see and hear from everyone. A lot of us got our top choices. We all did really well and I’m so proud of everyone.”
“We all worked hard, and SGU prepared us really well,” he added. “SGU went above and beyond my expectations, which allowed us to excel.”
Mr. Mulchan was a biological engineering major at Cornell University before going on to earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Columbia. He then enrolled in the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program (formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program), where he built a strong bond with his fellow students. Through studying in the United Kingdom, Grenada, and the United States, he built a strong foundation for his medical career. It set him up to go on “15 or 16” interviews, primarily in the northeast US, but he felt especially at home in NYU, citing its reputation, wealth of resources and fellowship opportunities, as well as the proximity to his roots on Long Island.
Another native New Yorker—Raven Crusco, MD ’20 (expected)—will be headed south this summer, having matched into a combined pediatrics/emergency medicine residency program at University of Maryland Medical Center. It is one of fewer than 10 such positions in the entire US.
“Between the hardships, the stress, and the studying, it has been quite a journey, but it’s all been worth it,” she said. “It all paid off. I’m so happy to say that I got my first choice. I have had the program on my radar for a while. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Ms. Crusco came directly to SGU after obtaining a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience from Binghamton University. Early on, her affinity for pediatrics was clear, and throughout her experience in the hospitals and with the Emergency Medicine Club at SGU, she was drawn to both.
She finished her final clinical rotation earlier in the month, and she waited anxiously ever since for the residency news to arrive. That she matched into a combined residency will allow her to become board certified in both pediatrics and emergency medicine after five years.
“Going to SGU is clearly a good path to medicine, and I’m just really happy to be a part of it,” she said.
Her close friend, Evan Maisel, MD ’20 (expected), will complete his intern year in internal medicine at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NY, before going on to an anesthesiology residency at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami, FL. It’s not far from where he did his undergraduate studies (University of Miami) and where his parents expect to retire.
“When you’re in the trenches during medical school, it feels like it’s going so slowly, but looking back, I feel like I blinked my eyes and it was over,” he said. “It was all worth it. I got the field and the place that I wanted, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Mr. Maisel grew up around medicine—his dad a cardiologist on Long Island, his uncle specializing in anesthesiology. In going through his coursework and clinical training, he felt more drawn to the latter.
“I’ve always been interested in pharmacology, and I did well in it too,” he said. “When I got to my clinical years and found myself in the OR, I liked being hands-on with the patients and caring for them during a vulnerable time, as well as there being a mixture of continuity of care perioperatively with acuity of care intraoperatively.”
The Match Day news comes three weeks after 13 St. George’s University students secured residency in Canada through the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS). For a complete list of 2020 residency appointments, visit our website.
In the US, Canada, and around the world, this year’s class of residents join the medical profession officially this summer, in a time when new doctors are especially welcome to assist. Currently, more than 10,000 St. George’s University physicians are practicing in the United States alone.
“With the number of people being impacted by the coronavirus and without knowing how long it’s going to go on, I’m thankful to be a part of the task force that’s going to help to beat this virus,” Mr. Mulchan said. “There’s more of a need now than ever.”
– Brett Mauser
TRUE BLUE, Grenada, March 14, 2020 — St. George’s University (SGU) has been continuing to follow the global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and has been working collaboratively with the leaders of the Government of Grenada to address the Coronavirus pandemic.
The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff and the larger Grenadian community continue to be of paramount importance to SGU. At this time, we continue to encourage students to leave the island to lessen the burden on Grenada, and a significant portion has chosen to do so. To facilitate these efforts, SGU has chartered aircrafts that have already made a number of flights to major U.S. hubs.
“The measures we are taking are in line with best practice and guidelines being encouraged by global health organizations and followed by universities throughout the world,” said Richard Liebowitz, MD, Vice Chancellor of St. George’s University. “Our goal is to ensure our students and faculty help reduce density on campus and on the island of Grenada to reduce any potential future spread of the virus and free up resources on the island for those who may need them most. Our actions were not related to any specific medical situation on the island, but to achieve the goal of lessening the spread of disease in the future.”
SGU is working collaboratively with key stakeholders in the Grenadian community, including the Ministries of Health and Education, as well as the Grenada Airport Authority to help manage the situation and facilitate a smooth process. SGU will not direct students to return to Grenada until it is safe to do so for all and will be transitioning to online learning activities for all students, including the School of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Arts and Sciences, over the next week.
While SGU continues to facilitate students, who want to leave the island, some have chosen to remain in Grenada, both on and off campus. The campus will remain operational, and SGU intends to maintain full staff pay and benefits during this pandemic. SGU is continuing to assess the situation and is actively communicating with those on campus.
SGU is also continuing to work closely with the Government of Grenada to assist with preparations for enhancing the public health infrastructure on the island.
“As in past crises, SGU stands with the people and Government of Grenada to address any challenges and provide appropriate support as we face this challenge together,” Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of SGU, stated. “Our students lined up at the airport represent a line of pride for their medical education in Grenada and their commitment as future physicians to unburden the Grenadian health care system during this unprecedented pandemic.”
Chancellor Modica added: “We are actively in the process of assisting in procuring and providing medical equipment to the Grenada General Hospital and laboratory, as well as professional assistance to support both local needs and those of students and best prepare the island’s health care system for the potential threat.”
To date, no member of the university community has contracted COVID-19. SGU remains vigilant and will continue to coordinate with Grenada’s Ministry of Health, and our international partners.
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.”
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.
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
For 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
With last month’s White Coat Ceremony, the 38 students in the St. George’s University of Grenada School of Medicine/Northumbria University Four-Year MD Program not only committed themselves to the medical profession but, through their training, putting themselves in a unique position in society.
“You will develop the skills for close and intimate contact with patients during some of their most difficult times,” said Dr. David Heymann, director of the Center of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado, the evening’s keynote speaker. “You will have their full trust. From your interaction with them and their families, you will see the world in a way that many others cannot. If you take advantage of this special gift of trust, you will gain insight that only the medical profession can provide.”
This year’s class joined a network of more than 1,800 SGU students who began their studies at NU’s campus in Newcastle, United Kingdom. The class includes 37 students from countries such as the United States, Canada, the UK, Uganda, Thailand, and Australia. The students were robed in their white physicians’ coats – symbolizing their entry into the medical profession—and took an oath of commitment to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards of “duty and trust.”
“The next four years will help mold you into the doctor you will become,” said Jonathan Ashcroft, MD/MSc ’10, deputy lead microbiologist for the UK’s Public Health Rapid Support Team, who emceed the ceremony. Dr. Ashcroft began his own studies at SGU as part of the program, then the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program. “While the lectures, practical labs, and clinical skills workshops will provide you with the critical and indispensable knowledge and skills, it is the lessons you learn from interactions with your patients that will always remain with you and truly shape what sort of physician you will be.”
Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of St. George’s University, harkened back to his own medical school journey, and spoke of how the experience changed his life. Like the 2020 entering class will do, Dr. Liebowitz spent the first two years learning the basic sciences, but it wasn’t until his clinical rotations that he fully grasped the connection that physicians make with patients and their families.
“I learned that being a physician was much more than being somebody who knew how the body operated,” he said. “I was exposed to a number of people from varying backgrounds, which helped me understand that you are granted access that no other profession has. You’re there at the happiest times—with birth—and also at the most trying times—with death. It’s important to be professional. Being given the opportunity to partake in this part of people’s lives puts a responsibility and a demand on us, and being professional as a physician is critical as you go through training and your practice.”
The SGU/Northumbria joint program, formerly the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, was founded in 2007 to create a pathway for highly qualified international students to pursue a world-class medical education by spending the first year of their physician training with SGU at Northumbria, before going to Grenada to continue their studies.
“Today is a very special occasion as we recognize the start of our new students’ learning journey on the way to becoming qualified doctors,” said Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice Chancellor of Northumbria University. “Our partnership with St. George’s University is a clear example of both institutions’ global perspective in action, and our shared vision for building on our international reputations for academic excellence.”
Photos by Caed Parker, Class4studios.com
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.
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