SGU AMSA’s President, Judy Wong (far left), and SGU AMSA Executive Board Members greet conference guests.
The St. George’s University-led chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) brought together a combination of expert facilitators and physicians-in-training during its 2017 AMSA International Conference in Grenada. Assembled for only the second time outside of the United States, the two-day conference, held October 21 and 22, focused on “Preparing for Medicine that Matters,” providing attendees with an opportunity to explore current issues in medicine, build clinical skills, and connect with peers and other healthcare professionals.
“The conference provided a networking opportunity and a chance to educate our students outside of a classroom setting,” said Judy Wong, SGU AMSA President. “In particular, the Practicing Physicians Panel allowed students to have their questions answered about various specialties and the road to pursuing them.”
In addition to more than 15 dynamic clinical skills sessions, students experienced an interactive exhibit fair that showcased medical technology that will shape their future practice. The conference also featured a keynote address by Dr. Marios Loukas, Dean of Basic Sciences at St. George’s University, and Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine. Other guest speakers included: Rebekah Apple, Director of Student Affairs and Programming, AMSA National; Elizabeth Ingraham, Assistant Vice President, Communications and Outreach at the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates; and Dr. Anthony Orsini, Neonatologist, Orlando Health, and Founder of the Breaking Bad News Foundation.
“This year’s speakers not only shared insights on residency preparedness but also techniques for having tough conversations, such as delivering bad news to patients and providing help on how to navigate ethical dilemmas that challenge physicians today,” said Ms. Wong.
Brushing up on anatomy and building clinical skills with an ultrasound lab.
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St. George’s University students, faculty, and staff are collaborating to lend a hand to citizens of Caribbean islands impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Grenada is, thankfully, south of the usual hurricane path and can assist its northern neighbors. The recent wave of storms has personally affected the friends and families of many students and staff members from the Caribbean.
“The people and the infrastructure in these countries have been dramatically affected by these storms, and it’s important that we band together to do what we can to assist in the relief efforts,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University.
On Wednesday and Thursday, SGU rallied together to make significant contributions to those in need, donating everything from non-perishable food and gently used clothing to toiletries and water to drop-off locations at Charter Hall and Bourne Hall. Representatives from the University’s Student Government Association will take inventory of donated items in preparation of delivery next week through Grenada’s National Disaster Management Agency (NaDMA), which is working with the Red Cross and other organizations to coordinate relief efforts in the region.
“In their time of need, we need to be an institution and a community that they can lean on,” Dr. Olds said. “We preach compassion and altruism in everything that we do and in day-to-day life, and this is a prime example of when we need to be here for people who need us.”
Next month, the undergraduate student organization ECO (Education Conservation Outreach) is planning a faculty and student talent and fashion show, with models wearing clothing made entirely of recycle goods and/or local, natural products. All funds generated from the event—set for October 27—will be given to relief organizations providing aid in Antigua, Barbuda, and Dominica.
Tickets will be on sale at the Student Center beginning on October 19. Individuals interested in participating in the event can email ECO President Michelle Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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At the Fall 2017 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony, St. George’s University welcomed a new dean, a new class of students, and the return of a graduate who had navigated the course on which they were about to embark.
Alumnus and Master of Ceremonies Emily Turitto, DVM SGU ’15, counselled the incoming class on the importance of reciting the Oath of Professional Commitment.
“Today you’re not only receiving your white coat but you’re also taking your veterinary oath which is a very big commitment,” said Dr. Turitto, an Instructor in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at SGU. “At the time I took mine, I thought it was exciting, but I didn’t really understand the responsibility and accountability that I would have for animal welfare for the rest of my life.
“Please take your veterinary oath seriously because at some point you will question that oath and whether or not you’re making a real difference,” she added. “You will be given the training, support and knowledge to bring animals into the world, prevent diseases not only for animals but for humans, cure cancer, save lives, and extend the life of man’s best friend. Once you have the best interest of the animals at heart, you can be unstoppable.”
“To the Class of 2021 there are many aspects of becoming a veterinarian that you will encounter that go beyond the diagnosis and treatment of animal maladies and preventive care,” Dr. Olson said. “You will interact with academic faculty, clients, referring vets, donors and hospital staff all of whom play an important role in the functionality of practicing veterinary medicine.
“I would argue that the vet profession is very much a people-oriented profession. Your success as a veterinarian will have more to do with your interactions with people than any other single variable. I look forward to greeting you on your graduation day and working with you as future alumni as we navigate through the challenges and opportunities that surface in our changing environment.”
The Dean also took the opportunity to introduce Dr. Kent Hoblet, Professor and Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University (MSU). Since 2006, as Dean, he has provided expert leadership of both the College and its 509(a)(2) not-for-profit corporation, MSU Clinical Outreach Services, with clinical service and teaching operations at Animal Emergency and Referral Center (Jackson) and Veterinary Neurology and Imaging Center (Starkville).
“Keep a positive attitude, make every day count, keep an open mind to opportunities, and remember that the world needs you as highly qualified doctors of veterinary medicine,” Dr. Hoblet said.
Among the proud family members and friends also in attendance at this term’s SVM White Coat Ceremony was Dr. David Mordasky, a mixed animal practitioner who, along with his wife, Judith, founded Stafford Veterinary Center and Willington Veterinary Center in Connecticut. A practicing veterinarian for more than 40 years, Dr. Mordasky has six children, five of whom have careers ranging from attorney to civil engineer. However, it was his youngest son, Andrew, who made the decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps. The proud father coated his son on stage during the ceremony.
“My father has been a big part of my education, and to have him be able to coat me on such a significant day in my life just makes it all the more special,” said Andrew Mordasky. “I would go to work with him and I always enjoyed spending that time together and witnessing firsthand what being a veterinarian was all about. In fact, I learned about St. George’s through three SGU grads, two of which worked as associates at my dad’s office. They were instrumental in steering me toward SGU.”
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The White Coat Ceremony was underway, and St. George’s University alumni Nina Kayeum, MD SGU ’90, and her husband Paul Capelli, MD SGU ’90, sat front and center. Nearly three decades since earning their own degrees, they were there to support their daughter, Trina, on her big day—the first step in her own path to becoming a physician.
“I’m overjoyed and overwhelmed,” said Dr. Kayeum, an internal medicine specialist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me over 30 years ago that I would be coming to St. George’s not only to pursue my dream of medicine but that I would find my partner in life and then have a daughter who would also come here to pursue the same dream. I can’t thank SGU and the people of Grenada enough—they’ve basically shaped my future.”
Dr. Kayeum was later welcomed on stage to coat her daughter, who joined her Fall 2017 classmates in taking the Oath of Professional Commitment. Donning their white coats, the Class of 2021 joined its fellow students from the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, who began their journey at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom two weeks prior.
“Having my mom put on my white coat was very emotional for me,” said Trina Capelli. “I feel both humbled and blessed to be here to have this opportunity not only to pursue my dream but to be following in both my parents’ footsteps. I decided very early on that I wanted to become a doctor and although I had different options of where I could attend medical school, growing up hearing stories about SGU and it being a part of my family’s history, I almost felt a calling to go here. I believe this is where I am meant to be.”
Delivering a very personal and energetic keynote address was Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, Chair and Professor of Family Medicine at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine for Northwell Health in New York. She counseled the newly enrolled medical students that “with knowledge comes responsibility and accountability.” They were now taking on a major social responsibility, and with it a unique privilege that society bestows upon them as part of donning the white coat.
Echoing this sentiment was the evening’s master of ceremonies, Dr. Tita Castor, MD SGU ’88, Medical Director of Palliative Care Service, NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“This coat is laden with meaning,” she said. “With this coat, you will have the privilege and the burden of being part of people’s lives during their happiest and saddest moments, hearing their deepest hopes, fears, and secrets.”
In addition, the School of Medicine White Coat Ceremonies punctuated 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 get to soak up nature and culture on the Spice Isle prior to attending the special ceremony that marks their induction into the medical profession.
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St. George’s University medical students from across the globe were welcomed to Northumbria University on August 18 for the 10th annual White Coat Ceremony.
Students were presented with their White Coats by leading medical professionals, including keynote speaker and critical care trauma expert Daniel Herr, MD SGU ’82.
The students are part of the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program (KBTGSP), which allows St. George’s University medical students to complete their first year at Northumbria University‘s campus in Newcastle. The program is an exciting option for students who want to gain an international perspective on global health care.
Dr. Daniel Herr, Associate Professor at St. George’s University and Chief of Critical Care Services at University of Maryland Medical Center, has a special interest in the use of hypothermia for resuscitation and in the avoidance and treatment of acute confusional states in the ICU.
“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Northumbria University and it is very rewarding for us to see all the students attending the White Coat Ceremony today,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “This is a significant milestone in the life of a doctor as it symbolizes their first step into the world of medicine. Dr. Herr’s speech was extremely moving, not only for students, but for the entire faculty. His career and his studies are an inspiration for all future doctors.”
The White Coat Ceremony is a longstanding tradition that began in 1993 at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, and is now seen at many universities around the world. It symbolizes the induction of students into the medical profession, and affirms their obligation of service to others.
Students will undergo their first year of studies at Northumbria University, with the remainder of their degrees being completed at St. George’s University, followed by clinical studies in the United States and NHS hospitals in the United Kingdom.
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Uniquely positioned to lead a discussion on collaborative, global health topics, St. George’s University is hosting a two-day One Health One Medicine Symposium on October 21 and 22. In addition to being a hub for international education across medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health, the University also holds the distinction of being a World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Environmental and Occupational Health. The speakers at the conference are pioneers and leaders in this field.
“One Health One Medicine is the convergence of human, animal, and ecosystem health, resulting in a joined-up approach between complementary sectors that, all too often, are practiced in a vacuum,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost for International Program Development at SGU. “Each of these practices are inextricably connected, and by learning from each other and pooling resources, great progress can be made for the benefit of human and animal kind.”
St. George’s University’s OHOM initiative is aimed to help facilitate the further development of opportunities locally and, in collaboration with international institutions, to address global health challenges affecting the health of people, animals, and the environment. The initiative has evolved for 10 years, most recently to include a series of SGU-sponsored OHOM conferences, open access courses, and workshops, culminating in the upcoming symposium.
Students and faculty from the School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine host free wellness check-ups at a One Health One Medicine clinic in Grand Anse, Grenada.
Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU, is also a professor in the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine as well as a tropical disease specialist who has worked on one health issues around the world. He views Grenada as the ideal location to examine issues related to the One Health One Medicine philosophy.
“It is fitting that SGU, an international center of excellence for medical training, is hosting a major conference on the importance of a global approach to human, animal, and ecosystem health,” said Dr. Olds. “Our student body, both past and present, come from all corners of the globe, and by creating a space for these experiences and ideas to come together, we will continue to drive progress in all areas of medicine.”
Distinguished international experts speaking at the event include:
Guy Palmer, DVM, PhD – Regents Professor of Pathology and Infectious Diseases, The Jan and Jack Creighton Endowed Chair & Senior Director of Global Health, Director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Washington State University, USA
Fitzroy Henry, PhD – College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica, West Indies
Sarah Cleaveland, BVSC, PhD, FRS – Professor of Comparative Epidemiology, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary, and Life Sciences, Glasgow University, Scotland, UK
Chulathida Chomchai, MD – Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Mahidol University International College, Bangkok, Thailand
A call for abstracts, to be considered by the symposium’s Scientific Advisory Committee, for oral and poster contributions to this symposium are now invited. More information and the template for the abstracts and poster presentations can be attained from Ms. Naomi Alexander.
To register for the symposium or to submit a research abstract for discussion, visit the One Health One Medicine webpage.
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For the past year and a half, 17-year-old Marco Turner mulled the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Originally from the Bahamas, he had volunteered in a veterinarian’s office, where he helped nurse the community’s pets back to health, and then began researching opportunities that would help further his career in veterinary medicine.
Enter the St. George’s University Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy, which has welcomed nearly 900 aspiring physicians and veterinarians to Grenada to receive an insider’s view of their future careers since 2002. In the program’s 15-year history, 46 Academy graduates have gone on to enroll in the School of Medicine or Veterinary Medicine.
“This experience so far has been great,” said Mr. Turner. “Today, we had a suture clinic where we learned how to do three different kinds of suture patterns. While working at a vet’s office, I would see these sutures done, and I always wished that I could do it myself. Now I have the chance.
“This has been a valuable opportunity for my own learning and development that I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in a med or vet program.”
This summer, 74 students hailing from the United States, Canada, Trinidad, Bahamas, Bermuda, United Kingdom, and Puerto Rico successfully balanced a challenging academic program with extracurricular activities such as hiking, sailing, and snorkeling. Both the med and vet students engaged in courses that combined didactic lectures, small-group problem solving sessions, practical lab work in state-of-the-art facilities, and hands-on training through simulated and real-life situations.
This year’s class included Charlize Espinoza, who had undoubtedly been regaled with stories of SGU by her aunt, Cholene Espinoza, MD SGU ’15, now a PGY-3 OB/GYN resident at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. When asked in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up, Charlize replied “a doctor.” A decade later, that answer still hasn’t changed.
“I jumped at the chance to attend the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy because I really wanted the opportunity to plan out my future and get a glimpse of what attending medical school would be like,” Ms. Espinoza said. “However, as someone who suffers from anxiety attacks, I thought this might not be right for me—being in a different country, living in dorms, and being away from my parents. But since being here, I haven’t had any anxiety issues. Instead, I’m really enjoying this experience, and everyone has been so warm and welcoming. It’s been a very intensive program so far but the lectures are very interesting and the doctors are very accessible. The Academy is a great place to test the waters and get ready for medical school.”
In 2017, four Academy alumni—Kristen Sellar, DVM; Abigail Maynard, DVM; Lisa Dyke, MD; and Virginia Vazzana, MD—earned their degrees at commencement in New York City. Dr. Vazzana, daughter of SGU alumnus Thomas Vazzana, MD SGU ’85, attended the Med-Vet Summer Leadership Academy in 2010 after it received rave reviews from her older sister, who had attended three years earlier. She accepted a seat at SGU’s School of Medicine, where she met and married her classmate Hamfreth Shaul Rahming, MD SGU ’17. Dr. Vazzana began her pediatric residency at The Dwaine and Cynthia Willet Children’s Hospital of Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, this month.
“The Academy was truly the first experience that I had of what medical school and becoming a physician is really like,” stated Dr. Vazzana. “I still remember the first time I worked on a human cadaver, the first time I wore a white coat and shadowed doctors to see real patients, the first time I learned to use an ultrasound machine, and so much more. These things all happened at the Academy. For me, being exposed to these opportunities really was a perfect way to confirm what I wanted to do with my future and is a huge reason I became a doctor.”
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Daniel Ricciardi, MD SGU ’81, Dean of Clinical Studies (left) and Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University, accepted the Power of Community Award from Jose R. Sanchez, President and Chief Executive Officer, Norwegian American Hospital.
CHICAGO — On June 22, St. George’s University received Norwegian American Hospital’s Power of Community Award for its leadership in the quest to provide quality care to patients across Chicago.
“We are privileged to receive this honor from our friends at Norwegian American Hospital,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We have made educating the primary care workforce of the future our mission, and we are grateful that Norwegian American Hospital supports that mission.”
Power of Community Award recipients are selected for their dedication to the community served by Norwegian American Hospital and their efforts to provide great medical care in the area. This is the third year the award was presented.
The award ceremony coincided with the inauguration of Norwegian American Hospital’s newly-accredited Family Residency Training Program, which will begin training medical graduates on July 1. The program was developed to address the shortage of primary care physicians in Illinois. There are less than 13,000 primary care doctors available to serve Illinois’s population of nearly 13 million.
“The shortage of primary care physicians is one of the chief public health challenges our state faces,” said Jose Sanchez, Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian American Hospital. “Together with St. George’s University, we look forward to doing our part to help solve it.”
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Commencement marked the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another for St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2017. Before setting off to begin their careers as practicing veterinarians, they convened on June 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City to celebrate their collective success.
This year’s class of veterinarians hailed from 10 countries, as far away as Taiwan, India, and Botswana. Among the 2017 graduates was Abigail Maynard, DVM SGU ’17, from Barbados, who became the first doctor in her family on Sunday. Dr. Maynard plans to go into mixed animal practice before joining the public health residency program at the University of Minnesota. At graduation, she was cheered on by her parents, grandmother, and godmother.
“I feel really overwhelmed right now. I just can’t believe that the dream that I’ve had since I was 6 years old is finally coming true,” shared Dr. Maynard. “I felt very prepared by SGU especially during my clinical year. Comparing myself to other clinical students, I felt there were definitely certain areas in which I was leagues ahead of them. Today, my classmates and I are reunited, and after all our hard work I’m just so happy that we are here to achieve our dreams together.”
Hooded by her uncle, Dr. Albert D. Franklin, a medical infirmary practitioner, an emotional Devan Sacknoff, DVM SGU ’17, became the first veterinarian in her family. Dr. Sacknoff, who admitted to eyeing a career in veterinary medicine since the fourth grade, was joined at David Geffen Hall by her parents, aunt, and uncle. After graduation, she is applying to be a general practitioner in Huntington Beach, California.
“It doesn’t seem real; I’m still in shock,” said Dr. Sacknoff. “It feels amazing to be here, and I’m so glad to see everyone again after being apart for a year.”
A new addition to the program, this year’s ceremony featured heartfelt words by a class member— Clarence Williams, DVM SGU ’17—who was nominated by the graduands to speak on their behalf. Currently working in a small animal clinic in south New Jersey in emergency and clinical care, Dr. Williams shared pleasant memories of their time in True Blue.
“We’ve been on a wonderful journey these past four years. It has been extremely tough. We’ve learned a lot of information and we’re going to have to continue to learn more information,” said Dr. Williams. “But despite all our sacrifices, we did it; we’re veterinarians now, we’re doctors. It’s still hard to believe, but we didn’t do it alone. We had help from our great professors and all these memories have helped me realize that we’ve been like a family—an SGU family.”
Although unable to attend the ceremony in person, Dr. Eduardo Durante, Senior Associate Dean, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his longtime contributions to SGU in small animal medicine and surgery at the Small Animal Clinic. During his tenure at SGU, Dr. Durante also served as Acting Dean in 2013, and Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs in SVM in 2010 and again in 2013.
SVM Dean Dr. Timothy Ogilvie, who accepted the award on Dr. Durante’s behalf, was also recognized by Chancellor Modica and President Olds for his outstanding service to the University during his three-year term. Dr. Neil C. Olson, the former Dean of University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine, will officially assume the same position at SGU on August 15.
Since opening its doors in 1999, SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine has graduated more than 1,200 veterinarians from 29 countries. These alumni have gone on to practice in 47 US states and 10 countries around the world.
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From all around the world and all walks of life, the St. George’s University School of Medicine Class of 2017 came to Grenada to pursue their dreams of becoming a physician. On June 10 and 11 at Lincoln Center in New York City, they were rewarded for their commitment to their profession and their future, earning the degree of Doctor of Medicine at SGU’s commencement ceremony.
This year’s class is comprised of graduates from 86 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia. They join the more than 17,000 alumni of St. George’s University, including over 14,000 physicians.
“Graduates, this is truly your day, one in which we celebrate your accomplishments and pause for a moment to dream with you of your future,” said Dr. Joseph Childers, Provost. “As much as this ceremony symbolizes an end to your formal studies at SGU, it also signifies our faith in you, our unshakeable belief that you are moving forward fully prepared to handle the intellectual and professional challenges that you will inevitably face.”
“On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration of St. George’s University, I want to congratulate all of you in the graduating class of 2017,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President. “I also want to congratulate the other people in this audience, without whom this graduation would not have been possible – your family, friends, loved ones, and spouses. Thank you for making this day possible.”
The first to cross the stage on Saturday was Grace Lepis, MD SGU ’17, who was overjoyed to have matched into a categorical surgery residency at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. Since completing her basic sciences in Grenada, she has returned to the island twice, including for her honeymoon.
“I love the island and I love the University,” Dr. Lepis said. “SGU gave me an opportunity that nobody else gave me. To be here at graduation is very exciting. It’s a humbling experience. We all worked very hard to get to this point, and I’m proud of myself and all of my classmates.”
Eight years ago, Janish Kothari, MD SGU ’17, watched his sister, Megha, graduate from SGU and move on to a career in gastroenterology. Her example and mentorship helped Dr. Kothari through the challenges of medical school. He will begin an internal medicine residency at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn this summer.
“Everything flew by so quickly,” Dr. Kothari said. “I remember getting off the plane in Grenada, and now I’m standing here with my robe and getting ready for residency. It’s a surreal moment. I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for me, and can sincerely say that SGU has prepared me for whatever challenges I may face. I wouldn’t change anything.”
In addressing the graduates and their families, Chancellor Modica took a moment to recognize Nelly Golarz de Bourne, the former Dean of Women and Chair of Histology at SGU and widow of the University’s first Vice Chancellor, Geoffrey Bourne. Dr. Golarz was on hand to watch her grandson, Dr. Gordon Bourne, take the Hippocratic Oath.
“Dr. Bourne and Dr. Golarz made this University what it is today, more than anyone, in the first 10 years of its existence,” Chancellor Modica said. “It’s a great honor to know that Geoffrey, looking down on us now, can see his grandson graduate.”
The Chancellor also awarded Dr. Allen Pensick, Provost Emeritus of St. George’s University, with a Distinguished Service Medal for his more than 30 years of service to the University and Grenadian community, including as Provost from 2004 to 2016. Dr. Pensick’s roles also included Dean of Basic and Allied Health Sciences, Chairman of the University Council of Deans, and Chairman of the School of Medicine Faculty Senate. Bell Hall, an iconic building on True Blue’s upper campus, was renamed Allen H. Pensick Hall in 2011.
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