Community volunteering helps clinical SOM students see big picture

A volunteer experience can be eye-opening and educational for aspiring physicians, according to three St. George’s University clinical students.

Third-year SOM students Zekeria Sawaged, Natalia Cardona, and Peter Killian, who are currently doing rotations at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center, recently attended a Children’s Mental Health Day event at Allaire Community Farm in Wall Township, NJ. Run by the state’s Children’s Inter-agency Coordinating Councils (CIACC), the event brought together many agencies who work to serve children with mental health needs.

Ms. Cordona, Mr. Sawaged, and Mr. Killian assisted at the hospital’s “Trauma Injury Prevention” table and offered information to visiting families about the importance of wearing bike helmets. They also had the opportunity to speak to other agency representatives attending the event to learn about the work that these advocates are doing in the community, and meet with county officials and organizers of the event. At the end of the day, the students had a chance to relieve some stress by feeding goats who live on the farm.

Clinical students at Jersey Shore University Medical Center take a break from their rotations to participate in community service.

“Children’s Mental Health Day was as much of a learning experience for the children and families as it was for us,” said Mr. Killian, an aspiring emergency room physician. “There are so many programs available to the general public that healthcare providers are not familiar with. As a potential ER doctor, learning about resources that help to prevent injury, self-harm, and eventual emergency room visits was eye-opening.”

The students were able to take part in the event through the hospital’s “Med-Students Making a Difference” program, started in 2020. Students are invited to choose a community project that they have a passion for and participate in various outreach programs offered by the hospital, according to Tracy Nerney, BS, RN, MMBA, the trauma injury prevention coordinator at Jersey Shore University Hospital.

According to Ms. Nerney, the program:

  • Raises student awareness about many aspects of healthcare
  • Gives them the opportunity to develop their presentation skills
  • Provides accomplishments they can add to their portfolio.

“They also develop a positive sense of self as they see the impact they can make and collaborate with other students while having some fun! Zekeria, Natalia, and Peter did a great job in representing our organization and they plan to share what they learned with other medical students,” she added.

As for the students, they felt the day was valuable for their training as future physicians.

“Being a part of the community is integral to my training as a future psychiatrist, as the interactions and the bonds built are priceless,” said Mr. Sawaged. “As doctors in training, we have a responsibility to continue engaging with the communities that trust us to better their experience. This event allowed us to expose children and their families to mental health resources, while also providing outlets for those who are in need.”

Added Ms. Cardona: “Participating in Children’s Mental Health Day was a humbling experience. We got the chance to educate children and families about the importance of taking care of themselves physically and mentally. As a future pediatrician, I believe that going into the community and educating children early will be the key to leading healthier adult lives.”



— Laurie Chartorynsky



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From tigers to canines: SVM grad finds her path as a vet oral surgeon

As a board-certified dentist and oral surgeon, Dr. Chanda Miles, DVM ’06, has treated all types of animals for their oral health—including tigers, an Asian small-clawed otter, an American River otter, chimpanzees, a Silverback gorilla, gibbons, opossums, skunks, and chinchillas, not to mention cats and dogs.

Dr. Miles credits St. George’s University for helping her become comfortable with surgical procedures. At SGU, “we were able to perform a large amount and variety of general surgeries that helped me shape my love for surgery and later form my decision to pursue dentistry and oral surgery,” Dr. Miles said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Miles and a colleague co-opened Veterinary Dentistry Specialists in Katy, Texas to answer the high demand for pet oral care in the greater Houston area.

Dr. Miles didn’t set out to be a veterinary dentist at first. While working as a new veterinarian, she was tasked with overseeing several dentistry procedures a day but found herself frequently asking for help from colleagues since she had little dentistry training. She wanted to learn more and decided to attend an intense three-day weekend course to learn “everything that I could about dentistry for animals,” Dr. Miles recalled.

“It was then that I realized I had a passion for dentistry and oral surgery. It was calming and came easy to me,” she said. To refine her skills, she pursued a residency in the specialty at the University of Wisconsin in Madison—and the rest, as they say, was history.

Dr. Miles spoke to SGU News about why she is passionate about dentistry, new technology in the field that improves her patient care, and what advice she would give to new veterinary students just starting out.

St. George’s University: What types of patients do you see and what are some examples of the procedures that you perform?  

Dr. Miles: I work with primarily cats and dogs, but we can treat exotic patients if they are in need.  I love working with large cats such as tigers, leopards, etc.

I treat all kinds of conditions: I perform procedures in periodontics, endodontics (root canals), oral surgery (extractions, jaw fracture repair, surgical resections, prosthodontics (crowns), orthodontics, and oral medicine.

SGU: Why are you passionate about the vet dentistry field?  

Dr. Miles: It gives me instant gratification of accomplishing something good for the patient who benefits remarkably from it. When patients have a healthy, comfortable mouth they can have an excellent quality of life. It isn’t a discipline that is taught readily in vet school so I’m also passionate about teaching it appropriately to general practitioners as well.

SGU: Tell us about your new clinic.  

Dr. Miles: VDS is a stand-alone specialty dentistry and oral surgery practice with a full-time board-certified anesthesiologist. We offer advanced imaging (cone beam CT) and are equipped with modern anesthesia monitoring equipment.

My colleague, Dr. Carlos Rice, opened the first VDS in Mt. Laurel, NJ and then a second one with another colleague in Chadds Ford, PA. Dr. Rice and I decided that opening one in the greater Houston area (where I live) would be a great addition to the VDS family. There is a big demand for dentistry in Houston’s pet population.

SGU: What is the most challenging part of the job? 

Dr. Miles: On a day-to-day basis it’s keeping the flow of the day manageable.  One patient can throw a curve ball in the whole day with unexpected pathology that needs treatment. Because we provide outpatient care, it’s important to treat our patients with completeness, but also make sure they have enough recovery time to be discharged adequately.

My other big challenge that I face at times is treating complicated maxillofacial traumas in young dogs.  These can be very difficult to treat when they have both deciduous and permanent dentition at the same time and are still growing.

SGU: What new technology or procedures have developed to help you do your job?

Dr. Miles: Cone beam CT has been a game changer for me. This is an imaging modality that allows me to render 3D images of my patient’s skull for complete evaluation of maxillofacial trauma. It also gives me precise images for small things such as early endodontic lesions. The imaging is crystal clear and helps me understand the extent of pathology in many facets.

What made you pursue veterinary medicine? 

Dr. Miles: It sounds cliché, but I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian since I was little.  At the minimum I knew I wanted to pursue something in the medical field.

SGU: How has your training at SGU helped you succeed, specifically in your specialized career?

Dr. Miles: Having spent time at two separate universities for my clinical year and residency, I was around many specialists that were teaching students and the SGU professors were far more compassionate in their teaching and encouragement to us.

One of the key takeaways in my training at SGU was surgical preparation. We were able to perform a large amount and variety of general surgeries that helped me shape my love for surgery and later form my decision to pursue dentistry and oral surgery.

SGU: What was your clinical year like at Kansas State University? What takeaway would you pass on to students?

Dr. Miles: I absolutely loved Kansas State! Every clinician and student was so incredibly nice at this school. I learned so much on each and every rotation.

The biggest takeaway from my clinical year that I would pass on to students would be to participate in every rounds session and conversation that you have. The clinicians want you to be engaged.

SGU: What would you say to an aspiring vet student considering going to SGU? 

Dr. Miles: Do it! It’s an experience of a lifetime and you will get an education like nowhere else in the US!  SGU provided me with so much more than my degree and I loved that the school offered flexible matriculation. I didn’t want to wait another year to apply to vet school.




— Laurie Chartorynsky




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·       SGU confers degrees to School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2022

·       SVM grad helps refugees and pets in need on Ukraine-Poland border

·       SGU veterinarians secure postgraduate training positions in VIRMP match

Celebrating Pride Month: How to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community

SGU students celebrate Pride Month.

Each year, the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and/or Questioning, and Asexual and/or Ally, plus) community celebrates its liberation movement throughout the month of June.

Named “Pride Month,” it is a chance for people who identify as LGBTQIA+ and others, such as allies—heterosexual and cisgender people who support equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBTQIA+ inclusion movements/efforts—to gather and commemorate both the struggle and challenges faced as well as the positive changes made to acknowledge and support this group.

But what does it mean to be an ally to underrepresented groups like the LGBTQIA+ community, and how can we all support these members of the St. George’s University community in our day-to-day lives?

To offer perspective, meet Gabrielle Rivera (she/her), the incoming fall term president of Pride & Equality SGU student club and a Term 5 School of Veterinary Medicine student, shared tips on how we can all become allies to underrepresented groups such as LGBTQIA+ people, and why observances like Pride Month can elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion and create a community of mutual respect and support.

St. George’s University: What does Pride Month mean to you? 

Ms. Rivera: Pride Month means representation for the marginalized LGBTQIA+ community by promoting equal rights and self-affirmation. It allows our community to celebrate, be visible, and stand up for the fundamental right to love. Our ability to celebrate Pride Month would not have been possible without our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans minority groups of color in the 1960s. Their courage to stand up for equal rights paved the way for LGBTQIA+ folks to be included. I am thankful for their determination, and I hope our community can keep taking steps forward so one day we won’t have to “come out” anymore.



SGU: How can students, faculty, and staff in the SGU community be an ally to all? 

Ms. Rivera: Allyship is such a pivotal part of our community, and we encourage our allies to join us as we continue to create a safe space for our community at SGU. Allowing yourself to be an ally helps the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and seen within your presence.

  • One way to be an ally can include integrating inclusive language in your everyday life. Asking someone their pronouns when you first meet them shows you are open-minded and inclusive.
  • Another great way to be an ally is becoming involved in the events/opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community by the Pride and Equality club or the other clubs/events on campus.
  • Denouncing anti-LGBTQIA+ comments or jokes during your everyday life helps the fight against the discrimination that is still present. All of your allyship efforts help build up our community as we continue to push for acceptance and understanding.


“Allowing yourself to be an ally helps the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and seen within your presence.”


SGU: What does it mean to be supportive of all different walks of life? 

Ms. Rivera: When you are supportive of all different walks of life you are open to all people despite their gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc. You create a safe space for someone to be their authentic self without judgement.

SGU: How can we create a community of mutual respect and support? 

Ms. Rivera: We create a community of mutual respect and support by the acknowledgment that not everyone is the same. Even though you may not understand someone’s identity or sexual orientation, you still hold mutual respect and support for that person. This will bring togetherness within a community.

SGU: How do observances like Pride Month elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion in healthcare? 

Ms. Rivera: Observances like Pride Month elevate the importance of diversity and inclusion in healthcare by bringing awareness to the essential need for embracement towards all different people no matter their identity or sexual orientation. Having acknowledgements that promote diversity allow healthcare professionals to live their lives freely and with integrity as we give back to our human or animal patients. Creating a more accepting environment for medical workers will only help people feel safe and comfortable in their work environment amongst colleagues.

SGU: How can the SGU community get involved with P&E SGU?

Ms. Rivera: All members of the University are eligible for membership within P&E SGU including faculty, students, and staff. You can join by filling out our form. Also follow us on Instagram @PrideandEqualitySGU and Facebook Pride & Equality SGU.




–Jessica Epps and Laurie Chartorynsky


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SOM grad returns to train the next generation of physicians

Before deciding to attend medical school at St. George’s University, Michael Keenaghan, MD ’06, considered entering the field of astrophysics with hopes of becoming an astronaut. He had been filled with a desire to both “know” everything and to help people. However, it was a family friend and former chair of pediatrics who recommended he apply to SGU, which inspired him on the path to specializing in pediatric critical care.

Not only does Dr. Keenaghan have a passion for his specialty of choice, that passion also extends to teaching the next generation of medical students. Since completing his residency training at SUNY Downstate (he served an additional year as chief resident) and his fellowship at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital Columbia University, Dr. Keenaghan has been involved in academic medicine. At NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, where he worked for the past eight years, he was the associate director of pediatric critical care and associate chief academic officer. While there he developed and managed a pediatric simulation center focused on developing trainees’ procedural skills.

In 2013, he took on an associate professor position at SGU where he assisted students at patients’ bedsides at Kings County hospital. Three years later, he was appointed associate medical director of education and became involved with advising students initially with SGU’s Office of Career Guidance and then through its onsite student advisors.

But little did he know that his two passions would eventually lead him back to Grenada one day. Earlier this year, Dr. Keenaghan accepted a full time position within the School of Medicine as an assistant dean of students, moving with his family back to the island. In this new position, Dr. Keenaghan manages SOM’s academic advisors for clinical students. He discussed with SGU News his new role, how it feels to also teach Term 5 SOM students, and his plans to work with Grenada General Hospital to support and grow its pediatric critical care service.

St. George’s University: Can you share why you wanted to come back to Grenada and work at your alma mater?

Dr. Keenaghan: I was given a great opportunity to help students achieve their academic goals, as well as provide pediatric critical care support for the children of Grenada.

One of the best rewards in being an intensivist, after caring for an extremely sick child—a day, a week, or a month later when all the lines and breathing tubes have been removed—they smile. It is a priceless moment.

SGU: What are you most passionate about in your work?

Dr. Keenaghan: Each doctor, over the course of their career can contribute to about 2,000-2,500 extra patient lives lived. In pediatric intensive care, if I do my job well, I may contribute far more since my patients are so young. However, being able to help many more caring people become doctors every year, multiples that logarithmically. Alone I can help some, but together we can help the world. Being a teacher and assistant dean at SGU truly makes that possible.

SGU: Share what your experience was like at SGU and its impact on your life?

Dr. Keenaghan: I met my future wife a month before moving to Grenada in 2002.  Being 2,100 miles apart, she kept me focused on my studies and not distracted. She was my greatest support when school was the hardest. I think without her I wouldn’t be a doctor, but without SGU there would be no us, and our five amazing boys. Grenada gave me my first two dogs, lifelong friends throughout the world, and now is the place that I call home. I’d say it had a pretty large impact.

SGU: How well do you feel that SGU prepared you for the next step in your journey?

Dr. Keenaghan: I felt extremely prepared. I learned to persevere when things may not be in my favor, which has helped me on to all the next steps. From those lessons I learned the power of second chances, both in my own experiences and in my patients.

SGU: What plans do you have for the future in your new role?

Dr. Keenaghan: They are too numerous to count, but I’ll start with growing the Clinical Academic Advising Development and Support team and services to continue to help students succeed. Also, providing support to the healthcare professionals at the Grenada General Hospital in any way they need.

SGU: What advice would you give to prospective students who are considering applying to SGU?

Dr. Keenaghan: Don’t hesitate to follow your dream. Dedicating yourself to study and becoming a physician means giving up a few things for a few years. While pursuing your MD there are no immediate rewards along the way, but the long-term ones are worth every minute and every penny. Sitting in biochemistry learning about mitochondria for the third time, may not be the most fun, but standing in the ICU remembering that methylene blue improves mitochondrial respiration and starting it on a patient with severe shock, then saving their life, that’s worth it.



– Ray-Donna Peters


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A desire to make an impact leads SGU grad to become an expert in LGBTQIA+ healthcare

Asa Radix, MD ’88, PhD, MPH decided to pursue medicine out of a desire to offer patient-centered healthcare in an often-overlooked community in need.  Dr. Radix’s career has focused on LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Ally, plus) health and policy and being able to ensure patients receive quality care that is respectful, non-judgmental, and meets the unique needs of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Dr. Radix is originally from Grenada and attended SGU on one of the first Grenadian scholarships. They currently serve as senior director of research and education at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City—which has a mission to serve LGBTQIA+ communities and people with HIV.

In addition to their work at Callen-Lorde, Dr. Radix is a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University and holds faculty appointments at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Yale University. Over the years, they’ve developed expertise in transgender health and contributed to several US and international clinical practice guidelines and textbooks.

In honor of pride month, SGU News spoke with Dr. Radix to find out more about their experience providing care to the LGBTQIA+ community and the journey to becoming an expert in this field.

St. George’s University: Why did you choose your specialty?

Dr. Radix: I trained in internal medicine and then completed a fellowship in infectious disease. Infectious disease is a broad specialty, but it is a good field for people who like clinical practice as well as research. I like the diversity of the specialty. You can focus on many different areas such as travel medicine, global health, antibiotic stewardship, and emerging infectious diseases as well as a choice of inpatient or outpatient settings.

I mainly focus on HIV and Hepatitis C but still see patients with a wide variety of issues.

SGU: What are some unique medical needs of the LGBTQIA+ community? 

Dr. Radix: Members of the LGBTQIA+ community also have other social identities or groups to which they belong with varying health priorities. There are some issues that are common for all, such as difficulty in finding respectful healthcare providers as well as frequently facing discrimination in health settings. As a result, LGBTQIA+ individuals may underutilize cancer screening interventions, and there are often higher rates of substance abuse, including tobacco use, which is probably related to experiencing social stressors such as interpersonal and structural discrimination. In addition, it is important for medical providers to offer appropriate HIV/STI screenings and HIV prevention interventions (e.g., pre-exposure prophylaxis) to those who are eligible.

SGU: What training can physicians interested in working in LGBTQIA+ healthcare participate in?

Dr. Radix: There isn’t a specialty in LGBTQIA+ health. However, there are healthcare environments with a mission to care for LGBTQIA+ individuals, such as health centers like Callen-Lorde or dedicated clinics at other institutions. Many require training in a primary care specialty, such as internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics. Usually, these centers provide training in LGBTQIA+ health since most incoming providers have not had adequate experience during their medical school or residency training.

There are also organizations, such as GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality and The LGBT Health Workforce Conference that hold annual meetings for clinicians who are interested in this field.

SGU: When you look back at your professional journey to this point, what stands out to you most as being the most formative experiences?

Dr. Radix: I trained in the early 1990s when HIV was one of the most important and prevalent health issues that we saw. It was also a time when there were few therapeutic options available. Taking care of individuals living with HIV was a major motivation for pursuing a fellowship in infectious disease.

SGU: How did your experience at SGU help prepare you for your career?

Dr. Radix: I was fortunate to do most of my clinical rotations in the United Kingdom and to be exposed to a diverse student body throughout my SGU experience. The love of travel continued, and I completed a diploma in tropical medicine in London during my infectious disease fellowship as well as a Master of Philosophy in epidemiology at Cambridge, later leading to a PhD at Columbia University.

—Sarah Stoss

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59 students inducted into Gold Humanism Honor Society

Fifty-nine soon-to-be physicians were inducted this past weekend into the St. George’s University chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society for the 2021-22 academic year. The prestigious award recognizes students, residents, and faculty who exemplify compassionate patient care and serve as role models, mentors, and leaders in medicine.

To celebrate the inductees, the SGU chapter held a reception at the Four Points by Sherton hotel in Flushing, NY—its first in-person ceremony since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.  School of Medicine Dean Emeritus Dr. Stephen Weitzman emceed the event, and two of last year’s inductees, and members of the 2022 graduating class, Fiyinfoluwa Soluade and Marina Tucktuck, were invited to share insights with the newest group of students who were selected to join this prestigious group.

“These students were chosen by their peers who felt they exemplified humanism in medicine. The world is in desperate need of physicians and, more specifically, humanistic physicians,” said Dr. Weitzman. “The students inducted this year are now part of an international society. We hope they will be leaders in advancing the principles of the GHHS in patient care.”

This year’s inductees completed their clinical training during the worst of the global healthcare crisis—a challenging experience for all medical students of this class. Current chapter members nominated their peers based on who demonstrated exemplary patient care, devotion to the community and the underprivileged, trustworthiness, and strong listening skills during these formative years of exposure to the field of medicine. After initial evaluation based on the nomination criteria, shortlisted nominees were then invited to submit a statement demonstrating their passion for medicine and commitment to the GHHS pledge.

“Our chapter, like others, moved its induction ceremony and activities online during the pandemic,” said Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson, SGU GHHS chapter advisor, and chair of the bioethics division of SOM’s Department of Clinical Skills. “No matter the circumstance, we keep our chapter projects going each year by identifying team leaders and inviting new members to join one of our existing projects. It is genuinely rewarding to see and hear the wonderful stories that come with this work and inspire hope for compassionate and thoughtful patient care.”

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation established the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) in 2002 out of a desire to foster and acknowledge humanism during medical education. Since its inception, the GHHS has been established at more than 160 medical schools, awarding thousands of students with honors. The SGU chapter was established in 2004.


Sarah Stoss

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SGU School of Medicine Holds Graduation Ceremonies for Class of 2022

St. George’s University School of Medicine celebrated its 41st commencement this weekend in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“The faculty, staff, and administration of St. George’s University extend our heartiest congratulations to the class of 2022,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU. “Our graduates have accomplished so much, and we’re thrilled to send them on their way into careers as physicians.”

The St. George’s University class of 2022 will join a network of more than 19,000 alumni practicing in the United States and around the world. Later this month, they’ll begin residency programs in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia in several competitive specialties, including surgery, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. SGU also sends many graduates into high-need primary care specialties, such as internal medicine, pediatrics, and family medicine.

A significant share of SGU alumni work in medically underserved areas, and many have served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SGU is the largest source of licensed physicians for the entire U.S. workforce. The country could face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“Our graduates are well-equipped to deliver top-notch care — and to tackle the most pressing problems facing our healthcare system,” said Dr. Richard Liebowitz, vice chancellor of SGU. “They will no doubt have a long-lasting positive impact on the lives of countless patients.”




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SGU Confers Degrees to School of Veterinary Medicine Class of 2022

St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine inaugurated a new class of veterinarians at commencement this weekend in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“We’re delighted to recognize the achievements of the class of 2022,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of the SGU School of Veterinary Medicine. “These new veterinarians have demonstrated perseverance and dedication that will serve them well as they transition into careers in animal healthcare.”

The class of 2022 will enter the workforce at a time when demand for veterinary services is surging. The United States will need up to 41,000 more veterinarians by 2030 to meet the healthcare needs of companion animals alone.

In addition to caring for household pets, the newest graduates of St. George’s School of Veterinary Medicine will take on various roles essential to public health, such as studying how diseases jump from animals to humans and ensuring that our food supply can keep up with demand.

St. George’s offers students an international approach to veterinary medicine. It maintains partnerships with universities in several other countries, including the United States and Canada. Students also have access to a number of unique research opportunities in Grenada.

“The need for highly skilled veterinarians has never been clearer,” Dr. Olson said . “We’re looking forward to watching our newest crop of graduates meet this demand and create positive change in the animal—and human—world.”



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With SIM Skills In Hand, SGU Students Come Out Ahead At AMSACon

A team of student representatives from St. George’s University came home with big winnings from the American Medical Student Association’s national convention (AMSACon) in Washington, DC.

School of Medicine students and SGU AMSA chapter members Tasha Phillips-Wilson, Stephanie Moody-Geissler, and Mark Iannatuono won AMSACon’s National Simulated Patient Challenge. The group, who called themselves “The CardioversionKids,” competed against more than 25 teams from medical schools across the US and the Caribbean using Body Interactive, a virtual patient care platform that allows students to practice diagnostic and treatment skills using simulated patients.

After performing well in the qualifying rounds on two case simulations, the team provided care for a simulated patient who presented with acute coronary syndrome. The team correctly identified his condition and treated him appropriately, more effectively and quickly than any of the other six teams invited to take part in the final round.

“We feel our victory would never have been possible without SGU’s rigorous academic preparation,” Mr. Iannatuono said of the experience. “Our team is now on to the World Championship round which will be hosted online in October.”


One of the critical areas where SOM students receive rigorous academic preparation is in clinical skills via the simulation lab. SGU’s SiMLAB provides an opportunity for many medical students to have their first direct interaction with ill and injured patients in a safe, simulated learning environment. In this learning environment, students are exposed to the following medical simulation-based training modalities:

  • Skills training using tasks trainers (e.g., IV catheter insertion)
  • High-fidelity manikin training
  • Standardized (simulated) patient encounters
  • Computer-based or cloud-based simulation (via i-Human)
  • Hybrid training with both standardized patients and manikins

“Our simulation training sessions are invaluable tools which are utilized primarily for two purposes: to safely increase the educational experiences for students and improve healthcare delivery,” said Dr. Anna Cyrus-Murden, assistant dean of simulation at SGU. “Thus, simulation provides a safe environment to facilitate learning, practice, and achieving one’s competency goals, without the inherent risks that comes with its real-life equivalent.”

SiMLAB is an integral part of the SOM curriculum along with student’s exposure to standardized patients. The elements set the foundational knowledge and skills required for our students as they train for clinical encounters, according to Dr. Mark Clunes, senior associate dean of basic sciences.

“That the SGU AMSA student team was able to come first in this national competition is testimony to their hard work and training and something that they—and our whole community—can be proud of,” Dr. Clunes said. “I was very happy to learn of their win and know that our whole community will be happy to hear of their success!”

Students won the AMSACon National Simulated Patient Challenge.


The SGU representatives also received individual honors at the annual convention.

  • Ms. Moody-Geissler was recognized with the AMSA Foundation Reproductive Health Poster Scholarship Award and elected as the National AMSA Global Health Advocacy coordinator
  • Mrs. Phillips-Wilson was elected to serve on the AMSA National Board of Directors as international trustee. Mrs. Phillips-Wilson is the former Academy Chair and was also honored with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her work in leading the University to win the Paul R Wright Chapter Success Award.
  • Mr. Iannatuono was elected as international membership director for the organization.

When asked for comment, Mrs. Tasha Phillips-Wilson said: “I know I speak for all the SGU students in attendance at AMSACon when I say what an honor it was to represent our amazing University.”  

—Sarah Stoss



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Ukraine-born grad travels to Poland to help refugees in need

International medical and humanitarian assistance groups and volunteers from around the world have been traveling to border cities to provide aid and medical care to Ukraine refugees, including Dr. Mariya Vengrenyuk, a 2016 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine.

Dr. Vengrenyuk splits her time as a travel hospitalist and as a clinical investigator working on vaccine trials for pharmaceutical product development. She was born in the Ukraine and moved to the US when she was nine.

Feeling an emotional pull to help her native country’s people, Dr. Vengrenyuk has traveled to the Poland-Ukraine border at Przemysl with SSF-Rescuers Without Borders, a medical relief agency dedicated to help people in distress. Following her work with SSF, she will also visit her hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine with the organization, Revived Soldiers Ukraine.

Before leaving, Dr. Vengrenyuk shared why she wanted to offer her services in this capacity and how her training at SGU prepared her for this journey.

St. George’s University: How did you get involved with both organizations?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I learned about SSF through my colleagues. A few doctors from Philadelphia that I know from residency training volunteered with SSF in March 2022.

As for Revived Soldiers Ukraine, I have been volunteering with this organization for the last few years. I traveled to Ukraine in the summer of 2021 twice. We opened a physical therapy rehabilitation in Irpin (a city outside Kyiv that was heavily shelled recently). Our rehab still stands now that Russian troops retreated from this area.

We have been bringing wounded soldiers to the US. Our organization president finds hospitals who treat them pro-bono or we purchase health insurance to help cover surgery costs.



SGU: What are you expecting to see when you get there? What kinds of tasks/treatments/aid will you give to refugees?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I think my role will be providing urgent care type of evaluations. I speak Ukrainian, Russian, and I can understand Polish—so I can help translate medical information.

With SSF, this is a medical tent clinic that is located right at the border. Many refugees are people who left their home with minimal belongings. Some will have missed their medications for weeks. I expect to see patients with chest pain, possible URIs, diabetics with hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, uncontrolled blood pressure, minor wounds, skin infections, etc. I know that many women have been sexually abused and some are pregnant. This is difficult to talk about, but we may be the first health personnel they encounter after these terrible experiences. I will also see many people with acute stress disorders, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

SGU: How have you emotionally prepared for the trip?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I am glad I did not fly there in February or March. At that point I was in a state of shock, I was crying every day. I needed to learn to cope with the war myself before I could go and provide care to others impacted.

SGU: Why do you feel it was important for you to volunteer in this capacity?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I am in a position to help. I speak the language. I understand where these people come from. I have medical training. It may not be combat training—but I think any medical background will help during moments like these. I am young, healthy, I do not have a family of my own, I feel I am in a position to give back. I can also help financially. I was lucky to have moved to the US at age nine when my parents won the green card. Had we still lived in Ukraine—we could have been the ones crossing this same border as refugees.

SGU: How has your training at SGU prepared you for this type of medical assistance?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: SGU was an incredible experience, I am very proud that I went to SGU. It opened a world of opportunities for me. First of all, going to Grenada was the first time I left my parent’s home. In college, I lived with my parents. It was a brave first step to pursue my dream and try something unknown.

I think my SGU experience prepared me to always be ready for new opportunities and to learn to adapt quickly. I made many connections at SGU with doctors who now practice all over the world. I stay in touch with several SGU graduates.

SGU: What kind of characteristics/traits does a doctor need to have to function in a war-zone environment?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I think you need to be brave, rational, and selfless. I love people in general and if I can lessen their pain, whether physical or emotional, I will try my best to do it.

Also, you need to be compassionate but not emotional. You need to be ready to see and hear terrible stories but not let it impact you to the point where you cannot help. You need to be open to learn new skills quickly.

SGU: Anything else you would like to share about the trip?

Dr. Vengrenyuk: I plan to do more trips like this, hopefully I can go back to the Ukraine in August.




— Laurie Chartorynsky


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