SGU President: “Everyone Should Get a Flu Shot”

With flu season further threatening an already challenging year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control is recommending that everyone ages six months and up receive a flu vaccine.

“While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever,” according to the CDC’s website.

 

To understand the science behind flu vaccines and how it helps minimize infections, SGU News spoke with St. George’s University President Dr. G. Richard Olds, an expert in infectious diseases.

St. George’s University: What are the benefits of getting a flu vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Most of the time the flu vaccine prevents you from getting the flu, and even if it doesn’t, it makes your flu illness less severe and shorter in duration.

SGU: Who should get a flu shot?

Dr. Olds: Everyone should get a flu shot every year. There is almost no downside to getting one, and it clearly helps lessen the severity of the flu. In addition, it keeps us from transmitting flu to vulnerable older adults who are at higher risk from the flu. Thus, the vaccine protects you as well as society.

Importantly, all healthcare professionals are required to get it, so they don’t bring the flu to elderly patients and those with altered immune systems.

SGU: Why is getting a flu shot even more important this year, given the global pandemic?

Dr. Olds: Since COVID-19 symptoms are very similar to flu symptoms—at least in the beginning—getting a flu shot is helpful in avoiding confusion if you develop respiratory symptoms or a fever. It’s important to note that a person can be infected with both flu and COVID at the same time, and it is likely that this double infection will be far worse that either alone.

SGU: How does the vaccine work? Why do some people get “sick” after getting the vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Flu vaccines come in several types. There is a live weakened viral vaccine used primarily for children; there is the killed vaccine, used for many years, primarily for young adults through age 65; and a new high potency vaccine designed for those over 65.

Contrary to popular belief, adults and seniors can’t get the flu from the flu shot given to them. Because we give the flu shot during the fall/winter when many respiratory viruses are around, people often get infected with a non-flu virus around the time they get the flu shot and blame the vaccine for their illness.

That said, children are given a live weakened vaccine that sometimes causes a very mild flu illness. When the child recovers their immune system is ready to fight off the real flu.

SGU: How effective is the flu vaccine?

Dr. Olds: Unlike tetanus shorts or Measles vaccines, the flu virus vaccine must change slightly from year to year in order to work. That’s because the target—the flu virus—mutates rapidly. As a result, the vaccine has to be reformulated every year to match the specific flu virus we expect each flu season. Most years we do a good job of “guessing” what exact flu viruses we will face each fall, but some years the virus mutates in an unpredictable way and the vaccine is not as effective. Even with a mismatch, the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness. Fortunately, we also have antivirals like Tamiflu that we can use to fight flu if a vaccinated person gets infected.

The real problem is that too few people get the vaccine, so the virus circulates effectively and eventually finds the vulnerable members of our society. Very few people would die of flu each year if everyone got a flu shot.

SGU: Can you speak to the speed at which a flu vaccine is created?

Dr. Olds: The entire process takes about four months. Scientists decide what strains they think will circulate in the fall around March and April of each year. Flu shots are usually a combination of three or four specific flu virus strains. Then they have to grow each strain in eggs, harvest the virus, and then formulate the year’s new vaccine. Flu shots first appear in the market in late August or early September.

Since the vaccine is only good for one year (because the virus changes each year), manufacturers try to produce about the same amount of vaccine used the previous year. As a result, if demand going way up, such as this year, we could run out of vaccines before the flu season is over.

 

—Laurie Chartorynsky

SGU and Grenada: A Strong Partnership to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

For more than 40 years, St. George’s University in collaboration with the Government of Grenada have worked hand in hand to confront challenges both big and small. Their partnership may have never been more stalwart, their mission more resolute, than in 2020, when the country and the world have grappled, and continue to grapple with, the ramifications of a widespread and persistent coronavirus pandemic due to SARS-CoV-2. 

Close collaboration on the development of lifesaving testing capabilities and the donation of critical medical equipment has been a crucial outcome of the partnership between SGU and Government of Grenada. The University and the Grenadian government have upheld their commitment to the nation—to ensure that its residents remain, above all else, safe and healthy. 

“We applaud and thank those with the Government of Grenada for their vision, diligence, and resolve in these unprecedented times in healthcare,” said Dr. Charles Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s University. “When faced with the myriad of challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presented, we worked collaboratively and in the best interest of the entire Grenadian community, including the alumni, faculty, and staff at St. George’s University.”  

This public private partnership is an exemplar of cooperation,” said the Hon. Nickolas Steele, Grenada’s Minister of Health and Social Security, and member of the Executive Council of the World Health Organization. “Remarkable results have been achieved through this partnership, and we will continue to work together in this fight. 

St. George’s University was the national testing site for Grenada during the spring, testing Grenadian citizens as well as University faculty, staff, and students.

Partnership Aces the Test 

This spring, COVID-19 outbreaks around the world forced government and university officials to act decisively. The Government of Grenada, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), a research and education foundation based at SGU, worked to establish one of the first diagnostic testing facilities in the Caribbean and was established on the lower campus. 

Under the leadership of Dr. Calum Macpherson, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and SGU’s Director of Research, qPCR testing operations at St. George’s University have so far resulted in more than 3,000 individuals (with and without symptoms) receiving safe and prompt COVID-19 diagnostic tests, with results received within eight hours.  

Crucial to its success was the Minister of Health’s procurement of the necessary primers, probes, and reagents through PAHO, as well as an ample supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the onset of testing. Results were shared each night by Dr. Trevor Noel, SGU’s Director of Field Research, with the Ministry of Health, as well as PAHO and University officials. These outcomes helped guide government COVID-19 policies, including at airports and ports of entry, during the peak weeks and months of the pandemic. 

“Because there was a global shortage of reagents, we couldn’t have had the testing capacity if not for the extraordinary efforts of the Minister of Health,” said Dr. Macpherson. “We have one home—Grenada—and our common agenda was to diagnose the virus, implement a test, trace, and isolate policy from early on in the epidemic, which has served us well.”  

This testing was administered by the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, which had the necessary equipment in place due to its ongoing influenza research efforts, as well as qualified personnel to administer the tests. The campus-based site served as the national testing service into the summer months, and still operates as one of approximately 250 quality control labs around the world overseen by the WHO. Results from SGU’s lab have been in 100 percent concordance with the expected test results from WHO. 

“SGU was one of the first vet schools to do COVID-19 testing. In April, we began testing the community in Grenada and helped the Government of Grenada test repatriating Grenadians who returned home by ship and by air,” said Dr. Neil Olson, dean of SGU’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “We were so happy to have had the equipment and the expertise—including lab and technician expertise—to take this on.” 

According to the WHO, Grenada has reported 27 COVID-19 cases and zero COVID-19 related deaths to date. SGU’s testing site has since been a beacon of excellence for the entire region. SGU’s diagnostic team helped design and set up the Ministry of Health’s testing site at Grenada General Hospital, including training of lab staff and troubleshooting with initial qPCR lab testing. 

 

Since breaking ground more than 40 years ago, all the way to present day, we truly believe that we couldn’t have chosen a better partner for this university.”

 

Equipped for the Challenge 

Grenada General Hospital is responsible for the great majority of emergency healthcare services throughout the islandUpon the arrival of COVID-19 in the global conversation, it braced for a surge of patients like other facilities around the world. 

Its primary need: ventilators. The hospital had just two ventilators, designed to mechanically assist patients with breathing, for the entire population of more than 100,000 people. Responding to that need, St. George’s University tapped into its international consortium of resources to facilitate the acquisition and delivery of 18 additional ventilators.  

“The substantial support from SGU served to bolster our efforts to tackle COVID-19,” said Dr. Carol McIntosh, Director of Hospital Services. “Their acquisition and donation of critical medical resources such as ventilators and PPE for health workers helped to ensure that we were better prepared to deal with any potential outbreak of the disease here in Grenada.”  

SGU also secured tens of thousands of pieces of personal protection equipment, ranging from gloves and gowns to goggles and facemasks, for medical personnel as well as members of the community. In addition, SGU was able to bring in 18 combination defibrillator monitors, two handheld ultrasound machines, two portable X-ray machines, as well as blood gas analyzers and supplies.  

The equipment has been crucial to providing critical care to patients throughout the pandemic. The fight with COVID-19 is still ongoing, both in Grenada and around the world, and St. George’s University and the Government of Grenada are committed to continuing to collaborate and innovate, with the health and safety of its citizens in mind. 

“Since breaking ground more than 40 years ago, all the way to present day, we truly believe that we couldn’t have chosen a better partner for this university,” said Dr. Modica. “Our mission has always been to improve healthcare on a national, regional, and global levels, and we are thrilled to have had the support of the government—and the people—of Grenada throughout this journey.” 

– Brett Mauser

The Laboratory Personnel Behind SGU’s COVID Testing Site

Even before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) reached the shores of Grenada, St. George’s University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, together with the Government of Grenada and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), were prepared for it. With the proper equipment and a team led by two staff members—both SGU graduates—in the SVM’s molecular virology lab, the virus has had minimal impact on the island, with just 27 cases and zero deaths reported.

“We are grateful for all the individuals, volunteers, and organizations whose commitment to a common cause has helped minimize the effects of the virus in Grenada,” said Dr. Calum Macpherson, dean of the School Graduate Studies and SGU’s director of research. “It has been a complex operation, from the team of nurses and physicians that completed the nasopharyngeal swabs led by Dr. Kathy Yearwood, director of the University Health Services, to the School of Veterinary Medicine team led by Dean Neil Olson. They have done a tremendous job, navigating the university and the country through a very difficult time with a testing operation that was accessible, accurate, and efficient.”

SGU’s lab served as Grenada’s national testing site at the onset of the pandemic. The effort has been facilitated by a number of staff members. In particular, SGU graduates Trevor Noel, MPH ’03, PhD ’17, Bhumika Sharma, PhD ’20, Vanessa Matthew-Belmar, MSc ’16, have tested more than 2,000 St. George’s University students, faculty, and staff, over 1,200 members of the Grenadian community, as well as individuals arriving in Grenada via plane or cruise ship.

“In the beginning, we knew we had an equipped laboratory and the personnel with specific molecular biology training who could step in during this emergency to take on COVID testing,” said Dr. Melinda Wilkerson, chair of pathobiology in the SVM.

In addition to Dr. Sharma and Ms. Matthew, Dr. Wilkerson praised the efforts of Associate Dean of Research Dr. Sonia Cheetham-Brow, molecular virologist Dr. Mercedes Abeya, and faculty members Dr. Andy Alhassan and Mr. Dan Fitzpatrick, as well as the leadership provided by Drs. Macpherson, Olson, and Noel, the field research director for SGU and deputy director of the campus-based Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) who was instrumental in coordinating with the Ministry of Health, Government Cabinet Ministers and the SGU testing team regarding sample collection, on-time delivery of samples to the lab, and the reporting of results and discussion with the Ministry of Health, Grenada Government Cabinet of Ministers and PAHO.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the professional work that our entire team has done in the face of a daunting challenge,” Dr. Olson said. “There has been plenty of uncertainty around the coronavirus, and the thorough diagnostic testing has provided not only answers but peace of mind for so many people in Grenada.”

In the early stages of the pandemic, Dr. Sharma and Ms. Matthew-Belmar extracted and processed 30-70 samples each day working up to eight hours, seven days a week, for three months. COVID testing required the use of similar techniques and materials, such as primers and probes, used for RNA extraction in a standard PCR test. Results were received within eight hours.

“To find out if COVID is present, we would exponentially amplify, using PCR, any virus gene sequences in the sample,” said Dr. Sharma, an instructor in the SVM’s Department of Pathobiology. “If the virus is there, the primers and probes would adhere to it and produce multiple copies of the RNA.”

Their work continued into the summer months and now into the fall, not only as an on-campus but in helping the Grenada Ministry of Health develop its own testing facility, training the new facility’s lab staff and troubleshooting initial qPCR testing. The campus-based site still operates as one of approximately 250 quality control labs around the world overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO). Results from SGU’s lab have been in 100 percent concordance with the expected test results from WHO.

“It gives me a sense of pride to give back to the country what I have learned,” said Ms. Matthew-Belmar, the head laboratory technician in the SVM. “I’m grateful for SGU, where I have learned many different testing techniques.”

“When there’s a pandemic, everyone has to come together, regardless of whether you’re working under medicine or are in the veterinary field,” Dr. Sharma added. “I feel so proud to be able to do something helpful for this community. It has been a great experience.”

– Brett Mauser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SGU: How do you protect the animals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

School of Veterinary Medicine Hosts Virtual Wellness Event for Students

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional and Psychological Support  

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

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

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

Additional Mental Health Resources

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

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

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky

SVM Research Findings: First-Year Clinical Exposure Benefits Students

 

Four St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine graduates, two current students, and SVM Professor Dr. Anne Marie Corrigan were among the 10 authors of a paper recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education.

The research paper, “Introducing Clinical Behavior Medicine to Veterinary Students with Real Clients and Pets: A Required Class Activity and an Optional Workshop,” focuses on how behavior problems in clinical practice requires diagnostic expertise as well as excellent client skills in communication, gained by experience. The research addressed the issue by introducing small animal clinical behavior to first-year veterinary students at St. George’s University.

 

Clinical Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Ninad Desai, Chair of Pediatrics for SGU’s School of Medicine

Dr. Ninad Desai, chair of pediatrics, School of Medicine

As a longtime pediatrician, Dr. Ninad Desai has cared for children across the globe, practicing first in his home country of India, as well as Saudi Arabia, before emigrating to the US.

Today, Dr. Desai is the chief of pediatrics at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County as well as the institution’s chief academic officer, a role for which he oversees clinical trainees and resident trainees across all of the hospital’s departments, including medical students from St. George’s University.

Dr. Desai is also the chair of the pediatrics department for SGU’s School of Medicine. As chair of SGUSOM’s pediatrics department, he ensures that students receive an optimal clinical experience and education in pediatrics across SGU’s 70-plus clinical sites by supervising the creation of the pediatric curriculum and making sure it meets all educational and regulatory needs. Above all, Dr. Desai said he enjoys helping to “foster a sense of compassion, care, and a true sense of medical ethics” in today’s students.

Dr. Desai shared with SGU News why specializing in pediatrics can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

SGU: Why did you choose pediatrics as a medical specialty?

ND: I was always passionate about caring for the most vulnerable amongst us. I went to medical school at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, followed by a three-year residency in pediatrics there and a year as chief resident. This led to three years as a pediatric specialist in Saudi Arabia, then fellowship training in pediatric hematology/oncology at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY. I spent much of my career caring for children born with HIV infection. Today I am a steward of a large pediatric department, mentoring trainees at all levels.

SGU: What are some recent developments in the pediatric medicine field that is on your radar?

ND: We are closely watching the pervasive use of genetics in diagnosis, detection, and treatment of diseases as well as the use of advanced therapies such as biologic drugs in medicine. Many childhood illnesses have identified genetic aberrations and newer technologies such as CRISPR, for which this year’s Nobel Prize was given in chemistry, will help us cure/prevent many of these conditions. Biologics are already being used widely in many immune-related and cancer-related conditions.

On the education front, I am deeply interested in incorporating quality, equity, and safety in pediatric medical education.

SGU: Why is pediatrics a gratifying specialty? What keeps you going in your job every day?

ND: The specialty is amazingly fulfilling. To me, if I save one child, I feel like I am saving the entire world. The care of children requires a special sensitivity, empathy, and involves not only the child but the entire family.

In addition, I am passionate about educating and inspiring the younger generation to become caring physicians—a legacy that will self-perpetuate, in my opinion. I enjoy mentoring and guiding students to hopefully inspire them to forge a career in primary care pediatrics or pediatrics-related specialties.

SGU: What is challenging about the field? 

ND: It’s not easy to comprehend that the health of children is set to a very different tune than adult healthcare. Children are not just small adults; they come with their own unique set of problems and issues, and the skills and understanding required to bring a high quality of life to every child are different.

SGU: Can you share a key piece of advice for students who are considering pediatrics as their specialty?

ND: If you are seriously considering pediatrics as a career, I strongly urge you to choose a fourth-year elective in pediatrics at one of our great clinical sites. While the third-year core rotation is great, the elective will help you get a well-rounded experience.

 

— Laurie Chartorynsky 

SGU President: What Are Your Chances of Getting Into Medical School?

 

SGU President Dr. G. Richard Olds was recently featured in a US News and World Report article about successful medical school admissions strategies. The article, titled “What are Your Chances of Getting into Medical School?”, includes insights from medical school administrators, faculty, admissions counselors, and other experts.

Dr. Olds explains that school selection is a crucial component of the application process and can make or break a student’s chances of admission to their institution of choice. “The most common mistakes in the med school admissions process are either not applying to a sufficient number of schools or not applying to the most appropriate types of schools. Olds says it’s crucial to apply to a wide range, including reach, match and safety schools.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is It Like to Be a Vet Radiologist? Faculty Spotlight on SVM Professor, Dr. Thomas Hanson

Ever wonder what it is like to be a veterinary radiologist?

Thomas Hanson, DVM ’11, a former radiologist at the Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center in Waukesha, WI, has returned to St. George’s University to teach diagnostic imaging to School of Veterinary Medicine students in Terms 1, 2, 5, and 6.

Thomas Hanson, DVM '11, SVM professor of Diagnostic Imaging

He shared some recent developments in the field of vet radiology and why the occupation can be a gratifying specialty for aspiring veterinarians.

St. George’s University: What types of cases do veterinary radiologists typically see? 

Thomas Hanson: Although veterinary radiologists primarily interpret images of small animal and equine patients, we do occasionally get involved in food animal and zoo animal patient imaging.

SGU: What are some recent developments in the field that is on your radar?

TH: The continued expanded use of CT (computed tomography) as well as developments in MRI and PET/CT (positron emission/computed tomography). Similar to human medicine, these imaging techniques help us to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.

SGU: You recently presented a case discussion to SGU’s Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging Club. Can you share information about the case you presented to the group? How often do you present cases to student clubs?

TH: I held case rounds for the DI Club students for the first time in September. At the students’ request, we covered approximately seven musculoskeletal cases of dogs and cats. My goal for case rounds is to have students experience clinical radiology—versus academic radiology that is taught in lectures. Case rounds give students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in lectures to a true clinical case and based on their imaging findings discuss what the next step(s) should be in the treatment of the patient. It was very well received by the students and a second session has already been scheduled.

SGU: Why did you choose this specialty?

TH: I had a previous career in diagnostic imaging in human medicine (as a technologist, radiology department manager) and several years working at GE Healthcare as a customer training specialist and on product development teams.

Like a lot of people in this field, I had the desire to become a veterinarian at an early age and reached a point where I decided to pursue that career. I enjoy the ability to image an animal, often with very hi-tech equipment, and provide diagnostic information to the clinician. Radiographs and advanced imaging are a big piece of the puzzle to help determine the cause of a patient’s illness.

SGU: Why is vet radiology a gratifying specialty?

TH: We oversee the acquisition of many types of imaging procedures on animals and we interpret the information of the images for the clinicians in charge of the case. It is a highly technical process to acquire the images, but the interpretation remains human dependent. Clinicians rely on us to provide accurate assessments of the images so that they can properly treat the animal in need.

SGU: What is one thing students may not know about the field of veterinary radiology?

TH: Students should know that the specialty is very competitive, yet there is a lot of flexibility and opportunity to use these skills in different work environments.

 

– Laurie Chartorynsky

VIDEO: From MMA to MD

Dr. Anthony McDonald, a 2013 graduate of St. George’s University School of Medicine, turned in his mixed martial arts championship belt to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. He is now the director of cardiopulmonary medicine at San Angelo Community Medical Center in San Angelo, TX.

“What I used to do with fighting and training, it really ingrained in me the discipline that I needed and the structure that I needed to know what I needed to do to be successful,” Dr. McDonald said. “The contrast is very different, but I feel that the idea is still the same. It’s about not giving up. Medical school is challenging. There’s no two ways about it. And I was very fortunate to be able to do it at St. George’s University, where I felt that the entire island was set up to make you succeed.”