From U-2 Pilot to OB/GYN: A Veteran Reflects on Her Career Path

When Cholene Espinoza, MD SGU ’15, looks back on her childhood, she remembers imperfections and failure.

“I was always kind of a screw-up as a kid,” said Espinoza, chief resident in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “I started first grade when I was five, so I was always feeling behind and was often put in the corner for being disruptive in class. I was independent and never really fit in to the traditional educational system.”

For years, Espinoza struggled to focus academically and socially, but the summer before seventh grade, she had an epiphany: “I remember telling my mom I didn’t want to be a loser anymore.”

She hasn’t let her mom down. Espinoza’s stellar career and life have played like a Hollywood movie with her roles including—an elite spy plane pilot; a passenger originally scheduled to board one of the ill-fated planes on 9/11; a wartime journalist; a Hurricane Katrina volunteer; a published author and, finally an OB-GYN who has a profound reverence for human life.

As Veterans Day approaches, Espinoza, an Air Force veteran, reflected on the meaning of the day and how her own service changed her life and set her on her path to becoming a physician.

“What is would say to veterans is, ‘thank you. We’ve served together, you kept me safe and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate you in every way,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza’s Military Career Takes Flight

At 17, Espinoza enrolled in the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the 1980s, when she was a young cadet, the Academy limited female enrollment to just 10 percent of a class. (With those gender restrictions now gone, last year’s freshman class at the Academy was about a quarter female.)

“Like anything in life, there were moments when I struggled, and things or comments happened that shouldn’t have,” she said. “But it taught me to surround myself with supportive, good people and to work through the hardships.”

A Path Discovered

But more hardships were to come. Around Christmas of her sophomore year, Espinoza’s father died. The shock and grief soon led her to an unexpected, but clear path.

“I was taking a course in glider flying and it enabled me to get over my father’s death on some level,” she said. “Flying came natural to me when nothing else in my life had.”

After graduating, Espinoza served as a flying instructor for four years, and later, she was selected as a U-2 spy plane pilot for the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base, California–the only U-2 squadron in the world.

U-2 spy planes are single-jet engine, ultra-light gliders that maneuver on the edge of the earth’s atmosphere. Designed to avoid enemy detection, the planes are equipped with sophisticated instrumentation that provides vital intelligence, day or night and in all-weather.

In a 12-hour mission, the aircraft can capture extraordinarily detailed imagery of a country the size of Iraq. And while much about the aircraft remains classified, Espinoza points out the planes do far more than reconnaissance—they also aid in peacekeeping and directing humanitarian aid.

Flying solo missions in U-2 plane can be an otherworldly, almost spiritual experience, said Espinoza. Wrapped in the cocoon of her space gear, she can sometimes still feel the stillness of the open sky and the brilliance of the earth.

“I would fly across Europe all night and it felt as though I could just reach out and touch the stars,” she said.

But along with the beauty came harsh reminders of the chaos on the ground.

“I would fly over beautiful civilizations like France and Germany, but when I made it to my target areas, it would be pitch black,” she said. “Then, I would see a flash of light and know it was a blast, and that meant someone is killing or someone is dying. It always gave me reverence for how fragile human life is and how unjust war is.”

Espinoza observed war from the quiet remove of a spy plane, but with each mission she would feel a stronger urge to assist those affected on the ground.

“I couldn’t directly help people from the stratosphere and that propelled me to eventually get out of the Air Force cockpit,” she said.

From Above 70,000 Feet to 30,000 Feet

Espinoza left the Air Force for a career in commercial flying with United Airlines and then Emirates Airlines–allowing her to travel to every continent except Antarctica.

“As a commercial pilot, I had to be broken of my ‘single pilot mindset’ and not disregard input from others,” said Espinoza. “Success was based on the efficacy and quality of the entire crew.”

Espinoza was working for United Airlines on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four aircrafts and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a Pennsylvania countryside.

She was not scheduled to fly the fourth plane hijacked that day, but was supposed to be a passenger. The flight boarded in Newark, and was supposed to land in San Francisco. It never made it.

“I was living in New York City at the time and had just accepted a bid to be a captain out of San Francisco,” said Espinoza. “I planned to take the flight as a passenger to find a new home in San Francisco, but the crew desk realized I had gone over my flight limitation hours, so the first leg of my trip was cancelled and I wasn’t on Flight 93.”

Espinoza’s United Airlines colleague and former Academy classmate, Leroy Homer, Jr., was co-piloting the airplane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

“I knew Leroy since I was 17 and had just seen him in London on a layover,” said Espinoza. “He was happier and more content than I’d ever known him to be, showing me pictures of his daughter and wife. I often think of him that day in Hyde Park, with his smile, wishing I’d been there for him on that flight.”

Espinoza’s Service Shifts from Sky to Ground

The events of 9/11 soon led her to take a pair of three-month leave from United Airlines to cover the Iraq war as a civilian radio journalist. Her first tour was with the Marine Corps and the second, and third with the Army. Espinoza worked as an embedded journalist for Talk Radio News Service (now Talk Media News), which gave her an opportunity to come face-to-face with war—both its injustice and its heroism.

“I departed Iraq from mobile hospital in Iraq and there were surgeons trying to save children who had limbs blown off from mines and ammunition,” said Espinoza. “The medical teams were trying to make something right out of something so horribly wrong. When you’re in the middle of a war, you see the destruction and insanity of it, and then you see these beautiful acts.”

Espinoza witnessed how war changes people.

“In order for me to overcome what war had done to me, I needed to engage and fix what was broken,” she said. “That’s what inspired me to leave the cockpit for good and directly take care of people by switching careers from pilot and journalist, to doctor.”

But before taking care of people as a doctor, Espinoza’s desire to serve brought her to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.

“On our first trip to Mississippi, my spouse and I connected with a small community and fell in love with the people and their struggle,” said Espinoza. “We realized how many people drowned from the storm because they didn’t know how to swim, since there were no community centers or public swimming pools.”

So, the couple made it their mission to change the community’s access to water safety by raising money to build a public swimming pool. Amid rebuilding and spending all of her down time and vacation days on the Gulf Coast, Espinoza penned a novel, Through the Eye of the Storm: A Book Dedicated to Rebuilding What Katrina Washed Away.

“I realized each of us has something to give and that gift is desperately needed in our world,” said Espinoza. “For me, being gay had not stopped me from serving two of my greatest loves in life, God and country. This book is the story of my life, the lives of truly heroic Americans and the transformation of my spirit that took place unexpectedly in this small Mississippi town.”

The proceeds raised from the book, which she wrote and published in less than one year, supported the rebuilding of one of the most hurricane-ravaged communities on the Gulf Coast. The writing process helped Espinoza accept herself completely.

“It wasn’t until I was out of the service that I wrestled with my own identity,” said Espinoza. “In the service, I didn’t have relationships with women, I focused on flying. I had tried to deny that part of who I was but realized through the writing and humanitarian process a stronger desire to live authentically.”

Becoming a Doctor: Her Final Mission

In 2009, after what many would consider an already fulfilling and long career, Espinoza started her journey of becoming a doctor. Then 45 years-old, Espinoza started over with pre-med and then graduated from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies at the age of 50.

“I have the distinction of starting menopause and residency at the same time,” Espinoza jokes.

Espinoza started her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai in June 2015 and is scheduled to finish this coming June. She has been accepted to be re-commissioned into the military as a Reserve U.S. Army OB-GYN. She can be deployed to any medical surgical unit, nationally or internationally.

“Military medicine is what first inspired me, but I thought I was too old for the military,” said Espinoza. “But they desperately need doctors.”

While she’s not serving on Reserve duty, Espinoza plans to work in South Sudan, a struggling country where she has been working and traveling for over six years–first being trained by the South Sudanese when she was a medical student–not teaching and practicing as a doctor.

“With each trip, I can do more, because I’ve learned more here at Cedars-Sinai.”

Above all, residency has been the challenge of her lifetime.

“With medicine and obstetrics specifically, there are no permissible errors,” said Espinoza. “It’s the same as flying jets–there is a certain level of intensity and desire to execute perfection, which drives and motivates me to work harder every single day.”

But, as Espinoza knows, whether in war or in medicine, mistakes are inevitable.

“I start each day with a sense of humility and respect for human life and for people across all socioeconomic levels,” she said. “That humility comes from seeing a lot of bad things happen and knowing I, too, have made mistakes. But every day is an opportunity to try to do better, let go and forgive ourselves.”

And at a time in her life when many people would be slowing down, Espinoza is relishing her uncharted journey ahead.

“I have been blessed with a rich life and experiences, but without question–the most magical, beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life or career is being in the room when a baby is born,” she said. “Any pain, loss, or hurt parents may have previously felt evaporates the split second their baby is born. Witnessing and participating in birth is the privilege of a lifetime.”

This story, video and photos originally appeared on the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center website. They have been published here with permission from Cedars-Sinai.

MD Student’s Research Appears in Clinical Anatomy Journal

What began as a research project in the United Kingdom turned into an award-winning presentation at an international medical conference. And now, for lead author Jenna Kroeker and her St. George’s University colleagues, that research has been published one of the US’ most prestigious anatomy journals—Clinical Anatomy.

The article, titled “Investigating the time-lapsed effects of rigid cervical collars on the dimensions of the internal jugular vein”, was accepted by the Clinical Anatomy board this summer and published in October.

“Our team was the perfect blend of strengths, and we all came together and did what we were good at,” she said. “We’re thrilled. It was a total team effort.”

The research stemmed from SGU’s Early Clinical Exposure Selective, a course offered through the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, England. A seven-student team that included Kroeker utilized ultrasound to learn how prolonged use of a rigid cervical collar, commonly known as a neck brace, affected the dimensions of the internal jugular vein, which drains the head through the neck.

Twenty-four volunteers wore the cervical collar for a period of four hours, and each student was assigned a specific task in order to standardize the research. Roles included fitting the collar to subjects, measuring their height and weight, conducting the ultrasound, and calculating measurements.

They discovered that “the dimensions of the internal jugular vein increase when wearing a collar, suggesting that there is a venous outflow obstruction with prolonged use.”

Ms. Kroeker then created a poster with the help of Dr. James Coey, Associate Course Director for Human Gross and Developmental Anatomy at Northumbria University, and Dr. Sara Sulaiman, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy at NU. She presented the research at last July’s annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists, gaining high praise from its attendees.

“We definitely weren’t expecting anything near this level of success or interest,” Ms. Kroeker said. “I flew into the conference a bit late because of classes and arrived to find out that there was a lot of buzz about our research.”

Out of 120 posters, the cervical collar research was voted the best poster presentation for clinical anatomy at the meeting. She submitted a paper to Clinical Anatomy in December 2017, and after a rigorous editing process, it was officially accepted in August 2018.

Its appearance comes during Ms. Kroeker’s third-year clinical rotations at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, after which she will gear up for the residency application process. In addition to the research award and publication, she has soared in the classroom and on exams, posting an exceptional score on the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1.

“What I’ve found is that I enjoy understanding over memorizing,” Ms. Kroeker said. “Rather than just memorizing a list of symptoms for each disease, it’s important to understand exactly every element from pathogenesis to presentation, to understand how every presentation traces back to an underlying cause.”

She also appreciates the guidance of her twin sister, Lauren, a fourth-year medical student who is slated to graduate from SGU this spring.

“It’s nice having someone I know who learns the same way I do,” Ms. Kroeker said. “You can get advice but it might not always be the best advice for you. With my sister, I always had someone who could tell me what to expect each step along the way. If I had a question, she could always explain the answer in a way that made sense.”

Ms. Kroeker, who’s originally from Edmonton, hopes to match into a residency program back in Canada upon graduating in 2020.

American Veterinary Medical Association Renews Full Accreditation for St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine Through 2025

On November 5, Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, announced to students, faculty, and staff that the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) has re-accredited the school through the year 2025—the maximum seven-year term for accreditation.

The AVMA COE first accredited St. George’s University in 2011. It is currently one of 19 AVMA-accredited schools outside the United States, and one of just two in the Caribbean.

“The AVMA is the gold standard of veterinary education globally, so to be fully accredited puts us right at the top in terms of the quality of training that we provide to our students,” said Dr. Olson. “We are right on the front edge of all vet schools in the Caribbean and on par with any vet school in the United States.”

AVMA accreditation means that SGU graduates can continue to sit for licensure to practice veterinary medicine in the United States or Canada without first completing a foreign graduate examination. It was recently reported that SGU graduates had posted a 95 percent pass rate on the 2017-18 North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE).

In addition, US veterinary students may apply for lower-interest federal loans and in-school deferments through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.

“This is a major feather in our cap for the future recruitment of the best and brightest students from around the world,” Dr. Olson said. “It’s very important that students attend an accredited school, not only to ensure that they receive quality training but it also for the ability to fund their education.”

Dr. Olson joined SGU in August 2017 and continued the school’s preparation for the AVMA visit in April. In SGU’s self study, Dr. Olson assembled groups of faculty and staff that examined the 11 standards by which the AVMA measures schools—organization, finances, physical facilities and equipment, clinical resources, information resources, students, admission, faculty, curriculum, research programs, and outcomes assessment.

Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine at St. George’s University

In addition, Dr. Olson, who served as Dean at the University of Missouri and Associate Dean at North Carolina State University prior to joining SGU, welcomed two colleagues to True Blue to perform a mock site visit in January.

“It’s important that our students have a strong foundation of knowledge skills underneath them when they set off for their careers as veterinarians,” Dr. Olson said. “We believe that we provide that foundation here at St. George’s University, and the backing of accrediting bodies such as the AVMA supports that belief.”

Since opening in 1999, St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine has produced close to 1,600 veterinarians who have gone on to practice in 49 United States and 16 countries worldwide. The School maintains partnerships with 29 universities and clinical facilities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Grenada, Ireland, and Australia where fourth-year students spend a year of clinical training at an affiliated veterinary school.

SGU Grad on Dr. Oz: New FDA-Approved Drug Limits Migraines

Shivang Joshi, MD/MPH SGU ’08, appeared on FOX’s “Dr. Oz” show on October 26 to explain how clinical trials of the drug Emgality—recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration—have shown a drastic reduction of migraine frequency in patients. In one study, he explained that 1 in 7 patients with Emgality were migraine-free for a month, versus 1 in 16 for those using a placebo.

View the entire segment by visiting the Dr. Oz website.

Dr. Joshi came to SGU from St. John’s University College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health at SGU before going on to complete a neurology residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He then completed a fellowship in headache medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s John R. Graham Headache Center, while also serving as an instructor of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

St. George’s Awards $12 Million in Scholarships to Class of 2022

Today, St. George’s University announced that it has awarded over $12 million in scholarships to 276 students who started at its School of Medicine this fall.

“We are proud to help students of all backgrounds achieve their dreams of pursuing careers in medicine,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “Our scholarship recipients have demonstrated excellence academically and professionally, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to SGU’s diverse campus community.”

St. George’s awarded 159 students Humanitarian Scholarships in recognition of their compassion and commitment to humanitarian causes. Launched in October 2017, the $10 million Humanitarian Scholarship fund provides financial awards to help offset the cost of medical education.

Twenty-nine students received the Chancellor’s Circle Legacy of Excellence scholarship, which provides scholarships to applicants with particularly high levels of academic achievement. Students with an overall undergraduate GPA exceeding 3.7, a science GPA above 3.5, and an MCAT score of more than 506 are eligible.

Eighty-eight students received the Legacy of Excellence scholarship, which recognizes applicants with high levels of academic achievement. St. George’s has awarded these grants for over 10 years.

“We believe that financial barriers should not prevent talented, passionate, committed individuals from becoming doctors,” Dr. Olds said. “We look forward to seeing all the great things that these scholarship winners will accomplish in their medical careers.”

This year’s scholarship class includes students from 34 US states and nine countries. In total, St. George’s University has provided scholarships totaling more than $100 million to more than 5,000 students.

St. George’s University Student Named President of American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Medical Student Governing Council

St. George’s University student Stacia Griebahn (fourth from right) with her colleagues at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting in San Francisco.

Before, during, and after surgical operations, anesthesiologists work carefully behind the scenes, monitoring patients’ pain throughout. It’s part of the reason why St. George’s University Term 4 student Stacia Griebahn has longed wanted to become one—to fill an important role in health care, albeit quietly.

Yet at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) annual conference in San Francisco earlier this month, in vying for the role of President of the organization’s Medical Student Governing Council (MSGC), she was front and center, presenting to the Council’s 60-member House of Delegates.

Ms. Griebahn shined, and in being elected President, she became the first-ever student from an international medical school to be named to the Council’s 10-person board. She will serve as its President-Elect for one year beginning on November 1, before assuming the role of President on November 1, 2019.

“It’s still surreal,” she said. “I feel so proud to be from SGU and to have a position on the board.”

Ms. Griebahn joined the ASA as a medical student representative at the behest of John Madden, MD SGU ’81, the Director of SGU’s Office of Career Guidance and Student Development, who implores students to gain exposure to various medical specialties during their basic science years. When the ASA advertised an opening on the Council board in an email to its membership, she leapt at the opportunity, and with the support of the Dean of Students office at SGU, submitted her name and credentials for consideration.

The Council’s 60-member delegation—one for each medical school represented—evaluated candidates based on their background in anesthesiology, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and finally the candidates’ speeches at the ASA meeting. Ms. Griebahn was the only non-US medical school student who ran for the position, with several candidates hailing from prestigious US institutions.

“When I was at the podium giving my speech, it wasn’t just me I was representing; I was also representing SGU,” she said. “It felt great.”

The appointment is only the latest chapter in her journey toward a career in pain management. The course was set at a young age when a family member’s surgery was deemed a success thanks in part to anesthetics.

“It just fascinated me,” she said. “As I started to learn more about the field, including how much math it involved, it intrigued me even more.  I also like how an anesthesiologist isn’t the center of attention. If you’re doing your job correctly, you’re off to the side curating everything and you go unnoticed.”

Ms. Griebahn delved further into anesthesiology by observing its implementation internationally. She shadowed an anesthesiologist during a visit to Venice, Italy, and another physician in a trip to South Africa through the Cape Town-based program, Volunteer Adventure Corps, while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition, she has worked as a patient care technician, providing her a glimpse of health care across all specialties, including pain management.

“Through everything I’ve done, what I learned is that anesthesiology is actually pretty universal,” she said. “In other fields, the treatment of patients can change drastically based on what country you’re in, but in anesthesiology, everyone is pretty much on the same page.”

Since arriving at SGU, Ms. Griebahn has served as Vice President of the Anesthesiology Interest Group (AIG). Most recently, group members have sought recognition as an official student club, which would allow it to receive funding from SGU’s Student Government Association. She expects that AIG will attain that distinction this fall.

As MSGC President, Ms. Griebahn hopes to further build out the MSGC’s ongoing resident/medical student mentor program. She also aims to better connect the anesthesiology clubs and interest groups at universities across the US and beyond, and to generate interest in anesthesiology at institutions that haven’t yet formed a club.

“Most people don’t even get anesthesiology experience until year four of medical school,” she said. “If we can connect the groups and communicate, we can share ideas on how we can get involved and how to receive funding. I’m excited to get started.”

– Brett Mauser

SOM Alumni Association Set to Host Art of Medicine CME in March

This March, the St. George’s University School of Medicine Alumni Association (SOMAA) will take a closer look at the beauty and methods of medicine, welcoming graduates and other medical professionals to Grenada for the Art of Medicine 2019 continuing medical education (CME) conference.

Held in association with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the conference will take place from March 4-7 at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort on Grand Anse Beach. According to SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83, it’s an opportunity for alumni to further harvest their passion for medicine, on an island where the foundation for their careers was built.

“Medicine is an art, not just a profession driven by numbers and statistics,” said SOMAA President Bruce Bonanno, MD SGU ’83. “This conference is a great way for physicians to reconnect with medicine and to get back to their roots.”

Presentation topics cover a wide range of medical realms, including ophthalmology, emergency medicine, hyperbaric therapy, and medicine in Grenada (complete schedule to be finalized soon). By partaking in the CME, attendees are eligible to receive 16 CME credits.

In addition to academic presentations, the conference will also feature activities such as island and campus tours, dune buggy tours, a catamaran sunset cruise, and alumni grand rounds.

“The conference also allows attendees the opportunity to explore the island and enjoy everything it has to offer,” Dr. Bonanno said. “Those of us who studied in Grenada know full well how wonderful of a place it really is.”

Dr. Bonanno also stated that they are looking to welcome members from the January 1979 entering class, the School of Medicine’s fifth-ever class of students.

To learn more about the conference or to register, visit sgualumni.org.

Jersey Shore University Medical Center Joins St. George’s University’s CityDoctors Scholarship Program

This week, St. George’s University announced Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center as its newest hospital partner in the CityDoctors Scholarship Program.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jersey Shore University Medical Center to the CityDoctors Scholarship family,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University. “CityDoctors has helped dozens of aspiring doctors from New York and New Jersey launch their careers in medicine. Now, Jersey Shore University Medical Center will have the opportunity to hand-pick some of the next crop of distinguished CityDoctors.”

Beginning in 2019, Jersey Shore University Medical Center will be able to select one student for a full, four-year scholarship—amounting to about $250,000—or several students for partial scholarships.

Priority consideration will be given to applicants who are from Monmouth or Ocean Counties or affiliated with Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Veterans, those with demonstrated financial need, and those from groups underrepresented in medicine will also receive priority.

Founded in 2012, the CityDoctors program provides partial- and full-tuition scholarships to St. George’s University medical students with a demonstrated interest in practicing medicine in the New York metropolitan area. Additional partners in the program include NYC Health + Hospitals.

“This new scholarship program allows us to grow our academic programs and help area residents, perhaps even the children of our team members, pursue their dreams of becoming doctors,” said Dr. David Kountz, vice president for Academic Affairs at Jersey Shore University Medical Center and co-chief academic officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Although there is no commitment for these students to return to Jersey Shore University Medical Center for their residency, we are hopeful they will want to return ‘home’ when they complete their studies.”

SGU Students Register 95% Pass Rate on Veterinary Licensing Examination

St. George’s University’s veterinary medical students made the grade once more on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE), posting a 95 percent pass rate on the exam in 2017-2018 according to the International Council for Veterinary Assessment (ICVA).

A student’s passing grade on the 360 multiple-choice-question test is required for licensure to practice veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada. Since 2000, ICVA has used the exam and other assessment tools “to protect the public, and animal health and welfare.”

“Our students’ success on the NAVLE is a testament to their commitment to their studies and to their future as veterinarians,” said Dr. Neil Olson, Dean of St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine. “Throughout their basic science and clinical years, they must endure a rigorous course load and absorb a wealth of information, and we’re pleased that the curriculum has adequately prepared them to meet the highest of practicing standards.”

SGU’s pass rate on the NAVLE compares favorably with other veterinary medical schools around the world. The pass rate for all criterion group examinees in the November/December 2017 and April 2018 periods was approximately 95 percent. To be an accredited college of veterinary medicine in good standing, the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE) requires that at least 80 percent of students who take the exam will have passed at the time of graduation.

SGU students have a proven track record of success on the NAVLE, including a 94 percent pass rate among test takers in 2016-2017.

“We congratulate our students for demonstrating that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to have long and successful careers in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU. “We also salute our faculty and staff for helping to build a sturdy foundation for not only these students but for all of our graduates who are currently in practice.”

St. George’s University has produced more than 1,600 veterinarians since opening its doors in 1999. The SVM obtained full AVMA accreditation in 2011, and its graduates have gone on to practice in 49 US states and in 16 countries worldwide.

Student Health at the Heart of New Belford Centre Fitness Center

 

The health of a student’s mind, body, and soul is crucial to his or her academic success, which is why St. George’s University demonstrated its commitment to such achievement, building a state-of-the-art multi-purpose gym and fitness center within the brand new Andrew J. Belford Centre.

The facility overlooks the Caribbean Sea and features a wide array of weight-training and cardio equipment.

“The Belford Centre is a tremendous addition to the campus experience at St. George’s University,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU. “Pursuing a tertiary degree is an enormous challenge, which is why we encourage students to carve out time for themselves so that they’re in the best state physically and mentally to take on that challenge.”

The Belford Centre gym features:

  • An 8,400 square foot gym that houses 66 cardio machines, such as treadmills, stairmasters, arc trainers, rowing machines, and exercise bikes, as well as 60 weight training machines and a full complement of free weights and other equipment.
  • A 940 square-foot yoga/multi-purpose room designed for martial arts, dance, yoga, and fitness classes, as well as TRX systems for suspension weight training programs.
  • A 600 square-foot spin room with 22 spin bikes.
  • An 800 square-foot space that includes locker rooms and bathrooms complete with shower stalls.

In addition to the Belford Centre facilities, an outdoor exercise area is expected to be completed by October 2018. The area will feature a beach volleyball court, two basketball courts, a CrossFit rig and training area, and bouldering wall. An irrigation system has been installed under the re-engineered playing field, allowing for activities such as soccer, softball, and more.

SGU broke ground on the Belford Centre construction in June 2017. Chris Parke, the University’s Assistant to the Director of Athletics since 2008, said that the gym facility has been a welcome addition to the True Blue landscape.

“The ambience is different from the old gym,” he said. “With much more equipment and space to work with, students and staff can come in and relieve their stress. It’s a much more conducive environment for working out, in addition to being more convenient.”

The Belford Centre gym is open to students, staff, and faculty from 6 am – 12 am seven days a week.