Commonwealth Secretary-General to Deliver Keynote at Education Conference in Grenada

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, has agreed to deliver a keynote address at the annual conference of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) in Grenada from May 21-23 at St. George’s University.

The CEC annual conference takes place biennially in a Commonwealth member country and the United Kingdom. This is the first time that it has been held in the Caribbean.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

The title of the conference will be “Our Common Wealth: A Focus on Student Success.” Speakers who have also accepted the invitation include Dr. Joanna Newman MBE, Secretary-General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities; Professor Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor Emeritus at the University of the West Indies; Dr. Jacky Lumarque, President of Quisqueya University, Haiti; and Professor Kenneth Matengu, Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia, which hosted the CEC’s annual conference in 2017.

“There are a range of options and challenges facing the student community today, which previous generations did not have to face,” said Sonny Leong CBE, Chairman of the CEC. “The conference will explore the main challenges facing education provision in the 21st century in the Caribbean—and beyond, in the countries of our Commonwealth.”

“We are delighted to be hosting this conference,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “Over 20 percent of our students are from Commonwealth countries and we greatly value this association and the diversity it brings to our campus. We welcome representatives from government, education institutes, and teachers to work with us in developing answers and responses to the existing issues affecting education today and which impact student success.”

Patricia Scotland is the second Secretary-General of the Commonwealth from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.

Hyperbaric Medicine Selective Students Come to the Rescue of Ill Grenadian Fisherman

Each May and December, immediately following final examinations, first- and second-year students at St. George’s University School of Medicine can participate in a pair of Grenada-based selectives in hyperbaric medicine. In addition to intense study of the theoretical underpinnings of hyperbaric therapeutics, students gain practical experience, with a focus on chronic wounds associated with diabetes.

Late in 2018, however, the participants faced an even more dramatic challenge.

During a routine training session for the hyperbaric students at St. Augustine’s Medical Services (SAMS), a Grenadian fisherman showed hemiparalysis and urinary retention. Confronted with decompression sickness-related dysfunction of the brain and spinal cord, the students confidently and professionally rose to the occasion. Over approximately seven hours of supervised effort, they successfully deployed their fresh knowledge and skills, sparing their patient from a lifetime of profound disability.

When completed in succession, the selectives constitute a course that is approved by the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine (ACHM) for progression toward the professional credential of Certified Hyperbaric Technician (CHT).

“The students did a fantastic job. Enabling achievement is part of what the course was designed to do. So, to see this objective met is extremely gratifying,” said Dr. Duncan Kirkby, the course’s director and professor of neuroscience at SGU. “The students expressed genuine concern for the well-being of the patient. They were respectful, professional and highly motivated to achieve the best possible outcome.”

Dr. Kirkby worked with Lutz “Joe” Amechi, MD ’93, the medical director at SAMS, to bring hyperbaric medicine to Grenada in 2017. Previously, the nearest chamber to treat diving-related injuries resided in Barbados. The installation of the chamber at SAMS facilitated the development of the selectives, which supplement the preclinical education that medical students receive at SGU.

“There are two major expectations of participants in the selectives,” Dr. Kirkby said. “First, they rapidly develop a fledgling body of team-based practical experience that is steeped in the care of Grenadians. Second, because hyperbaric technologies are applicable to a broad and growing array of clinical conditions and disciplines, participants are expected to gain an experiential advantage in the pursuit of residencies.”

Dr. Tyler Sexton, who studied under Dr. Kirkby, supplied Grenada’s hyperbaric chamber and is the primary instructor for the selectives. He is also a visiting professor at SGU and the CEO and medical director of Caribbean Hyperbaric Medicine.

“There are over a dozen varied indications for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Applicable disciplines include but are not limited to emergency medicine, reconstructive surgery, internal medicine, aerospace medicine, and trauma surgery,” Dr. Sexton said. “It has been my honor to join Drs. Amechi and Kirkby in bringing hyperbaric care to Grenada and promoting the professional, scholarly and personal development of the students of SGU.”

Dr. Lutz “Joe” Amechi, MD ’93, resident physician and managing director of St. Augustine’s Medical Services (SAMS), introduced the nation’s first hyperbaric chamber and a 64 slice CT machine in 2017. St. George’s University is partnering with SAMS to provide medical students with a clinical selective in hyperbaric medicine.

New NIH Grant Puts Focus on Zika Virus’ Effect on Child Neurodevelopment

The WINDREF building on SGU’s True Blue Campus

Three years after the Zika virus (ZIKV) epidemic swept through Grenada and the region, St. George’s University faculty members have secured a two-year grant from the US-based Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to examine the effectiveness of a community intervention program aimed at improving neurodevelopment in Grenadian children exposed to the virus.

The new NIH-funded study will be administered by the non-profit Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), which is based on the SGU campus in Grenada. Dr. Randall Waechter joins three other SGU faculty members—Drs. Barbara Landon, Karen Blackmon, and Trevor Noël—on a research team that also includes Dr. Michelle Fernandes, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Paediatrics, Southampton University, and Honorary Research Fellow at Oxford University.

“This work could have a significant impact on the way we address neuropsychological impairment in children exposed to the Zika virus,” Dr. Waechter said. “If effective, there is no reason this intervention couldn’t be implemented in other countries impacted by the Zika virus.”

One of the most significant consequences of the ZIKV epidemic is the increased risk of adverse neurological developments in the children of ZIKV-infected mothers. These children, who are now 2 and 3 years old, are at high risk for chronic epilepsy as well as intellectual and learning disabilities. This study will provide valuable data on whether a culturally adapted and evidence-based project called Environmental Enrichment can rescue neurodevelopmental outcomes in toddlers who were exposed to ZIKV.

The research also presents a novel approach to assisting these children that may be applicable worldwide. It augments the ongoing Saving Brains Grenada program in Grenada, work that was funded by Grand Challenges Canada. The program has enabled community workers to interact with caregivers and their children, helping parents implement enjoyable Conscious Discipline-based ‘brain smart’ methods that foster neurodevelopment in young children. These methods focus on elements of child-raising such safety, attachment, and self regulation, in addition to early childhood stimulation. The Saving Brains Grenada team has been supported by Jhpiego, an international non-profit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Landon called the new NIH study a “natural fit” for the Saving Brains Grenada initiative.

“Our primary goal is to maximize brain development in children,” she said, “giving them the best chance for success across their entire lives.”

St. George’s University Welcomes Incoming Veterinary Students in White Coat Ceremony

Last week, St. George’s University formally welcomed its newest class of aspiring veterinarians with the traditional White Coat Ceremony.

“Today is your next step along the road of realizing your dream of becoming a veterinarian,” said Dr. Neil C. Olson, dean of St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine, in his opening remarks.

The White Coat Ceremony signifies the start of veterinary school for SGU’s January class. Students can begin their studies in either January or August.There are 828 students currently studying in the School of Veterinary Medicine. Nearly 90 percent are US citizens.

Other speakers at the event included St. George’s University Provost Glen Jacobs, Vice Chancellor Richard Liebowitz, and keynote speaker Dr. Janet Donlin, who serves as executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donlin encouraged the incoming class to embrace new challenges and focus on the value of lifelong learning.

“You are our future, and our next generation of veterinarians, and tomorrow’s leaders in veterinary medicine,” Donlin said. “We’re proud of the goals you have set, and the desire you have to serve both animals and people in a changing world.”

Recently, St. George’s University earned full reaccreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education. This allows St. George’s graduates to seek licensure in the United States and Canada after passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. The school’s graduates had a 95 percent pass rate on the exam in the 2017-18 school year. The reaccreditation also allows US students to apply for federal loans and deferments through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.

St. George’s students spend their first three years in Grenada and complete their final year of study at an accredited affiliated school. The school has clinical partnerships with 29 other universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and Grenada. To date, St. George’s has trained over 1,400 veterinarians.

St. George’s University Welcomes New Class of Aspiring Doctors in White Coat Ceremony

Last week, St. George’s University welcomed its newest class of aspiring doctors to campus with the traditional White Coat Ceremony.

“It is a very special day, and the beginning of a new journey,” said Dr. Glen Jacobs, provost at St. George’s University, in his remarks before the new class. “I don’t know what it took you to get here today—each journey is different. But you should be really proud to be here.”

The ceremony signifies the start of medical school for St. George’s January class. Students can begin classes in either January or August.

Other speakers included Dr. Molly Kilpatrick, a 2013 graduate of St. George’s, who congratulated the incoming class and chronicled the history of the White Coat Ceremony. St. George’s University Vice Chancellor Richard Liebowitz offered words of encouragement and emphasized the value of a diverse student body, the importance of shared success, and the school’s extensive support network.

Dr. Daniel Herr, a 1981 graduate of St. George’s and the current chief of surgical critical care services and director of the Cardiac Surgery Unit at the University of Maryland, delivered the keynote address. He urged students to embrace new opportunities and take advantage of the globally focused education St. George’s provides.

“I advise you to really become a part of the culture of Grenada, because it will serve you well when you start going out into the medical school world, or out into the real world,” Dr. Herr said. “The real world isn’t just the United States anymore. The real world is interacting with other countries, other cultures, and learning other medicine.”

Altogether, nearly 100 countries on six continents are represented within the St. George’s student body.

Among the other highlights from the ceremony was the surprise presentation of a white coat to incoming student Aidrian Ranjith by his parents Ranjith Mahadeva and Koshela Ranjith, who are both SGU alumni currently practicing medicine in Ontario.

“I have no doubt that every student in this room is going to be successful,” said Dr. Liebowitz in his remarks. “At SGU, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure that success.”

SGU Medical Students Get Their Start in Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program

In January, 34 students from St. George’s University took their first steps into the medical profession at a traditional White Coat Ceremony held at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK. They joined the prestigious Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program (KBTGSP), a longstanding partnership between SGU and Northumbria University that is now in its 12th year. Students in the program are able to take the first year of their Doctor of Medicine degree at NU, before settling in Grenada to continue their studies.

The White Coat Ceremony was emceed by Dr. Derrick Eyong Ebot, MD SGU ’09, who started in the KBTGSP and is now one of the program’s clinical tutors. Dr. Ebot spoke of his time studying at Northumbria before introducing the White Coat Speaker, Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of SGU.

Dr. Olds gave a moving address, drawing heavily on his personal experiences as a doctor of medicine, to impress upon the students that their motivation must always be what is in the best interest of their patients. Enrollees were then invited onto the stage to be robed in their white coats; a symbol of the responsibility society places on those in the medical profession.

“Our relationship with Northumbria University is a vital component in our ability to offer our students a truly international education,” Dr. Olds said. “By training in different countries with international colleagues, SGU graduates will have experienced a diversity of medical and cultural settings—standing them in good stead to be world-leading doctors. This is reflected in the current group of students here in Newcastle, who come from 12 countries on four continents.”

Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program Hosts British Association of Clinical Anatomists Winter Meeting at Northumbria University

All elements of anatomy—the backbone of medicine—were on the table for discussion and examination at last month’s British Association of Clinical Anatomists (BACA) Winter Meeting at Northumbria University, UK. Hosted by St. George’s University’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which SGU’s medical students spend their first preclinical year on the NU campus, the meeting welcomed clinical anatomists, surgeons, and students from the UK and beyond.

Dr. James Coey, Assistant Dean of Basic Sciences at SGU’s Newcastle campus, and Dr. Sara Sulaiman, Teaching Fellow at the University of Bristol, hosted the meeting, which was attended by 80 delegates, primarily from the United Kingdom. It included 16 oral presentations and 29 posters covering gross, microscopic, clinical, applied, translational, surgical, and radiographical anatomy, as well as anatomy education.

The conference included a plenary lecture from Dr. Stephen Clark, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, and professor of cardiothoracic transplantation, presented on the topic “Heart Transplantation: Anatomy and Surgical Techniques.” SGU’s Marios Loukas, dean of basic sciences, professor of anatomical sciences and president of the American Association of Clinical Anatomists (AACA) presented a keynote titled “A Snapshot of Anatomical Translational Research and its Applications.” SGU was further represented through two oral presentations and four poster presentations from clinical faculty (Drs. Al-Jaberi, Bourne, Ebot, Elajnaf and Hilal) and Nosheen Sandhu, a first-year medical student, working in a research group led by Drs. Coey and Hilal with local and international collaborative partners.

“I believe in collaboration as a channel of continuous advancement and progress,” Dr. Sulaiman said. “Hosting a BACA meeting where the best minds of anatomy come together under one roof for an entire day is the perfect opportunity to drive new ideas and foster future partnerships.”

“This conference has clearly demonstrated what can be achieved through reinforcing links between partner associations, establishing new academic and clinical connections, and fostering future collaboration,” added Dr. Coey. “Encouraging students, physicians, and academics alike to engage and participate is paramount to the future of our associations”

Dr. Sulaiman began attending BACA meetings when she was a student at the University of Dundee in Scotland, calling them a “supportive, nurturing environment” that helped her thrive as a researcher. Drs. Sulaiman and Coey went on to design a selective in 2015 for SGU students to introduce the research cycle and further their anatomical knowledge through a self-directing learning exercise. Since its inception, 33 students have presented their work at international conferences leading to publication abstracts in clinical anatomy.

“I’ve had my students attending and presenting across the years and I was so glad to see them benefiting from its encouraging and stimulating atmosphere as I did years ago,” she said. “To me, hosting a BACA meeting was a dream and being involved in organizing a world-class, well-recognized scientific meeting was truly an amazing experience.”

Founded in 1977, BACA aims to advance and publish the study and research of clinical anatomy in the United Kingdom. The organization hosts two scientific meetings each year, providing an opportunity for members and other attendees to network with fellow academics and clinicians who share an interest in anatomy. In addition, the Journal of Clinical Anatomy, a collaboration between BACA, AACA, and international associations from New Zealand, Australia (ANZACA), and South Africa (ASSA), publishes eight times each year, displaying original and review articles of scientific, clinical, and educational interest.

The success of BACA helped spawn the AACA in February 1983. Dr. Ralph Ger, a professor in Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Anatomy, had attended the BACA meeting in 1982. He recognized the need for a better forum for clinicians, teachers and students to discuss the status and future of anatomy, and later became one of the AACA’s 18 founding members.

Professor Janet Hemingway CBE receives the 2019 Mike Fisher Memorial Award

The Mike Fisher Memorial Award has been given to Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The announcement was made at a Dinner in the House of Lords, UK, in aid of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF)—the research arm of St. George’s University. Professor Hemingway was recognized for her work, over many decades, in a variety of areas affecting human and animal health.

The Mike Fisher Memorial Award—given annually since 2006—acknowledges the work of the late Mike Fisher, whose original research led to the discovery of the drug Ivermectin. Today as a result of the discovery, over 35 million people no longer live under the threat of blindness from onchocerciasis (river blindness), millions more have been spared the gross disfigurement from lymphatic filariasis, and countless animals live healthier lives because of ivermectin.

Hemingway is Professor of Insect Molecular Biology and Director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, with over 450 staff based in Liverpool, Malawi, and several other tropical locations. She is a Senior Technical Advisor on Neglected Tropical Diseases for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has 38 years’ experience working on the biochemistry and molecular biology of specific enzyme systems associated with xenobiotic resistance.

In 2012, Professor Hemingway was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to the Control of Tropical Disease Vectors, and this year she was conferred as an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Commenting on her achievement, Professor Hemingway said, “I was delighted and honored to receive the Mike Fischer award recognizing my contributions to the control of infectious diseases in the tropics for two reasons. First, the link with Mike himself and his role in the discovery of Ivermectin, which is still used today in combination with a number of the interventions I have pioneered for insect vector control. Second, the link with Grenada and the Caribbean islands, where I have worked on dengue for many years.”

MIKE FISHER AWARD RECIPIENTS
2006: Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior
2007: Dr. Keith B. Taylor
2008: Lord May of Oxford
2009: Dr. John David
2010: Lord John Walton
2011: Professor Ade Lucas
2012: Dr. Donald Hopkins
2013: Professor R. C. Andrew Thompson
2014: Professor Alan Fenwick
2016: Sir Gordon Conway
2017: Dr. Charles Modica
2018: Dr. Sarah Cleaveland
2019: Dr. Janet Hemingway

Robert Alig Named New Vice President of Alumni Affairs

In November, St. George’s University named Robert Alig as its new vice president of alumni affairs, a role for which he looks forward to connecting with the more than 20,000 graduates across the Schools of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies. We sat down with Mr. Alig to discuss his background and the goals that he has for SGU and its alumni.

St. George’s University: What elements of your background sets you up to take the reins of alumni affairs at SGU?

Bob Alig: I was the assistant vice president of alumni relations at the University of Pennsylvania for seven years, overseeing alumni programming and engagement for its four undergraduate schools and all graduate programs. Prior to that, I was the director of MBA admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School, for which I was able to travel to 35 countries and share the message of a place that, as an alum, meant a great deal to me. I saw firsthand the energy, commitment, and enthusiasm of Penn’s alumni, not only to give back in terms of philanthropy, but also their time, talent and enthusiasm.

Collectively, I saw what we could accomplish when working in partnership, and what the advocacy of Penn alumni meant for the momentum of the university, anchored in strengthening its reputation and expanding its international footprint. I think this experience dovetails beautifully with what I’ve observed and learned during my brief tenure here.   SGU is on a remarkable trajectory and it has so much to be proud of. I am committed to an alumni relations effort that reflects the momentum and the diversity of the University.

SGU: What do you hope to accomplish in the first few months?

BA: I think it’s vital to connect with alumni to understand their own paths to SGU and what made it a special place for them. Listening and learning now, and agreeing on a plan that leverages our unique strengths will position us for success and continued momentum.   

It’s also important to help alumni understand how SGU can support them in their careers, in their continuing education, and at the same time, for them to advocate for SGU. In years past, education was thought of as an episodic period of time—you’re a student for four years and you get your degree. Now, I think it’s much more about a lifetime of learning and engagement. SGU can and should be the intellectual home of its alumni.

Sometimes I think about my role as helping several thousand current SGU students to feel like alumni, and helping 16,000 SGU alumni feel like students, reconnecting them with their experiences and what’s currently happening on our True Blue campus.

SGU: What do you view as the biggest challenge that faces alumni affairs here and in general?

BA: I think getting my arms around alumni data here is very similar to the challenge I faced when I started at Penn. Every higher education institution struggles with capturing data and using it effectively.

SGU: How can staying connected with SGU help our alumni in their careers?

BA: It makes perfect sense that we could keep our alumni engaged so that they can learn from each other and tap into each other’s networks and experiences. The pace of change in our work and personal lives has escalated significantly. The practice of radiology—or any field—has evolved dramatically in the last 15 years, so it’s important that our graduates not only stay current, but set the standard for the future through continuing education and engagement with their alma mater.

SGU: In what ways are you looking to connect with SGU alumni?

BA: There is nothing better than meeting SGU alumni in person, ideally on the True Blue campus, but I’ve also connected with alumni via social media, phone, and email, and want to continue to do so. I want to quickly figure out how we can connect and make it easy for them to stay in touch with me, their fellow alumni, and SGU.

SGU Faculty and Students Join Celebration of Grenadian Peer at WINDREF Dinner in the House of Lords

St. George’s University faculty and students were among a distinguished crowd of Caribbean diplomats and international donors at the fifth WINDREF Dinner in the House of Lords on Thursday, December 6. The dinner was held in support of the Sport for Health program of the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), based on the True Blue campus. Special tribute was paid throughout the evening to Baroness Howells of St. Davids, outgoing President of WINDREF, and the only Grenadian peer in the House of Lords.

The dinner, held under the title of “Global Health in a Changing World,” was attended by more than 120 guests, including Caribbean High Commissioners, Grenada-born Dr. Johnson Beharry VC, recipient of the Victoria Cross, and Grenada’s Olympic gold medal-winning 400 meter runner Kirani James, Sporting Ambassador for Sport for Health. The keynote address was given by Dr. Richard Horton, editor of the medical journal The Lancet.

A silent auction was held after dinner, with prizes including James’ signed tracksuit and running spikes. All of the money raised through the auction will go towards supporting Sport for Health programs on the island.

Dr. Charles R. Modica, Chancellor of SGU, led guests in a celebration of Baroness Howells, who will be standing down from the role as WINDREF President at the end of the year before retiring from the House of Lords in January, bringing to an end an illustrious 20-year parliamentary career.

It was announced at the dinner that Dr. Modica and his wife, Lisa, would be making a personal donation of $100,000 to the Sport for Health program, which is to be renamed the Baroness Howells Sport for Health program in honor of her tireless work promoting Caribbean values and interests in the UK.

Through Sport for Health, WINDREF aims to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Caribbean and beyond through sport, diet, and exercise. Sport for Health engages communities in partnership initiatives and advocacy projects, all with the aim of improving Grenadians’ quality of life now and in the future.

Dr. Calum Macpherson, Founding Vice President of WINDREF, said that the dinner was a “resounding success, raising funds for the invaluable work of Sport for Health.”

Based on the True Blue Campus of SGU, WINDREF scientists are affiliated with SGU’s Schools of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Arts and Sciences, and Graduate Studies.