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.
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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.”
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Rebakaone Bowe (far left) will participate in the 23rd Youth Assembly conference in February in New York City, serving as one of 20 ambassadors for Assembly delegates.
Delegates of the Youth Assembly convene twice each year and are challenged to energize young people to tackle global and national challenges head on. Some of the leading voices in these efforts are 20 Youth Assembly Ambassadors from around the world who have demonstrated leadership in their school or community as well as a commitment to youth empowerment and sustainable development goals.
Ms. Rebakaone Bowe, a year three medical student at St. George’s University, was selected from a vast applicant pool to serve as an Ambassador for the Assembly’s “Empowering Youth for Global Development” conference on the campus of New York University in February. She and her cohorts hope to address issues that arise as a byproduct of age discrimination, underrepresentation, lack of resources, or unemployment.
At February’s Assembly, Ms. Bowe will focus her attention on global health, quality education, and partnerships to work toward these goals.
“The 23rd session will be my first time bringing a delegation to the Youth Assembly. I have been working to increase the participation of youth from different countries and currently have nominees from countries such as Botswana, Brazil, South Africa, Antigua and Barbuda, and the US,” Ms. Bowe said. “I look forward to sharing this experience with my delegation and empowering them to become global leaders. This time, attending the Youth Assembly will not only benefit me and my delegates but every individual in our respective communities who is yearning to see a positive change as we strive for sustainable development.”
“As medical students and future physicians, it’s important that we’re all well equipped with the knowledge we need in the world we live in,” she added. “With medicine, we can focus on one thing, but the world’s always changing, and platforms such as the Youth Assembly allow us to see the bigger picture.”
“This time, attending the Youth Assembly will not only benefit me and my delegates but every individual in our respective communities who is yearning to see a positive change as we strive for sustainable development.”
Rebakaone Bowe, Year 3 MD Student
Lending a Helping Hand
Ms. Bowe was thrilled and honored to have been selected as an Ambassador, in part because the environment in which she grew up—Botswana, where she said that humanitarianism is instilled in its citizens from a young age.
“Within our family, our church, and our community, we learned that we have to be humble—to always share what you have and to give a lending hand wherever you can,” she said.
She was involved in community service projects in high school, and took it a step further by working with representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an organization dedicated to aiding those who have sought asylum and safety outside of their home country, providing such assistance as clean water, sanitation, and health care. Ms. Bowe spearheaded a project in which volunteers interacted with youth in a refugee camp in Dukwi, Botswana.
“They felt very isolated,” she said. “Growing up, I didn’t even know that we had refugees in our country. To see it firsthand gave me a new perspective and has pushed me to dig more into humanitarianism.”
That included beginning a path toward a career in medicine. Ms. Bowe learned about St. George’s University from her cousin, Thandi Milton, MD SGU ’13, who is now practicing in Botswana after a positive experience in her four years at SGU. With outstanding grades and A-level marks, Ms. Bowe was offered and accepted a scholarship from the Government of Botswana to attend St. George’s University as a third-year premed student in 2015.
Opportunities at Her Fingertips
In addition to her studies at SGU, Ms. Bowe has strived to learn more about the world around her. During her basic science years, she was heavily involved in the University’s International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA) chapter, which allowed her to travel to such countries as Montenegro, Mexico, Paraguay for IFMSA General and Regional Assemblies. She also did a one-month internal medicine professional exchange in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at Hospital Universitario Gaffree e Guinle under IFMSA’s Professional Exchange Chapter.
“I really appreciated the opportunity because we’d have all these students pursuing a medical degree, yet we were all contributing to the whole dialogue of how we can achieve better health for everyone, whether it’s antimicrobial resistance, vaccines, or sexual reproduction,” she said. “Primary health care is a very big initiative, and I think we can help take care of patient populations by integrating medics with communities and tackling problems from the get-go rather than letting these problems progress to advanced stages.”
Ms. Bowe has divided her clinical training time between SGU’s network hospitals in the United Kingdom and United States. She is on schedule to graduate from SGU in 2020, at which point she hopes to match into an internal medicine residency, with an eye on specializing in interventional cardiology.
“Being an SGU student has really exposed me the different healthcare systems in Grenada, the UK, the US, and Brazil. Adding my home country Botswana to the list, I think I have developed a deeper appreciation of cultural competency and medicine.”
“Coming to Grenada has really opened doors for me,” she added. “It has boosted me in the right direction. Without SGU, I wouldn’t be standing where I am.”
– Brett Mauser
Rebakaone Bowe (far left) with her IFMSA colleagues at the annual conference in Montenegro.
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The newest reading options on shelves throughout Grenada’s 56 primary schools come courtesy of a weeklong writers workshop coordinated by the non-profit organization Room to Read and Grenada Schools Inc. Of the seven books recently published, three were written by St. George’s University School of Arts and Sciences graduates.
Alyssa Bierzynski, BA SGU ’08, Kissandra Smith, BSc SGU ’09, and Christal Radix, BSc SGU ’13, celebrated when their books were handed over to school directors at a ceremony held at Grenada Trade Center in October. The mission of the initiative is to strengthen the foundation of early literacy by building and improving libraries at primary schools in Grenada and its sister islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Twelve Grenadians were invited to participate in the workshop, during which they were instructed on all elements of book writing. Scripts for the stories were created, edited, and finalized in October 2017, and came to life a month later with the work of artists participating in a local illustrators workshop.
Although each SAS grad entered with at least some modicum of writing experience, the workshop proved challenging.
“I’ve written many press releases and articles, but writing for children isn’t anything like writing for adults,” Ms. Bierzynski said. “You have to get straight to the point and let the action happen.”
“We were trying to capture children’s imaginations with these books, so in order to do so, we couldn’t write from an adult’s perspective; we almost had to pretend to be a child again,” added Ms. Smith.
In “Keara’s Kite”, Ms. Smith told the story of a young girl who tried relentlessly to build a kite that could fly high during kite season in Grenada. She named the book after her 4-year-old niece, who Ms. Smith can already see shares her sense of adventure.
“I wanted to create a story that younger nieces and nephews could learn from and hopefully inspire them to go on and do bigger things,” Ms. Smith said.
Ms. Bierzynski penned “Carla Dances Soca”, a 24-page story about a young ballerina who strove to learn a new dance despite her friends’ skepticism and jeers. The author admits that Carla’s background as a ballerina mirrors her own upbringing in Grenada, where she attended Westmorland Junior School.
“I was always walking on my tippy toes as a child,” said Ms. Bierzynski, who’s now an instructor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at SGU.
According to Ms. Bierzynski, her story came together during the workshop hours but she continued to refine it each night afterward. It underwent many waves of revisions, including cutting a once 600-word story down to just 200.
“I am really excited that we have written a series of culturally relevant picture books for children,” she added. “As an English teacher, it breaks my heart when a child struggles with reading or can’t identify his or her favorite book. Being part of this project shows them that reading can be fun. Also, with Carla doing ballet at the beginning of the book, it exposes them to a world that they may not have been exposed to before.”
Ms. Radix, who earned her degree in tourism and hospitality management in 2013, created a story titled “Red Car vs. Blue Ball”. Because Grenada Schools Inc., is a not-for-profit organization, the books cannot be sold at retail stores or online, but each author expressed gratitude for being allowed to play a role in shaping Grenada’s future. The workshop was the second of its kind in Grenada. In 2015, Grenada’s authors wrote six new books that were put on schools’ libraries throughout the country in 2016.
“It was a very rewarding experience,” Ms. Smith said. “Writing a children’s book is something that I have dreamed about doing for a long time.”
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.”
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.
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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.
“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 Ultrasound Selective, a course designed by 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, to introduce students to the research cycle and further their anatomical knowledge. 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 input and support of Drs. Coey and Sulaiman. 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 Sandy C. Marks Jr. Student Poster Presentation Award 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.
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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 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.
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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.
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.
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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.”
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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
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