MD Grad Goes the Distance to Provide Health Care in Impoverished Communities Worldwide

No mission had quite an impact like the first one.

Jessica Willett, MD SGU ’13, fresh out of residency and eager to experience international medicine, joined the Flying Doctors of America team on a trip to Al-Mafraq, Jordan. There she helped to operate a pediatric clinic for Syrian refugees who were forced to travel south to escape their war-torn homeland. Many of their patients had experienced unthinkable trauma.

“The issues we heard about blew me away. They had physical scars as well as emotional scars,” she recalled. “We did as much as we could for them, even though we knew the trauma would affect them for the rest of their lives. Going into it, I didn’t really think about the impact that it might have, but I’m thankful that I went.”

While the experience might have shell-shocked some, it only fueled Dr. Willett’s passion for such work. Through the Idaho-based not-for-profit, which provides treatment to the most impoverished countries and communities around the world, she has since treated patients in remote portions of Fiji, in villages deep in the Amazon rainforest in Guyana, and at Palmasola Prison in Bolivia, where she and her colleagues provided correctional care for criminals and their families, all of whom live on the premises. She even coordinated a mission to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, providing much needed care just to Grenada’s north.

The experiences have changed her not only as a doctor but as a person.

“The more you know, the greater your perspective you have,” said Dr. Willett, an emergency physician at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, CA. “Being an ER physician, I had a little of that to start with; when you get a flat tire, I can say that it’s been worse and I’ve seen worse. But when you bear witness to these people’s lives and their stories, that feeling is emphasized.”

Her work with Flying Doctors feeds into Dr. Willett’s thirst for world travel. She has traveled to more than 40 countries, and like in life, her journey to medicine from tiny Rumney, NH, was very much a scenic route. As an undergraduate student at Ithaca College, she had designs on becoming a music teacher, but shifted paths to another passion of hers—health and physical education—two years in. Studying human anatomy opened the door to medicine, and after fulfilling her prerequisite courses, she applied to and enrolled at St. George’s University.

Dr. Willett thrived in SGU’s Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program, for which students spend their first year at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. She further enriched her basic science and clinical training by participating in a tropical medicine selective in Kenya, and learning about healthcare methods in India as part of the medical experience selective in Karad. Even then, however, she had no idea the global path she was headed down.

Her involvement in Flying Doctors started as a curiosity—“I figured I would try it and see how it goes.” In two short years, she has not only provided care around the world but also joined the Flying Doctors inner circle, having been named to its 10-person executive board. In her new role, she has helped plan future missions to places like Ethiopia, Peru, and Tanzania, as well as return trips to Jordan and St. Vincent. Dr. Willett estimated that each trip cost around $2,000 for Flying Doctor volunteers, enough to cover costs ranging from transportation and food to lodging and supplies. They customarily bookend the missions with a day or two to plan and/or debrief, as well as relax.

Flying Doctors operates under the “Mother Teresa Principle,” seeking out and setting up in the world’s most impoverished communities. Its slogan: “Bringing hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.” In its 28-year history, the organization has embarked on more than 200 missions and treated over 185,000 patients.

“They are difficult trips,” she said. “In America, we have all the fancy machines, but on these trips, it’s almost like going back in time. Instead of focusing on technology and electronic technology, which take away a little bit from the practice of medicine, it’s really all about that connection—talking to people, examining them, learning about all these different social factors, and different types of medicine. Doing more with less and coming back to the states with that experience has improved our practice here.”

Dr. Willett has taken the reins of Flying Doctors’ return trip to St. Vincent, which she calls a “little known gem in the Caribbean.” In the inaugural visit in March, her team included two internal medicine doctors, an ophthalmologist, two dentists, and two dental assistants, all of whom collaborated with local health workers to provide medical and dental checkups, administer basic vaccines, and treat a wide variety of eye issues—by far the most abundant medical condition on the islands.

“It was great to be able to come back and use my knowledge of the Caribbean to help people in St. Vincent and on the adjacent islands,” she said. “Because of their exposure to the sunlight and dry heat, everybody had vision problems, but none of them wore eyeglasses or sunglasses despite them being so common and accessible. It’s amazing how powerful and life-changing they can be.”

“We want to see patients, but we also want to leave a community better than when we found it by connecting with people and fostering a little more ownership there,” she added. “If we continue to do that, if we empower the people in these communities, we can get to a point where they no longer need us.”

Until then, however, the Flying Doctors of America are prepared to provide care wherever it’s needed most.

“Some of these people are in places where they’ve been told or feel that they don’t matter, that they don’t deserve health care,” Dr. Willett said. “For us to come and tell them otherwise is really encouraging and overwhelming to them. We let them know that somebody cares. Somebody wants to hear their story.”

– Brett Mauser

St. George’s University’s School of Medicine Introduces College System

St. George’s University has entered a new era of medical education with a radical restructuring of the incoming classes in the Doctor of Medicine program.

Set to launch this fall, all incoming students will belong to one of nine Colleges set up to frame a learning community system with student wellness, interaction, and support at the center of the curriculum and student experience at SGU.

The mission of the system is to create a diverse collegiate environment in which students are comprehensively supported to develop and demonstrate the skills, knowledge, compassion, tolerance, commitment, and personal integrity required to be a practicing physician.

“I’m enthused about the foundation for success that this new system will create for our students,” said Charles R. Modica, Chancellor of St. George’s University. “Since we opened our doors more than 40 years ago, the University has always placed great pride on student success and the support they receive from faculty and their peers, and the new College structure will strengthen them both.”

Each College represents an academic family that supports the wellness of students and fosters the academic, personal, and professional development of its membership. Each will have its own director and associate director, as well as dedicated personnel for student support, including academic advisors, faculty, learning strategists, advisors, and other support staff.

The Colleges will also provide a sense of community, with each College having a dedicated master schedule of classes, and all small group work will be centered around the Colleges. College and intercollegiate social events and competitions will also take place throughout the year.

“The new College system will enhance the student experience here at SGU, not only in lectures and labs but as students live, work, and interact with each other, both on and off campus,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU. “We truly believe that it provides our students with the best chance to be successful in their studies and as they pursue their dream of becoming a physician.”

In addition, St. George’s University will also integrate a wellness program for students in their first term, featuring seven classes that cover such topics as lifestyle medicine, diet and nutrition, and test-taking strategies.

The nine Colleges were named after some of the most influential physicians and scientists in history, including:

  • Blackwell: Elizabeth Blackwell was a British physician who became the first woman to receive a Doctor of Medicine in the United States.
  • Curie: Marie Curie was a Polish physicist and chemist who pioneered research on radioactivity, and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences.
  • Fleming: Alexander Fleming was a Scottish physician-scientist best known for his discovery of  antibiotics.
  • Galen: A Greek physician and philosopher whose medical research influenced and developed the fields of anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and more.
  • Hippocrates: The Greek physician who is commonly regarded as the Father of Medicine.
  • McIndoe: Archibald McIndoe was a New Zealand-born surgeon whose tactics to treat burns during World War II revolutionized plastic surgery.
  • Metrodora: Greek physician who wrote one the oldest surviving medical text written by a woman and who was one of the first to suggest surgical treatment for both breast and uterine cancer.
  • Peabody: Francis Peabody was an American turn of the 20th century physician famous for his dedication to compassionate patient care, as well as his work on typhoid and polio.
  • Taylor: Keith B. Taylor was SGU’s second Vice Chancellor and one of the most cited gastroenterologists of his time. This College is reserved for students who enter SGU through the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program.

– Brett Mauser

Renowned Horse Owner on SGU MD Alumnus: He “Saved My Life”

Bloodhorse.com, one of the racing industry’s leaders in covering horse racing and breeding, told the story of how horse owner Robert LaPenta was hospitalized with a rare disease back in March. That’s when St. George’s University graduate Peter Saikali, MD SGU ’15, intervened. Then an internal medicine resident at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, Dr. Saikali suspected that Mr. LaPenta had contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

“You read about treatments for pneumonia and viruses, but if they don’t know which exact bacteria to give you, you are in serious trouble,” Mr. LaPenta said. “It was this really smart young doctor, Dr. Saikali, who saved my life. Thank God for his diagnosis. … I was about five hours from lights out.”

Mr. LaPenta said that he will honor Dr. Saikali’s heroic efforts by naming one of his 2-year-old horses after him.

Read more about Mr. LaPenta’s treatment on bloodhorse.com.

Nursing in a New Environment

Eighteen nursing students from San Jose State University (SJSU) spent the summer building their public health resumé at St. George’s University in Grenada as part of a more than five-year partnership between the institutions. SGU hosted the SJSU students on the True Blue campus, providing an opportunity for the California nursing students to enhance their leadership skills, professional development, and management skills, all within a cultural context.

Deborah Nelson, a nursing lecturer at the Valley Foundation School of Nursing at San Jose State, was one of the three faculty members escorting the students on the study abroad course to Grenada. After a 37-year-long career, the retired nurse joined SJSU 12 years ago and has been a part of its Global Service Learning in Nursing program since its inception.

“The program primarily focuses on cultural competence, collaboration, and community-needs assessment,” said Ms. Nelson. “We’re not here to do what we think we need to do; we’re here to find out what the Grenadian community needs from us and what they want us to do. As a partner, SGU provides a cultural atmosphere that engages interaction between our students and both the local nurses and nursing students at the University. We are fortunate to have this partnership and this continued sustainable program.”

According to Ms. Nelson, this is one of the first programs of its kind in the US to offer credits towards a major, which grants the SJSU students the opportunity to graduate one semester earlier. She believes that with the current nursing shortage in the US and the SJSU students’ desire to enter the nursing profession, this program is highly beneficial to the future nurses.

“Additionally, our students are here learning from another culture and being aware of others and that they are the ‘other’,” added Ms. Nelson. “It’s just transformational. I’ve seen it over and over each year. To work alongside other nursing students and to find out that they have similarities as well as differences is key to their success. It’s amazing for me to see this as an educator, and it brings me back every year.”

Among those who participated in the program was Kaelyn Fetters, a third-year nursing student currently completing her final year at San Jose State. Ms. Fetters hopes that, upon returning to the US and passing the national nursing exams, she and her fellow classmates will become licensed nurses. Her goal is to start out as an emergency room nurse at a hospital back home, providing care and various diagnoses to a diverse population.

“I immediately knew I wanted to participate in this program. The idea of being able to travel abroad and be enveloped in a culture so different from my own was something I could not pass up,” said Ms. Fetters. “Throughout this journey, I feel like we’ve learned how to take what we’ve been taught as nursing students in California and bring it over here to Grenada while picking up diverse techniques and a different perspective in Grenada that we can bring back to the US.”

The students spent three weeks immersed in the Grenadian culture, where they worked with caregivers at various clinical sites and held a full day of classes on professional development at the Grenada General Hospital. Along with SGU nursing students, they visited the St. Martin Home for the Aged, Grenada Planned Parenthood, the Dorothy Hopkins Home, and conducted personal home visits to the Mont Tout and Limes communities. The students completed their clinical rotations by attending a health fair in Carriacou where the SGU and SJSU teams collaborated to provide screenings for blood pressure and blood sugar, disseminated free condoms, and took part in sexual education discussions on topics such as STD prevention and rapid HIV testing.

“What we’ve noticed over the five years of our partnership is that not only do the SJSU students benefit from learning from a different culture but our SGU nursing students are really improving their cultural competency as well,” stated Jennifer Solomon, Chair and Director, Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, SGU. “We can see the maturity in the way they are looking internally at their own bias and some of the assumptions that we all make in society and really are becoming the amazing nurses they want to be.

“In addition to the SJSU students visiting Grenada, as part of this course, we also offer the opportunity for our SGU nursing students to be global citizens as well,” she added. “They get the chance to travel abroad to the US or UK to obtain that global perspective and have that interaction with someone from a completely different background while learning about the healthcare system in another country. This is such a great advantage for them.”

– Ray-Donna Peters

St. George’s University and Mahidol University Further Partnership With Joint Doctor of Medicine Pathway Program

From left to right, Mr. Phee Na Lamphun, Student Recruitment Manager for Thailand, St. George University; Dr. G. Richard Olds SGU President; Dr. Sarayut Nathaphan, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research, MUIC, Mahidol University; and Mr. Pete Fiaschi, Director of International Recruitment for Asia, St. George’s University

St. George’s University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Mahidol University International College (MUIC), Thailand, establishing a new medical foundation year at MUIC which is equivalent to the first year of the 5-year MD program taught at SGU in Grenada. Mahidol students who successfully complete this premedical year of study will be eligible to enroll in SGU’s MD degree program.

SGU has committed to award five partial-tuition scholarships per year, over a five-year period, to Mahidol students for admission onto SGU’s MD degree program.

The deal further strengthens the relationship between SGU and Mahidol University International College, following an earlier agreement in 2014 that launched a dual BS/MD degree between the two institutions.

“This Memorandum of Understanding builds on an already fruitful relationship with Mahidol University International College,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of St. George’s University. “We know from experience that their students are dedicated and talented, and find studying at SGU an enriching experience. I am delighted that we have opened a new pathway for students to join our world-leading MD degree program, many of whom will do so with tuition scholarships.”

Dr. Phitaya Charupoonphol, Dean of Mahidol University International College, said: “Four years after the signing of our first agreement, our partnership with SGU continues to go from strength to strength. In choosing to offer scholarships to our students, the quality of our teaching has been recognized by one of the world’s leading international medical education. We look forward to many years of close collaboration”.

“We are excited about this opportunity where students in Asia can now begin their studies at a world class university with a pathway to an MD degree at SGU,” added Dr. Calum Macpherson, Vice Provost for International Program Development and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “In addition to a world class medical education, the clinical training opportunities available in the United States and UK provide SGU students with valuable exposure to a variety of healthcare systems.”

Pete Fiaschi, Director of Recruitment Asia, commented, “This is an extremely exciting 1+4 partnership which will enable Asia-based students to study the first year of a five-year MD program at a world-class University in Asia. We are delighted to offer this to students in Asia who would prefer a localized program in Thailand before embarking on their future in Grenada and then the US and UK for clinical training.”

St. George’s University Signs Agreement with Government of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates

St. George’s University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The MOU “recognizes the benefits of mutual cooperation, and both institutions will now explore potential educational collaboration in medical related studies.” As part of the agreement, SGU will be listed on the Government of Fujairah’s website as a recognized education provider, meaning that SGU can now accept students from the Emirate of Fujairah.

The agreement, which is now in effect, expresses the commitment of both parties to increase access for the Government of Fujairah’s students to a US postsecondary education through SGU. The MOU further strengthens SGU’s relationship with the UAE, following last year’s announcement that the Ministry of Education had recognized the university’s MD degree program.

“I am pleased that students in Fujairah will now have the option of studying at St. George’s University in Grenada where they will receive a top international medical education,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU.  “The University will also benefit, increasing the diversity and breadth of experience of our student body.”

Adding his remarks, Mohamed Khalifa Alzyoudi, Employee Affairs Director, Government of Fujairah, said: “SGU is a world-leading institution, and I am very happy that our students will now have the opportunity to study medicine at their campus in Grenada. This MOU marks the beginning of a fruitful relationship, and I look forward to working with SGU to further our collaboration in the near future.”

St. George’s University’s School of Medicine draws students and faculty from 140 countries. Key to its success has been developing enthusiasm in students to practice medicine in their home countries, often in areas where physician numbers are low. Approximately 1 percent of all practicing doctors in the United States are graduates of St. George’s University, with that figure rising to around 15 percent of the physician population in Trinidad and Tobago, and 20 percent in Botswana.

2018 Class of Veterinary Graduates Celebrates at New York’s Lincoln Center

On Saturday at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall in New York City, animals around the world, both big and small, officially gained some of their strongest caretakers and advocates. With their family and friends in attendance, St. George’s University graduates were conferred the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and will now continue their careers throughout the United States and beyond.

“What you’ve done and given up to be here today has made your family proud,” St. George’s University Chancellor Charles Modica said. “You’ve made it through a very strenuous program with great perseverance. We at SGU have the utmost respect for all of you.”

This year’s graduates hail from such countries as the United States, Canada, Bermuda, United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, and Hong Kong. They join an alumni network that now includes more than 1,500 veterinarians.

“For us, this ceremony is a symbol of confidence that you are now equipped for the world into which you are entering,” said Dr. Glen Jacobs, Provost of SGU. “We have equipped you with the basic skills necessary for your profession, and you must continue learning to keep pace with the changing world around us. Your academic qualifications will help to open opportunities, but beyond that, you must demonstrate your ability to learn and grow in the fields you choose.”

Among the new grads was Kendra Simons, DVM SGU ’18, who came to St. George’s University from Bermuda, navigating through four years of school to fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian. After officially earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in January, she began working as an associate veterinarian position at Avon Animal Hospital in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Dr. Simons celebrated in New York with her parents and two siblings, as well as several other family members and friends, all of whom supported her on her journey.

“It’s very surreal to be here today,” she said. “It’s great to see all of my classmates because we took on a very difficult challenge and came out on the other end.”

She was joined at the ceremony by Matt Cochran, DVM SGU ’18, who at a young age envisioned becoming a small animal veterinarian but gravitated toward working with horses over time. Dr. Cochran looks forward to continuing his career in equine medicine, having earned an internship at Tennessee Equine Hospital in Thompson’s Station, TN.

“I’m excited to get going,” he said. “I have a great team at Tennessee Equine. They have a really nice structure set up, and I look forward to working with them, learning from them, and applying everything I learned at SGU.”

In addition to robing its newest class of veterinarians, the University’s highest honor—the Distinguished Service Medal—was awarded to Dr. Timothy Ogilvie, Dean Emeritus of the School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Ogilvie served as a longtime visiting professor at SGU before being appointed dean in January 2014. During his tenure, he played a vital role in preparing the SVM for its re-accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Ogilvie stepped down as Dean in the summer of 2017, handing the reins to Dr. Neil Olson, but remains with the University as Vice Provost of Advancement for the SVM.

– Brett Mauser

Newest Class of Physicians Reflects on the Past, Looks Ahead to the Future

 

Before setting off for residency, St. George’s University School of Medicine’s newest class of physicians gathered at New York City’s Lincoln Center once more to celebrate the completion of one journey, and the beginning of another.

The newest class of physicians came from 44 US states, six Canadian provinces, and 51 countries from around the world. They join a network of more than 16,000 physicians who have earned their Doctor of Medicine degrees from SGU since the University opened in 1977.

“You’ve made sacrifices and you’ve persevered, and for that I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you,” said St. George’s University Chancellor Charles Modica. “I hope you know how proud you’ve made all of us, and how proud you’ve made your parents and friends. The world is full of all sorts of problems, and you’re the solution. You’re going to do well. I know that because  of your predecessors. You’ve earned this, you deserve this, and we love you for it.”

Graduates gathered at David Geffen Hall on June 9 and 10 for the commencement festivities, enjoying each other’s company two years after they departed Grenada for their clinical rotations.

“Going to SGU was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” added James Velasquez, MD SGU ’18, who will start his emergency medicine residency at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. “I received a great education, I loved the island, and because it taught me how to buckle down and study right, it got me ready for the next part of my career.”

All together, St. George’s University graduates will begin their postgraduate residencies in 43 US states, four Canadian provinces, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom next month.

Colleen Murphy, MD SGU ’18, will join Yale New Haven Health’s obstetrics and gynecology residency program at Bridgeport Hospital this summer. She chose OB/GYN because of how it combines surgery with continuity of care.

“It’s nice to celebrate with everyone else who was there along the way,” she said. “We all did it together, so it’s nice to end the journey together.”

Joining her on the journey was Philip Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, who not only gained an education at SGU but he also met his wife, classmate Jessica Lettieri, MD SGU ’18, during their first year of the Foundation to Medicine program. Married this past April, the couple is now off to New Jersey for residency, with Philip obtaining a categorical surgery residency at St. Barnabas Medical Center, and Jessica matching into a pediatrics position at Atlantic Health.

“Growing up on Long Island and coming from college in the Midwest, I didn’t know what to expect coming down to Grenada,” Philip Lettieri said. “There were definitely some times where it was tough, but looking back, I wouldn’t change anything at all.”

Jessica Lettieri appreciated all the opportunities available to her during her time as a student, including volunteering around the island, participating in the popular Prague selective, and completing clinical rotations in the same hospital where her grandmother worked over 50 years ago.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said. “It’s great to see people today that we started first term with, many of whom we haven’t seen in two years because they were on the other side of the country for clinicals. Today has been a great experience because we all did it together.”

In addition to the accolades showered in the 2018 class of graduates, the University also acknowledged the contributions of one of its longtime administrators and faculty members. Dr. Ted Hollis, who served as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2000 to 2017, was bestowed the Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Hollis came to St. George’s University in 1978 as a visiting professor before joining the faculty full-time as a professor in 1994.

“Dr. Hollis is responsible for enriching the learning environment of thousands of undergraduate students across the Caribbean and the Commonwealth countries,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, President of SGU.

The University also presented Bruce Hebets, CEO of Borrego Health, with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Mr. Hebets took charge of a single, small Federally Qualified Health Center in Southern California and over the next 15 years built it into the fifth largest FQHC system in America, caring for nearly 500,000 residents of inland Southern California.

– Brett Mauser

Caribbean Professionals Mentor Future Conservation Leaders at St. George’s University

With an eye toward the future, St. George’s University welcomed the second cohort of future Caribbean conservationists at the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) workshop, an intensive 18-month program aimed at assisting 18 young professionals from 13 Caribbean countries in launching, developing, and implementing successful conservation campaigns.

“CLiC is a fellowship program offered free of cost to Caribbean nationals and professionals in the wider Caribbean,” said Dr. Leo Douglas, Assistant Professor, New York University and Immediate Past President of BirdsCaribbean. “This much-needed program was designed to help young people who are trying to get established in environmental careers and have a broad passion for the environment but really are lacking in the resources, institutions, and the training to actually advance their careers.”

Originally funded by a $125,000 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2014, CLiC’s collaborating partners include St. George’s University (the base of the training program) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), along with the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF), another important collaborator, administering the program in its second year.

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to partner with SGU and use its facilities here because the University offers the ideal setting to meet all of our needs,” added Dr. Douglas, CLiC Coordinator. “When CLiC was formed, we wanted to keep it entirely Caribbean. We needed a location that was accessible, and not prohibitively expensive, that we could have our fellows come and be a part of a community of scholars, a place where there would be accommodations but also have access to classrooms and state-of-the-art technology.”

This second cohort completed a three-day leadership and project management planning workshop, followed by a 10-day (in-person and virtual) short course on Advanced Conservation Planning based on the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation. Participants were broken up into five teams, and each team launched a research conservation initiative with the help of an assigned mentor. Over the next two years, through workshops, online and in-person courses, and hands-on project implementation exercises, fellows would be provided with the knowledge and training of best practices in conservation, potential funding mechanisms for their projects and proposal writing and networking skills both with their advisors and each other.

Having worked for four years as a conservation officer at a local nature center in Trinidad, Kimberly Chu Foon, a PhD candidate at the University of Prince Edward Island was eager to join CLiC’s training and become a better conservationist. Along with her teammates from Team Macaw, Ms. Chu Foon’s conservation campaign focuses on Trinidad’s reintroduced population of blue and gold macaws, which had been extirpated in the wild since the 1960s.

“Our project is centered on looking at the main reasons why pet owners acquire these birds, where the birds are coming from illegally, and trying to find ways to develop a behavior change program to make sure that people are no longer hunting or poaching these birds from the wild,” said Ms. Chu Foon. “As a PhD student, a lot of the methods I’ve been using to conduct my research are some of the same ones I’ve been using on this project. So, this has really been helping me to build my skills in such areas as qualitative data analysis and data collection and in giving me the experience that I need to further my research career.”

Continuing to expand upon a two-year pilot leadership-training program, Caribbean Emerging Wildlife Conservation (CEWCL), which mimicked the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) training program, a successful venture in the US for more than a decade, CLiC’s current cohort of fellows will also be the first to achieve certification.

“We’re very excited about this. Thanks to SGU, these fellows will be receiving graduate-level, degree-type certification which is a huge deal when trying to find jobs and move on to the next level,” Dr. Douglas said. “We’re also offering an increase in funding to our next batch of cohorts because we want them to work with a broader, deeper, more extensive network of partners than ever before especially in terms of working on projects that have on-the-ground benefits such as recycling, endangered species, and climate change projects, so that they can access people with specific types of training.

“CLiC’s future is bright, as it continues to provide its fellows with greater resources that they can use to advance themselves and their careers, all while benefitting their local environments and habitats in the Caribbean.”

Renowned Dengue Expert Delivers 19th Annual WINDREF Lecture

The WINDREF building on SGU’s True Blue Campus.

A global health problem, dengue viruses are a major cause of morbidity in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. At the 19th Annual WINDREF Lecture at St. George’s University, Dr. Timothy Endy discussed the unique viral and host factors, and interactions that increase the complexity of dengue and potential vaccine development.

In his presentation titled “Understanding Dengue Pathogenesis and Essential Areas for Research”, the Chief of the Infectious Disease Division at SUNY Upstate Medical University reviewed the history of dengue research in Thailand and shares his key findings and the future directions in the study of the disease. According to Dr. Endy, in countries where dengue is endemic, the first infection happens when children are toddlers with symptoms that can be compared to a bad flu. The second infection, however, is much more worrisome—it can cause what’s called a hemorrhagic fever, which can include unstoppable bleeding inside the body. He cautions that if not treated properly, people, often children, can bleed to death.

“My research mostly focuses on why the second infection is so severe because that is really where all the illness and deaths come from—all of that was set up by the very first infection,” stated Dr. Endy. “Unfortunately, there have not been any studies that really focus on the first infection since it is so hard to find and often goes undetected by healthcare providers. Yet, inapparent dengue is an important component of the overall burden of dengue infection, as it provides a source of infection for mosquito transmission during the course of an epidemic.”

As Professor and Chair of Microbiology and Immunology and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Medicine at Upstate, Dr. Endy is considered an international expert in the field of dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever and emerging viral pathogens.

Additionally, Dr. Endy not only came to Grenada to provide an overview of the type of dengue research he’s been doing for almost 30 years but as part of a proposed incidence study in Grenada from 2018-2021 to be conducted in collaboration with SGU and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, LLC. The study will focus on the incidence of infection of the dengue virus in the student body and hopes to provide a better understanding of the host response to the first dengue infection.

Throughout his career, Dr. Endy has conducted basic science research in the field of virology, developed vaccine field and epidemiological study sites in Southeast and Central Asia, conducted phase I and II clinical vaccine trials, and is active in the development and management of research programs that are product oriented towards developing vaccines and diagnostics that meet FDA regulatory requirements.

Previously known as the annual Keith B. Taylor Memorial/WINDREF Lecture, the event was named for SGU’s second Vice Chancellor, whose vision and dedication to the international growth of St. George’s University led to the creation of the Windward Island Research and Education Foundation  in 1994. Since then, the lecture has drawn the attention of numerous renowned presenters willing to share their expertise on topics such as climate change, health needs, and drug abuse and addictions. Past speakers have included Dr. Robert C. Gallo, best known for his role in the discovery of the HIV’s link to AIDS; Dr. Ruth Macklin, a bioethics pioneer; and renowned cardiologist Dr. Valentin Fuster.