SGU Clinical Students Experience Unique International Elective

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Shania Flagg and Mary Ann Son have had experiences with the diversity of medicine. Through their experience in the Keith B. Taylor Global Scholars Program in the UK and in Grenada, and their clinical rotations throughout the US, they had grown accustomed to visiting with patients and working with colleagues from around the world.

But this was different.

Launched in February, Flagg and Son were the first students to embark on a unique one-month elective at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS) University in Karad, Maharashtra, India. It is the first elective available in India to SGU’s fourth-year medical students, and provides even more intensive hands-on clinical experience.

For Flagg, the India elective punctuated her global health experience, which she feels has broadened her perspective and her capabilities as a doctor.

“An experience like the one I had India really strengthens you as a doctor and builds your character,” she said. “Doing this elective is the epitome of what a global medical scholar should be doing.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is on board as well, encouraging medical students to experience international medicine through its Global Health Learning Opportunities initiative, a pilot program to facilitate clinical, global health, and research elective rotations globally for final year medical students. Dr. Shivayogi Bhusnurmath, dean of academic affairs at SGU, hopes that future students will seize the opportunity. Students have had the opportunity to do electives at Princess Marina Hospital in Gabarone, Botswana , and now India. Dr. Bhusnarmath hopes that more international electives will be developed at St. George’s University.

“We are already ahead of the curve,” he said. “Having international experience is the top priority. If you talk to anyone in the medical field, they want students who can handle patients from various backgrounds because there are immigrants from all over the world in the US. It’s very important to have that global exposure.”

SGU has many international selectives in various countries, including Kenya, Thailand, India, the Czech Republic, and Sweden, which are basic science experiences giving students a look at international medicine. The elective in India is one of the first, formal international clinical rotations. Dr. Bharti Bhusnurmath, professor of pathology and director of the medical pathology diagnostic lab at SGU, began the search for such an opportunity more than three years ago. KIMS University has an established residency program necessary for it to be an SGU-approved rotation, a large and diverse student and patient population, and a strong faculty – all of which made it the perfect fit.

Flagg, a fourth-year medical student rotating in New York City, joined Son, a fourth-year OB/GYN, as the first SGU students to enroll in the elective. The KIMS staff encouraged Flagg to partake in facets of medical care she found particularly interesting, including participating in as many surgeries as she could. In addition to the hands-on experience, Flagg benefited from working with international faculty and treating individuals from a different culture.

“There aren’t as many resources in India as there are in the US, and that forced you to be really creative,” Flagg said. “It was great to see how they deliver quality health care without relying on the same amount of tools that we have here in the US.”

Flagg completed her Doctor of Medicine in April and will report to her family medicine residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital – SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, NY, in June. She studied at Northumbria University in the UK as part of the KBTGSP and traveled throughout Europe in her spare time. She also studied in Grenada, spent the one month in India, and completed her rotations at three different hospitals in New York City.

“From when I first started medical school until now, I feel like I have evolved so much,” she said.

Son immersed herself in the community’s efforts related to preventive medicine and women’s health. She also wanted to gain more hands-on surgical experience, and with a steady flow of patients at the clinic, she estimated that she saw more vaginal hysterectomies performed during her one-month rotation in India than all her other rotations combined.

“It was great to go out into the world and see how they were making health a priority, even with their limited resources,” Son said.

After rotating in New York, Michigan, Florida and Illinois in her third and fourth years, the India selective was Son’s final rotation before earning her MD. She begins her OB/GYN residency at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Michigan in June.

“The experience in India was really enriching,” said Son. “I’ll never forget it.”

SGU Faculty Member Joins Leading Bioethicists at Hastings Center

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Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Bioethics, St. George’s University, recently spent two weeks as a visiting scholar at the Hastings Center in Garrison, New York. The Hastings Center’s Visiting Scholar Program hosts scholars from around the world to conduct independent research on issues in or related to bioethics.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to work with such a prestigious institution as a visiting scholar,” said Dr. Cox-Macpherson. “The Hastings Center has the largest library of bioethics materials anywhere and it is staffed by bioethicists who helped establish bioethics as an influential discipline in medicine, public health, and healthcare.”

During her stay, Dr. Cox-Macpherson conducted research on the responsiveness of bioethics to environmental health problems like climate change and the field’s historic commitment to such issues at the Center’s extensive library. She also met with bioethicists with expertise in this area and presented a seminar on her research.

“I was thrilled to have the chance to interact with and have my work critiqued by experts in the field,” said Dr. Cox-Macpherson. “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet bioethicists with such diverse backgrounds of interest and experience.”

The Hastings Center is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit bioethics research institute founded in 1969 with a mission of addressing fundamental ethical issues in the areas of health, medicine, and the environment. The Center’s goals include pursuing interdisciplinary research and education and engaging a broad audience of thoughtful people in its work.

St. George’s University’s is committed to upholding and teaching the values of ethics, professionalism and humanism, roles in which its bioethics department plays a key part. Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson has chaired this department for the past 10 years.

St. George’s University Announces Partnership with Tung Wah College in Hong Kong

St. George’s University and Tung Wah College (TWC) in Hong Kong S.A.R., China, have signed a memorandum of understanding that opens the door for graduates of TWC’s Bachelor of Medical Science or Bachelor of Health Science programs to enter graduate programs at SGU.

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Tung Wah College’s Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons) program was established in January 2013, with majors that include basic medical sciences, forensic science, medical laboratory science, radiation therapy, and veterinary health studies. St. George’s University and TWC will work together to create a semester-based exchange program that will enhance students’ international learning experience.

“St. George’s University is pleased to have partnered with Tung Wah College and we look forward to welcoming medical students from this college to Grenada in the near future,” said St. George’s University Chancellor Charles R. Modica. “Tung Wah College is dedicated to providing its students with a tremendous platform for their careers, and we are excited about playing a role in developing these individuals into outstanding, well-rounded doctors.”

In addition to students, faculty members from each institution will be invited to the other for their own enhancement, including in teaching, training, and research.

The relationship further strengthens a pipeline from Hong Kong to St. George’s University School of Medicine. Three Hong Kong students are currently attending SGU, and six have gone on to earn their MDs from the University.

Established in 2010, Tung Wah College is a subsidiary of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, offering students a wide range of health care and medical sciences programs. Through them, TWC’s mission is provide high-quality education while also instilling in its students a sense of social responsibility. Tung Wah College is accredited by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ).

SVM Student Appointed Global Public Health Officer-Elect to SAVMA National Board

Fourth-term St. George’s University veterinary student Ashley Bredenberg has been appointed Global Public Health Officer-Elect for the national Student AVMA (SAVMA) executive board. She is a senior delegate of St. George’s University student chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association (SCAVMA) and the first veterinary student from the School of Veterinary Medicine to be named to the national SAVMA executive board.

Bredenberg was appointed at the 42nd Annual SAVMA Symposium, and assumes responsibility to facilitate and oversee the SAVMA One Health Challenge, for which veterinary schools conduct a themed public health event. This year’s theme is food safety. As a member of the executive board, Bredenberg will provide input into the administration and distribution of funds to all 32 chapters and one associate chapter for the One Health Challenge.

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Ashley expressed that her interest in public health and the desire to make a change in the global community inspired her decision to be a part of the national board.

“It is my hope to broaden awareness of the impact students can make in local communities,” she said. “Global public health starts in the local community. We must make an impact locally before we can make a global impact.”

According to Bredenberg this appointment is also significant for St. George’s University students because, “It gives us a voice, it shows that we care, that we want to be involved, and that we’re here to make a difference whether through veterinary medicine, human medicine, public health, or business.”

Upon completing her Master of Public Health in December 2013, and her DVM in 2015, Bredenberg hopes to integrate both fields by working with the government on public health policies and exploring emergency and critical care in veterinary medicine.

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The Student AVMA (SAVMA) comprises of an executive board along with a House of Delegates (HOD). The HOD includes two representatives from each member chapter. This national organization allows for student chapters to function effectively as a single unit with the sole purpose of coordinating student chapter functions, promoting the exchange of ideas and information among students, and representing various issues concerning members both as students and future veterinarians.

St. George’s University Medical Student Prospering after Leaving Home at Age 15

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There were times that Therese Jeter had hopped a train with no particular destination in mind. She’d run away from home at age 15, living off the street and without boundaries for a while.

Even while exploring the world, Jeter never lost her desire to gain an education. Now a third-termer at St. George’s University School of Medicine, “Tee,” as she is nicknamed, has quite a clear path in mind, and she believes she has found the right institution to take her there.

“I can’t imagine going to med school in any other place,” Jeter said. “This is the perfect setup for me. I love the material so much that all I want is more time, just so I can learn it better and learn more. When you work 15-17 hours a day at your job, it really helps to love your job. My job is studying and I love it. It reassures me that I’m in the right place.”

Jeter came to SGU in January 2012 from the University of Central Florida (UCF), from which she earned a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and microbiology, graduating magna cum laude. However, the aspiring doctor has come a long way since leaving her family’s Connecticut home.

“I don’t even know why I wanted to leave home so badly,” she said. “I think I was just in search of something different, some kind of freedom.”

It began a four-year stretch in which Jeter bounced from place to place, state to state. She embarked on cross-country expeditions that took her to 47 states, met countless people from all walks of life, and saw areas of the US that most people never get to see.

However, in the mid-1990s and with an eye on the future, she obtained her General Education Development (GED) certificate and years later enrolled at Daytona State College to pursue an Associate of Arts in Science. She graduated summa cum laude from DSC and it paved her way to UCF.

“The more I got into science , the more I realized how much I enjoyed learning and that I was really good at it,” she said.

Jeter thrived at UCF, and upon being accepted to St. George’s University, she leapt at the opportunity to explore the world even further, while earning a premium international medical education. She matriculated in January 2012 and is working toward becoming a cardiovascular surgeon or pediatrician.

Through SGU, she took advantage of a three-week selective in Prague, Czech Republic, last summer, where she dived further into her fields of choice, doing rotations in cardiovascular surgery and pediatric neurology. She recalls a trip through the European countryside by train, traveling to more than fifteen countries. She had been on long journeys by train before, traveling cross country on numerous occasions back in the States, but this journey was different. It was the first time that she had ridden on the inside of a train.

“Looking out the windows, seeing the world, I loved that I could sit back and appreciate what’s around me,” Jeter said. “People say you should stop and smell the roses and I make sure that I do.”

She’s taken advantage of numerous other opportunities available at SGU. Jeter is a Footsteps Buddy, helping first-term students acclimate to school and life in the Caribbean, has joined the Grenada Triathlon Association, and ran the Grenada Half Marathon in November. Jeter’s interests are as diverse as her experiences. She is SCUBA-certified, was president of the Women’s Rugby Club at UCF, played flute, bassoon, and bass clarinet for the Naples Concert Band, and has logged more than 1,500 skydives, as a member of the United States Parachute Association.

Jeter is drawn to working with individuals who are less fortunate. From 2007 to 2012, she served as the co-founder and director of food for Rock For Hunger, an Orlando-area not-for-profit organization that cooks for 150 needy people weekly. Since 2007, Jeter has been a counselor at Camp Boggy Creek, a summer camp for children with terminal illnesses or chronic conditions.

“All the things that I’ve picked up along the way molded me into the person I am today … there’s a reason I had all those experiences,” Jeter said. “I have the drive to put my experiences to use, to excel in medical school and to become a surgeon. I will be able to relate extremely well with my patients. Between what I’ve done, the places I’ve been, and the different people I’ve interacted with, all these experiences I’ve collected will enable me to be a better doctor.”

SGU Doctors Say Increased Mobility is the Primary Cause of Global Disease

More than half of doctors, veterinarians, and public health specialists responding to the first “One World, One Health, One Medicine” poll from St. George’s University believe that a shrinking world is more at risk for a pandemic caused by emerging diseases, as more people travel, and no city is now more than 24 hours distance from each other.

The international University recently polled its alumni from the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine in response to a spate of news reports on new viruses and diseases, from Ebola in Africa, to West Nile fever in Dallas, TX, cropping up across the world.

Which of the following statements best reflects the reason for recent stories about Ebola in Africa, West Nile fever in Dallas, Texas, and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Yosemite National Park?

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60% said “A shrinking world is more at risk for a pandemic caused by emerging diseases, as more people travel and no city is now more than 24 hours distant from another.”

23% said “Our ability to diagnose emerging infectious diseases is so much better than in the past and today causes of death are being better identified.”

12% said “There is not a greater incidence of emerging disease than in centuries past, just a greater dissemination of information through the internet and 24 hours news cycles.”

5% said “None of the Above”

Source: Poll of St. George’s University alumni conducted March 2013

St. George’s University’s State-of-the-Art Facility a Haven for Fresh- and Salt-Water Aquariums

Surrounded by water, Grenada has a deep appreciation for the sea, its inhabitants and the joy it can bring to the community. St. George’s University is doing its part to preserve the livelihood offshore and throughout the region with its state-of-the-art aquatic laboratory and marine center, which supports fresh- and salt-water aquariums and also houses equipment for lab work in microbiology.

aquatic lab

“The aquatic lab opens up all kinds of opportunities for research not just in infectious diseases but in aquaculture,” said Dr. Ross Peterson, an instructor of veterinary microbiology and aquatic animal medicine at SGU. “There is more and more of a push away from catching wild stocks and towards raising fish in a farm setting. Fish are pretty much the only food humans still get mainly by hunting and we are depleting that resource. My hope is that we can work on some of these species that are consumed, especially in the Caribbean.”

Custom-made by Waterline Systems of Prince Edward Island, Canada, the lab is home to tilapia and spiny lobster, the latter a feat made possible by salt water continually being pumped in from the ocean. “Our spiny lobsters are growing very well to the point where they are shedding on a regular basis,” said Dr. Hugh Ferguson, director of SVM’s marine program. “This is very unusual in a laboratory setting. Being able to keep these species inside the lab and not only have them survive but thrive is just wonderful.”

Although it is under the School of Veterinary Medicine, the lab is available for use by the entire University community and it currently facilitates several research projects. Dr. Richard Kabuusu is researching a mysterious die-off of tilapia at a farm in Ecuador with the tilapia at the lab here as his control subjects, Dr. Thomas Eurel is working on an innovative strategy to transplant corals, and Dr. Peterson recently conducted a study on land crabs from around Grenada. Several students are also conducting and assisting in research, and there is an elective where students are taught anesthesia and surgery for fish.

The aquatic lab was also the centerpiece for the first St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine (SGUSVM) Continuing Education (CE) conference, with the theme ‘An Overview of Aquatic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Practitioner,’ held from February 16-20, 2013. It was the first in a series SGUSVM will host in its bid to attain full CE provider status by mid-2014.

Conference participants involved in fish farming, small animal community practice, and those with an interest in exotic fish all found immense value in the conference. They earned CE credits and certificates of participation. Sessions on veterinary dentistry and surgery are scheduled for later this year.

“It is very important to keep practitioners aware of new programs, medicines and techniques,” added Catherine Wybern, coordinator for the conference. “It was very rewarding to see brilliant minds come together and share.”

Big plans are in store for the lab. Dr. Peterson hopes to soon see zebrafish, which are increasingly used in medical research, bred at the lab, as the tilapia were. He also hopes to see more work done in aquaculture, which can have an impact on food security and the Grenadian economy.

Bioethics and Public Health Research Project Awarded Wellcome Trust Grant

Two St. George’s University faculty members, Dr. Cheryl Cox-Macpherson and Dr. Muge Akpinar-Elci, have been awarded a US $8,000 Wellcome Trust Grant for their research project “Bioethics and Health in the Caribbean: Climate Change” which will investigate perceptions of Caribbean health professionals on the impact climate change is having on the health of residents in the region. Bringing together two medical disciplines – bioethics and public health – this research is a model for the value of cross-disciplinary collaborations.

news akpinar elci“The prestige of working with the Wellcome Trust is immense,” commented Dr. Cox-Macpherson, professor and chair of SGU’s bioethics department. “We are thrilled to have received this grant and hope that our project will start a major dialogue across the region among health professionals, public health professionals, policy makers, and the public.” The research will compare the larger and more industrialized island of Trinidad and the smaller and less industrialized island of Grenada.

Dr. Cox-Macpherson and Dr. Akpinar-Elci, associate professor and track director for environmental and occupational health in the Department of Public Health and Medicine, and director of St. George’s WHO Collaborating Center in Grenada, have already published a research letter in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012 as part of this project. Extensive literature reviews have been completed and will be followed by data collection from focus groups. Their findings are scheduled to be publicized in seminars, symposiums, journals, reports, and via stakeholder consultation.

Named after pharmaceutical entrepreneur Sir Henry Wellcome, the Wellcome Trust, which was established upon his death in 1936, aims to “support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities.” It is one of the world’s largest medical charities, contributing approximately $1 billion to the advancement of medical research. Learn more about the Wellcome Trust here.

MacLeese, DVM SGU ’10, Enjoying Rare Veterinary Ophthalmology Residency

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Jill MacLeese was certainly not thinking of ophthalmology when she enrolled in veterinary school. However, it did not take long for her to fall in love with the specialty, and her passion for ophthalmology has intensified ever since. Now a three-year resident at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island (VMCLI) in New York, Dr. MacLeese could not be happier with the path she has taken.

“The more ophthalmology I was exposed to, the more I loved it,” she said. “Many people tend to become uneasy when faced with ophthalmology cases but I’ve always been fascinated with the field.”

An ophthalmologic case of uveitis, or inflammation to the uvea portion of the eye, during her second year at SGU sparked her interest in the specialty. However, it wasn’t until her clinical year at North Carolina State University that her desire to pursue an ophthalmology residency was solidified. At the 2010 American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ACVO) conference opportunity knocked in the form of a chance meeting with Dr. Noelle La Croix, DACVO, an ophthalmologist at VMCLI. Dr. MacLeese was granted a specialty internship in ophthalmology at the practice and in July 2012 began a coveted veterinary ophthalmology residency in a position that VMCLI made exclusively for her.

The position has her working on a variety of ophthalmology cases, predominantly treating small animals, while also examining horses, birds, rabbits and other exotic species. In addition, she works one night per week in emergency medicine and travels to the University of Pennsylvania monthly for ocular histopathology rounds.

“I love it here,” Dr. MacLeese said. “It’s very busy practice; I see approximately 15 to 20 cases a day, so I’m getting a lot of clinical experience.”

Dr. MacLeese has given back to the University by working as a student liaison representative, while also talking about her SGU experience at a number of the University’s information session. She feels strongly about speaking on the University’s behalf as it has laid the foundation for her professional success.

“I have always felt just as prepared as any of my veterinary counterparts from state schools,” Dr. MacLeese said. “I had a wonderful time in Grenada and wouldn’t change my experience there for anything in the world.”

A Record Number of Residency Positions Obtained for SGU Graduates

St. George’s University graduates have had a record year of achievement thus far in obtaining first-year US residency posts, making this the third year in a row the University placed more graduates in first year US residency posts than any medical school in the world.

Congratulations, graduates! Thus far (April 12, 2013) – and the list keeps growing – 789 PGY-1 positions in 18 different specialties were secured in the US by our graduates in 46 of the 50 states. In addition to the 18 Canadian graduates who secured PGY-1 spots in Canada, many Canadian graduates obtained US residency positions this year.

While the majority of the graduates this year are fulfilling one of the University’s goals of meeting the American Medical Association’s call for more primary care doctors around the country, 25 graduates secured residencies in emergency medicine, 56 in surgery, and 22 in anesthesiology. Others matched in a variety of different specialties, including one graduate who secured an orthopedic surgery spot.

Among the 2013 matches was Michael Melin, who looks forward to beginning his anesthesiology residency at the University of Washington School of Medicine this summer. Mr. Melin grew up 15-20 minutes from the UW campus and earned his bachelor’s degree from nearby University of Puget Sound. He set off to Grenada with hopes of returning to the Pacific Northwest and is proud to have been offered the opportunity.

“Matching at the University of Washington really was a dream come true,” said Mr. Melin, who had gone on 12 interviews for anesthesiology and pegged UW as his top choice. “It will be really nice to go back west – my wife is from the west coast and all of my family is there.”

SGU students also matched in programs located in three Canadian provinces, including Catherine Murray, who obtained a highly competitive diagnostic radiology residency at the University of Ottawa through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). The native of Winnipeg bolstered her resume by completing three radiology electives and shined during her clinical rotations at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit is proud to be able to continue her career in his home country.

“It’s very exciting to be going back to Canada and to be going to a great program,” Ms. Murray said. “I was told that radiology was very competitive, but felt that I was competitive enough. I felt very comfortable leaving Grenada with my knowledge base, and I think SGU students make a good impression wherever they go.”